Kentucky Derby 2022: More than a Mint Julep

When it’s the first Saturday of May, it means it’s Kentucky Derby Day! You may remember from our Master’s Golf Theme Day, that we love any good sporting event. So to be fair, we aren’t the most hardcore equestrian followers. Our obsession with horse racing pretty much circles around the 3 Triple Crown races each year. I’ve followed the Triple Crown since I was a child, so Kentucky Derby 2022 was an easy choice for a theme day. Plus, any excuse to wear my big floppy hat is a day worth celebrating!

First, some fun facts: The Triple Crown series is made up of 3 races – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. The Kentucky Derby is easily the most famous of the three. First held in 1875, it is the oldest sporting event still held in the United States. It’s still considered to be “the most exciting two minutes in sports”.

Ok enough history, back to the day. So the mint julep was an obvious and easy choice, but we had to do some digging to figure out what other foods the Derby is known for. Here’s what we came up with:

Kentucky Classic

You can’t think of the Kentucky Derby without thinking of the mint julep. Another fun fact: In 1938, the facilitators of the Kentucky Derby realized people were taking home decorated water glasses from the day’s event. The following year in 1939, the mint julep was sold in Julep Cups, becoming the first ever collector cups.

As much as we’d like to own every type of kitchen gadget and cup that’s ever existed, we sadly don’t, and special mint julep cups are part of that. We’ll have to remedy that for next year, but in the meantime, we had to settle for regular glasses.

The recipes we found were all pretty similar, and all pretty easy to make. If you’ve got bourbon, sugar, ice and mint, you’re good to go! Fresh mint leaves are key ingredient (thanks farmer’s market!). We made one round with granulated sugar, and another with simple syrup, and we found we liked the simple syrup drink much better. We also didn’t have crushed ice, so made our own, by, well, just crushing the ice.

How’d they turn out? Matt summed it up best, “shit be strong, bruh”.

We enjoy a good whiskey, but in our opinion, the drink was fine at best and not something that we’d go out of way to have. Matt loves bourbon but even he wasn’t a huge fan, but hey, they’ll get you happy for horses, especially when you drink a couple of them.

classic Mint Julep cup
our strong drinks minus copper mug
Benedictine (we did not eat the hat)


With all that bourbon, we needed some snacks. We’ll start with the benedictine, which was superrrr simple to make. Toss your ingredients into a food processor, and boom you’ve got benedictine. Fresh ingredients definitely made it more vibrant and tasty. It can be used either as a dip with vegetables or crackers, but we opted to put ours on bread and make finger sandwiches with it.

(Speaking of fingers, make sure you keep your actual fingers away from the blades on the grater. Matt got a little “too” into grating the cucumber. If you unfortunately follow his footsteps, we highly recommend keeping any blood out of the benedictine, and promptly asking your girlfriend for a bandaid.)

What the Heck is Burgoo?

Now that the grating incident was under control, we moved onto the burgoo. As New Englanders this was totally new us, but apparently is very popular in Kentucky. It’s a dish that traditionally is made of the week’s leftover ingredients, tossed into a stew. Some of the articles we read mentioned that a lot of Kentucky recipes include making it with “exotic game” like possum and raccoon. We didn’t get that traditional.

Instead we used packaged ham, beef stew meat, pulled chicken, and added frozen okra, mixed frozen veggies, and V8 for broth. It was definitely the first time we used V8 for a soup, or well, any recipe for that matter. We made the pulled chicken in our instant pot to speed up the process, and added liquid smoke to give it a smokey flavor…with mediocre results. The burgoo was, in our opinion, fine. It wasn’t a bad dish, it just wasn’t very exciting. And personally, after a few mint juleps, stew isn’t exactly my food of choice. Our favorite snack of the day was easily the burgoo.

That’s a lot of prep
No possums were harmed
Prep is easier with bourbon
Derby Pies for days

Derby Pie

You can’t have a Kentucky Derby party without Derby Pie! Or if you’re like us, you’ve probably had many Kentucky Derby parties without Derby Pie, because you had no idea it was a thing. Derby Pie is made of crushed pecans, chocolate chips, pie crust, and since it’s the Kentucky Derby, more bourbon.

Derby Pie can be made as a single individual pie, but since snacks were a big part of our theme, we opted to make individual derby pies instead. This was pretty easy. I used frozen pie crusts, and used a cookie cutter to make about 2.5 inch circles and place them in a mini muffin pie pan. I crushed some pecans, added mini chocolate chip cookies.

The filling was also pretty simple to make, and the only ingredient I had to buy (that we didn’t already have) was dark corn syrup. Once I finally tracked it down in a store, I simply added it to the sugar, brown sugar, and bourbon, and brought it to a boil. The only tip I’d have for the dessert is make sure your pie cups aren’t too full with the pecan and chocolate chip mixture. I had to scoop a little out of some of the cups so they wouldn’t overflow when I added the bourbon mixture.

I’m typically not a fan of booze in my desserts, but I thought these Derby Pies were great! They were perfect bite sized snacks and the bourbon was a faint taste, not too strong.

The Big Finish

All in all, the day’s snacks were a win, and speaking of winning…we did not. We aren’t big gamblers, and since we picked 3 horses who didn’t win, we should probably keep it that way. Remember when I said earlier that the Kentucky Derby is known for being the most exciting 2 minutes in sports? It still is! Congratulations to the underdog Rich Strike for causing one of the greatest upsets in sports history. We hope your days are filled with carrots and oats and the greenest pastures you deserve.

So how about you? Have you tried any other Kentucky Derby recipes for a Derby Party? Or maybe you know of the BEST mint julep recipe we should try to change our opinion on them? Let us know!

Kentucky Derby 2022 Winner: Rich Strike
Jockey: Sonny Leon
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