Atlanta Restaurant Scene

8 food and drink facts about the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is an American tradition. Along with the horse racing, the Derby allows us to celebrate, party and indulge in some traditional Kentucky dishes and cocktails.

Here are 8 food and drink facts to know come Derby Day.

 1. Classic Mint Julep

The Mint Julep is a classic southern drink and has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. Each year more than 120,000 Mint Juleps are sold during Derby weekend at the Churchill Downs racetrack.

2. That's a lot of ice!

According to the Kentucky Derby, over the course of the Derby weekend more than 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint and 60,000 pounds of ice will be used to create the Mint Juleps

3. Bourbon 

You can't make a mint julep without bourbon.  Woodford Reserve has been the official bourbon of the Derby since 1999 . This year Woodford Reserve's $1,000 Mint Julep highlights the English origins of the race.

4. More Bourbon

The 2017 Kentucky Derby bottle from Woodford Reserve honors the "Run for the Roses" with artwork from award-wining Thomas Allen Pauly. The commemorative bottles sell for $54.

4. Bourbon Balls

These boozy treats are typically served during Christmas, but also make for a great snack during Derby weekend. The treats were created in 1936 by Ruth Booe, co-founder of the Rebecca Ruth Candy Co. in Frankfort Kentucky. The mix of bourbon, chocolate and pecans is a great bite-sized snack during the races.

5. Derby Pie

Created by the Kern family in 1950, this chocolate-bourbon nut pie in a staple in Kentucky kitchens. The Derby dessert often uses walnuts in the filling but pecans are also a substitute.  The trademarked version of this Derby dessert can be found on the Kern's Kitchen website. However, if you want to whip this treat up at home here is a recipe to try.

6. Kentucky Hot Brown

Created in 1926 at Louisville's historic Brown Hotel, the Kentucky Hot Brown is a regional favorite. Layers of turkey, bacon, cheesy Mornay sauce sit a top a thick slice of bread to create this open face sandwich. The sandwiches can also be turned into sliders for party-sized snacks.

7. Kentucky Burgoo

Burgoo is the official dish of the Bluegrass State. Combining barbecue and ragoût this dish dates back to the Civil War. The hearty meat stew has many variations including combinations of chicken, beef, vegetables, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, beans and most importantly bourbon. In the South, some chefs even include rabbit and squirrel.

8. Pimento Cheese

This spread or dip is another Southern classic dish. Spread the cheesy goodness on bread or use it as a dip. Pimento cheese has endless possibilities and variations to add flavor to your Derby weekend.


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The Food & Dining Team offers reviews, previews, food news and fun bites food trends for metro Atlanta’s vast food and dining scene.