Kentucky Derby Recipes To Win The Day

"My favorite Saturday, outside any Saturday that Louisiana State University plays football, is the Kentucky Derby."James Carville

The Kentucky Derby has become a national treasure. That's pretty surprising for a two-minute horse race. Nonetheless, "the most exciting two minutes in sports" and its $3 million purse have attracted more than 16 million television viewers nationwide. This thoroughbred horse race is the first leg of the prestigious Triple Crown, which also includes the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. As of 2018, American Pharoah and Justify are the only living horses to have won the Triple Crown, and millions of American tune in to watch who will become the next winner.

But this short race at Churchill Downs has taken on even greater significance. The event itself is now the culmination of a rollicking two-week festival that overtakes the entire town of Louisville (pronounce LOU-uh-ville) with a grand parade, fireworks, and many other sporting events from basketball and a running marathon to a steamboat race and balloon race.

Maybe it's the horses. Maybe it's the traditions. Either way, the Kentucky Derby has captured our national attention. 

Maybe it's the mint juleps! These cold, boozy cocktails are a mainstay at Derby Day parties, and they're super easy to make. Check out our recipe for making mint juleps as a batch cocktail for a crowd, or just as a single drink for yourself. The choice is yours. If you're watching the race, be sure to serve some barbecue. Kentucky is a dark horse in the BBQ world but no slouch by any means. The state's claim to fame, especially in western Kentucky, is mutton cooked over hickory wood and basted with a deep dark savory sauce heavy on Worcestershire, black pepper and allspice. Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn made this dark sauce famous and sells it nationally, but you can make a very faithful version with our easy "Sunlite" recipe below. It's fantastic on any cut of smoked or grilled lamb. 

Most Kentucky BBQ joints also serve pulled pork with a vinegar-based sauce, and our recipe for perfect pulled pork will not do you wrong on Derby Day. What other meats show up in Kentucky barbecue? Hickory smoked ham is popular, thinly sliced for sandwiches. At Derby parties, the humble ham sandwich has found fame in the form of country ham biscuits. On Derby Day, slice up some salty, country ham, split a biscuit (using our tried and true recipe below), and sandwich the ham with a good slathering of melted butter. If you're feeling really crazy (too many mint juleps?), slather some mustard in there too! No, it's not traditional. But this is how traditions are born!

No matter how you slice it, enjoy your Derby Day in style. Gather your friends, share some nibbles and drinks, and watch the most exciting two minutes in sports. Don't forget to wear a stylish hat!

julep cup
Here's the ultimate recipe for mint juleps, a refreshing beverage made from Kentucky Bourbon and mint. The mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938 and today the governor of Kentucky salutes the victorious Derby owner with a toast at the fashionable Winner's Party following the race. read more
smoked iced cognac
Add an unexpected twist to your bourbon, Bloody Marys, and cocktails with this simple recipe for smoked ice. While it sounds like a challenge, creating smoked ice couldn't be easier, requiring nothing more then some wood, a grill, and ice. The end result is a smoky BBQ addition to virtually any cold drink. read more
Sunlite Kentucky Black Barbecue Sauce
In Western Kentucky the BBQ is mutton, and the sauce is vinegary, spiked with Worcestershire sauce. Here's a recipe for black BBQ sauce inspired by Moonlite Bar-B-Q Sauce & Dip. This thin tart sauce cuts the rich fat, making it perfect for use as a deeply penetrating baste as the meat cooks or as a finishing sauce. read more
Dolly's Mutton Rub
This wonderful spice rub is perfect when looking to amp up the flavor for smoked and grilled lamb. Use it as a dry rub seasoning for lamb or mutton prior to cooking or add liquid to make a flavorful paste for the meat. It also works well as a dry brine, ensuring deep flavor penetration and maximum moisture. read more
barbecue baked beans
Step up your next cookout with this recipe for the ultimate BBQ baked beans featuring a kiss of Bourbon. This will arguably result in the best baked beans you've ever had, certain to wow your guests. While there are a lot of ingredients, it's actually quick and easy to assemble then stew to perfection. read more
Southern biscuits
Southern biscuits are not as hard as some folks want to make them. These biscuits can be served nekkid, with butter and/or jam, with turkey and the fixins, with ham, smothered in sausage gravy, and as sandwiches. They can be used as a topping for fruit cobblers, pot pies, or chili baked in a Dutch oven. read more
double smoked ham on the grill
Create the best ham you've ever tasted with this ultimate double smoked ham recipe. Ordinary store bought ham is taken over the top by slowly smoking it on the grill. The true star of the show, however, is the sweet and savory glaze composed of apricot preserves, honey, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, and more. read more
pulled pork sandwich
This easy pulled pork recipe skips the slow cooker to create authentic low and slow smoked pulled pork on a smoker or grill. With smoke woven through the moist meat, bits of seasoned crust, and a gentle splash of BBQ sauce, BBQ pulled pork is a foolproof low and slow smoked food, perfect for feeding large crowds. read more
chicken frying
Fried chicken is easy to do on the grill with no mess, no smell, and no smoke alarms. Plus, the grill grate serves as a rack for drip drying the fried chicken. Try it! read more
Bacon Jam Burger
Sweet and savory homemade bacon jam is the star of the show in this delicious burger recipe. If you’ve never had bacon jam, get ready for sweet and savory flavor bliss. This ultimate grilled bacon cheeseburger features a rich and flavorful bacon jam spiked with bourbon, a juicy reverse seared patty, and Swiss cheese. read more
Pig on board
Here are about 150 great BBQ and food tunes including Meathead's theme song 'You Can't Hurry Ribs' based on 'You Can't Hurry Love' by Diana Ross. read more

mint julep

Dave Joachim Editor David Joachim has authored, edited, or collaborated on more than 45 cookbooks including four on barbecue and grilling, making him a perfect match for a website dedicated to the “Science of Barbecue and Grilling.” His Food Science column has appeared in "Fine Cooking" magazine since 2011. 

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