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Minty Julep

An Infield Derby Shindig

Significant sporting events are used as a reason for friends to gather, and the Kentucky Derby is no exception. I am not a Super Bowl party kind of gal and although I do love hot wings and beer it annoys me that I can’t fully enjoy the party since it lands on a Sunday. I really don’t get very excited about any monumental sporting events except for the Kentucky Derby. My husband and I have had the extreme privilege to attend the derby for the last six years. Our dear close friend John lives in Louisville and has graciously included us in what has become a yearly tradition. Tradition is what the Kentucky Derby is all about; it truly is the “greatest two minutes in sports.”

The Kentucky Derby always runs the first Saturday in May. There are actually 13 races ran at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby being the 11th race. Derby in my opinion is a perfect reason to throw a party and seeing as the race lasts about two minutes don’t forget to check your TV schedule for race times so you know when to put down your julep and gather around the TV. For me derby is all about two things….booze and hats, which is pretty much an amazing philosophy for throwing a party! First decide what kind of Derby Party you would like to throw. Infield or Millionaires Row… The Derby is this super odd mix of people. On one side of the track everyone is dressed up in their Sunday best getting hammered and on the other side it is a sea of tank tops and cut offs doing the same exercise. I go to the derby so when I began writing this I was leaning towards writing about a Millionaires Row themed party with all the tips on ladies dress apparel and cucumber sandwich recipes. Well needless to say that sounded boring as hell and not a RollnUp kind of party. This is an Infield Party! We are more tank top cut off people anyway!

Dress Code: In the infield there is no dress code. I do believe they would appreciate you keeping your top on, but in the years I have witnessed the actual KY Derby infield they won’t kick you out if you don’t. I do like the idea of having a hat contest for the party. Winner gets a bouquet of red roses or a bottle of Tequila Rose may be more fitting. Dudes can join in on the hat fun; it isn’t just for the ladies. Preppy country seems to be the look of the infield, a lot of cut off khakis and pastel polo shirts. There is a bit of the douche bag element when you throw the word preppy around, but this is more south and less douche. Have fun with this aspect of the party. At the very least it will make for some fun Facebook pic uploads.

The Décor: I like the theme from above of preppy country…there is that preppy word again! They call Derby the Run for the Roses, so why not buy a few bouquets of different colored roses and arrange them in mason jars. You can go on to buy official party gear such as plates and cups, but I would go with bright multi-colored paper plates and paper napkins to emulate the jockey’s silks. If you find any cups with checks or diamonds that is a plus. A game of horseshoes in the backyard definitely goes with the equine theme! You can pre-make the Juleps and Lily’s to make it easy on your guests and 14 Hands Cabernet and Chardonnay are two wines that are perfect to serve. A wheel barrel full of ice and beer is bit more festive sitting on a back deck than a Coleman cooler. If you are low on outdoor furniture, and you know how smokers and the rest of the party migrate outside, buy a few hay bales for your friends to sit on – cheap and theme appropriate! Speaking of smokers; be a hit with cigar aficionados by having a box of Makers Mark cigars on hand for the guys and gals to puff on. Last but not least: the actual race. Most cable and dish companies have an all-day package you can order to watch all 13 races. If you are more into the juleps than the horses make sure to check your local listing so your party doesn’t miss the race.

The Menu: I would keep it simple!!! I know my mom never used to throw parties because she was too worried everything wouldn’t be perfect. I am for hitting the grocery and the RollnUp to take care of all of your party needs! This is a party so NO STRESS, HAVE FUN! Buy or make, depending on your grilling/smoking abilities, your favorite pork BBQ. Serve it with slider buns to make it easier to eat. Southern Style potato salad or a creamy pasta salad is an excellent side to go with BBQ. I dig cooking so here are a few Derby recipes I would serve up:


Sandra Davis, author of That Special Touch, the official Maker’s Mark cookbook

Maker’s Mark Hot Fruit Salad:

Medium can sliced pineapple
Medium can peach halves
Medium can apple rings
Medium can pear halves
Medium can apple halves


2 Tbs flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 C Maker’s Mark bourbon (adjust to taste)
1/4 C apple juice or water


Drain fruit well and place in alternate layers in a 2-quart casserole dish. In top of double boiler, combine sauce ingredients. Cook, stirring over hot water until thick and smooth. Pour hot sauce over fruit; cover and refrigerate overnight or several days. When ready to serve, heat in preheated 350F oven for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbly.


You can’t forget the Kentucky Derby Pie! If you love to bake here is the recipe…if not you can find a Sarah Lee in your grocer's freezer. Freezer pies always work out better for me…when I remember to take them out of the damn freezer!


Cynthia Ann Briscoe, Birmingham, Alabama

Southern Living | May 2005

Kentucky Derby Pie:

1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
4 large eggs
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt


Fit piecrust into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate evenly onto bottom of piecrust; set aside. Combine corn syrup and next 3 ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients. Gradually whisk about one-fourth hot mixture into egg mixture; add to remaining hot mixture, whisking constantly. Pour filling into prepared piecrust. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until set; cool on wire rack.


So what is the most important element of the party? Well if you are decent normal person you would say friends and family. If you are like me you would say booze. If you are a whiskey fan you will love the traditional mint julep. I personally lean towards the vodka so the Oaks Lily is more my style. The Oaks is a race ran on the Friday before the derby…that’s a whole other blog post.


Two Race-Day Cocktails

The Early Times® Mint Julep:

2 Cups sugar
2 Cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Crushed ice
Early Times Kentucky Bourbon
Silver Julep Cups


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 Early Times Kentucky Bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.


The Official Drink of the Kentucky Oaks, The Grey Goose OAKS Lily:

1 oz. GREY GOOSE® Vodka
1 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix
3 oz. Cranberry Juice
Splash of Triple Sec


Once the ingredients are mixed, place the Grey Goose® Oaks Lily® in a tall glass with crushed ice, add a straw and garnish with an orange wedge and cherry.


Ok, so there you have it, a roadmap to a kick ass derby party! I do believe the Derby is something everyone should do once, whether you get to the infield or Millionaires Row it is truly something to experience. In the mean time I hope this will give you inspiration to bring friends together and drunkenly sing My Old Kentucky Home.


by Holly Kruep