It’s dubbed the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports, but if you’re headed to a Kentucky Derby shindig (or if you just like to watch from home), the party is far from over when the winning thoroughbred crosses the finish line.
No ma’am and sir! In fact, the partying is a two-week affair — and besides an outrageous hat and a seersucker suit, you’ll need some adult libations if you’re going to do Derby Day the right way.
Luckily, the drink doctor is in! We’ve lined up a handful of cocktail — and some beer and virgin — options to impress your guests or give off the air that you’re in-the-know. Quench your Derby Day thirst while going beyond the traditional Mint Julep … but let’s start with the basic first:
1. The Classic
Let’s be honest, you can’t really host a Derby party or attend one without running across the classic Mint Julep. It is, after all, the official beverage of Churchill Downs, or rather the Old Forester Mint Julep is, according to the Kentucky Derby website.
- Crushed Ice
- Fresh mint sprigs
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of sugar
- Kentucky Bourbon (doesn’t have to be Old Forester, unless you’re going for complete authenticity).
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Old Forester Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Source: Kentucky Derby
2. Getting Bloody
Maybe you’re trying to shake off two weeks’ worth of Derby partying when the actual big day comes around. If so, your best bet is the tried and true morning/daytime concoction known as the Bloody Mary. Bloody Marys have gotten bloody ridiculous in recent times with bartenders throwing full pizza slices, slabs of bacon and pretty much the kitchen sink into the pint glass and calling it garnish. But for an event that’s laced with tradition, it’s proper to stick to the fundamental Bloody Mary mix of tomato juice, spices and vodka — it’s a classic for a reason.
- 2 ounces of vodka (premium brands suggested)
- 4 ounces of tomato juice
- 2 dashes of Tabasco Sauce (or Texas Pete)
- 2 tsp of horseradish
- Celery stalk
- Celery salt
- 1 lime wedge
- 1 lemon wedge
- Pinch of paprika
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Pour some celery salt onto a small plate. Rub the juicy side of the lemon or lime wedge along the lip of a pint glass. Roll the outer edge of the glass in celery salt until fully coated. Fill with ice and set aside. Squeeze the lemon and lime wedges into a shaker and drop them in. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake gently and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a celery stalk and a lime wedge. Source: Liquor.com
3. Hops To It
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale
Some people are just beer people — it keeps them out of trouble (or gets them into less trouble). If you’re simply a barley-and-hops kind of guy or gal, thankfully the craft brew explosion has afforded more options so you won’t look like a bum sipping out of a Duff Beer can while your more sophisticated associates are knocking back Mint Juleps and asking about your family history.
You might have a little bit of trouble finding this brew, but not too much, as I stumbled upon it in Greenville, S.C. and it is fantastic. It highlights Kentucky’s other export — besides bluegrass and horse racing — its famous bourbon.
Brewed by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co., Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is exactly what it sounds like — an amber-hued English-style ale aged in bourbon barrels.
Find out where Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is available near you at BeerMenus.com.
4. Designated drunk-handlers
Best sweet tea
And for the responsible folk in your party, the designated drivers, the under-aged set, or the teetotalers in the crowd — well, serve them tea. Sweet tea, that is.
But not just any ol’ sweet tea.
Sounds simple, but you have to do it right.
- 2 cups of sugar (no lame substitutes)
- 3 quarts of water
- 4 quart-size tea bags
Bring water to a rolling boil, add sugar. (Stir to dissolve) Add 4 tea bags. Stir. Let sit 20 minutes. Pour up into gallon jug or container. Fill the rest with cool water. Garnish with lemon or fresh mint. Serve in silver julep cup. Source: KentuckyDerby.com
And make sure no one spikes the pitcher with Jeremiah Weed or Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.
If you need help planning your Derby Day party, KentuckyDerby.com has you covered there too with great tips and ideas.