5 Kentucky Derby party recipes for the big race

Signature cocktails to get the party started

HOUSTON – Throwing a Kentucky Derby party but don't know where to start? Tim Laird, America's CEO AKA Chief Entertaining Officer, shares recipes everyone will love!

Check out his recipes below:

Signature Mint Julep
Makes: 1 cocktail

Our julep uses a mint simple syrup, which is quicker than muddling and makes the drink easy to make for several people at once. We use Woodford Reserve bourbon, the official bourbon of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. You can adjust the sweetness by adding more or less simple syrup. 

  • 1 ounce Mint Simple Syrup (below)
  • 2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourboning
  • 1 mint sprig, for garnish

Fill a tall glass or julep cup with crushed ice. Add the syrup and then the bourbon. Top with more crushed ice, add a sipping straw, garnish with the mint, and serve.

Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 part sugar 
  • 1 part water 
  • 1 part packed fresh mint leaves 

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, add the mint leaves, and let the mixture steep for 20 minutes. Strain before using, pressing on the mint leaves to extract as much syrup as possible. 

The Original Oaks Lily 
Makes: 1 cocktail

  • 1 ounce Finlandia vodka
  • 1 ounce lemonade
  • 3 ounces cranberry juice
  • Splash of triple sec
  • Squeeze of 1 lime wedge
  • 3 blackberries, for garnish

Combine the vodka, lemonade, cranberry juice, triple sec, and a squeeze of lime in a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Stir the mixture, garnish with the blackberries, and serve.

Note:  This drink debuted at the 132nd Oaks Day in 2006 and was created by Tim Laird for Churchill Downs as the first signature drink of this prestigious race, run on the Friday before Derby Day. This drink now rivals the Mint Julep. The color of the drink emulates the Stargazer Lily, which is the flower in the prized blanket awarded to the winning horse of the Oaks Race known as the “Lilies for the Fillies.”

Woodford Spire
Makes: 1 cocktail

  • 1½ ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
  • 2 ounces lemonade
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Combine the bourbon, lemonade, and cranberry juice in a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir the mixture, garnish with the lemon twist, and serve.

Giant Hot Brown
Makes: 8 servings

When you have a crowd hungry for a Kentucky Hot Brown, here’s what you do instead of composing individual plates. Serve this at your next dinner party or family gathering for a real taste of the Bluegrass State.

  • 8 slices white bread, toasted
  • 2 pounds roasted turkey breast, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 4 cups Mornay Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 12 strips bacon, cooked but not crisp
  • 4 whole tomatoes, cut in wedges

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the toasted bread in half diagonally and place half of the toast points in the bottom of a 9 × 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the turkey breast on top of the bread and cover with the Mornay sauce.

Arrange the bacon on top of the sauce in a crisscross pattern. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top starts to brown and the sides are bubbling. Remove from the oven and place the tomato wedges on top. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly cooked.

Remove from the oven and place the remaining toast points around the edges of the dish for garnish. Let cool slightly before serving.

Mornay Sauce
Makes: 4 Cups

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 5 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (1¼ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. While whisking, add the milk in a slow stream and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes as the sauce thickens.

Remove from the heat and add the Gruyère, whisking until melted. Whisk in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Serve immediately.

Liquid Bourbon Ball
Makes: 1 cocktail
1 ounce Woodford Reserve bourbon
½ ounce nut-flavored liqueur (hazelnut, pecan, or walnut) 
½  ounce dark crème de cocoa or chocolate liqueur
Bourbon ball candy, for garnish (optional)

In a shaker filled with ice, combine the bourbon, nut-flavored liqueur, and crème de cocoa. Shake the mixture and strain it into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with bourbon ball candy, if using, and serve.