"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!