Howdy, Stonewall Kitchen fans! It’s your friendly Stonewall Southerner, Sarah Beth, back with another regional festivity for you to use as an excuse to invite your friends over for food, drinks, and merriment: The Kentucky Derby! I grew up in Alabama, but I was born in Louisville, KY, and don’t you forget it! Louisville’s spirit and traditions are still very close to my heart.
This year, Derby Day falls on Saturday May 7th. It’ll be a lively day of bourbon cocktails, regional noshes, and cheery outfits. Be sure to encourage your guests to kick it up a little with elaborate hats, spring floral prints, and horse or gambling themed outfits. Now is the time to whip out the seer sucker suits, fellas! Ladies: lean into what I like to call ‘garden glam’.
Derby celebrations are an all-weekend affair, but the main event starts around 6pm (CDT) on Saturday. Many TV networks will broadcast live from Churchill Downs (the historic Louisville racetrack), and I highly recommend having the TV tuned in throughout the festivities - especially for anyone celebrating for the first time. But be mindful of the timeline! It’s known as ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’ and you don’t want to miss it! They’ll parade the horses for a bit and then run the race around 6:30. Right after, the winning horse is draped in a stunning 40-pound rose garland, and the winning team (jockey, owner, coach, family, etc.) will be soaked in champagne by 7:00. Try not to get distracted by all the food and drinks I’m about to share with you!
Gather the crew in the late afternoon and greet them with a classic Mint Julep made with Tillen Farms’ Simple Syrup. You’ll also need bourbon (no imitations allowed at this party - be sure it’s from Bourbon County, KY!), crushed ice, and *lots* of fresh mint. I recommend making these in batches by the pitcher. Here’s how:
- Step 1. Muddle the mint in the simple syrup using approximately ½ ounce syrup for each individual portion.
- Step 2. Add the bourbon (use 2 ounces for each portion) and ice, then stir until nice and frosty.
- Step 3. Strain and pour over crushed ice. Use a fancy metal julep cup if you’re going all out!
- Step 4. Garnish with more fresh mint.
There is absolutely nothing like an ultra-cold, slightly-sweet beverage to knock the scorch off a May afternoon. I recently learned that Churchill Downs serves over 120,000 Mint Juleps over Derby weekend- wow!.
Since the star of the show is the classic Mint Julep, I’d suggest simple, light noshes for this soiree. Tea sandwiches work perfectly as appetizers. We’ll start with Farmhouse Pimento Cheese Spread recipe featuring our Stonewall Kitchen Farmhouse Mayo. Once you mix that up, cut the crust off your white bread slices and make small, delicate 3-bite sammies. As a nod to Louisville’s famous Benedictine spread, use our Stonewall Kitchen Lemon Dill Aioli and layer with thinly sliced cucumber to make an unexpected and super refreshing tea sandwich combo. A pickley deviled egg is always welcome at any Southern party and the perfect addition to round out your Derby Day light bites. Our Classic Deviled Eggs recipe features Stonewall Kitchen Farmhouse Green Relish and Caramelized Onion Mustard for a flavorful and well-balanced filling.
For something on the heartier side, I recommend making ham biscuits slathered with Stonewall Kitchen’s Bacon Bourbon Jam for sweetness and any of the Stonewall Kitchen mustards to add a kick. For the biscuits, use our Stonewall Kitchen Traditional Scone Mix and cut them into 4-inch squares. They can even be made the day before in preparation. Set them out buffet style with sliced ham (deli-style or off the bone) for guests to slather, stack, and serve themselves as they like. Best part: hands off for the host! You can keep your attention on fresh julep batches and not missing the main event!
As for dessert: keep it easy. I hereby declare that drizzling Stonewall Kitchen’s Bourbon Pecan Caramel Sauce on just about anything gives it official Derby Day flair! This sauce is rich and sweet with serious bourbon aromatics. It’s the perfect extravagant addition to top almost any simple dessert base like brownies, cheesecake bites, angel food cake, or pecan pie bars. You can’t go wrong here - just be sure to make the bite sized so they’re easy to eat.
I hope you have enjoyed this continuation of my deep dive into Southern celebrations! Hmmm, which one to write about next…. pretty sure the next one will have to include sweet corn, watermelon, and still-warm-from-the sun tomatoes! Happy Spring, my Stonewall Kitchen friends!