There really is no sporting event quite like the Kentucky Derby. Steeped in deep tradition (including that of those house-sized hats and advanced millinery that you'd only otherwise see at a British Royal wedding), the Derby is certainly known for American horse racing at its best and a celebration of bourbon and delicious southern cookin'.
The moment that the first strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" begin to bellow from the speakers at Churchill Downs and the horses first set foot onto the track for the post parade is the moment that the gravitas of this event truly hits you like a 1,000 pound thoroughbred. The history — the culture — it's all there and it's on parade.
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Aside from the most obvious thing happening at the Derby, which is of course the horse racing, much goes on off the track. Socializing, cheering, and certainly betting on the ponies comes to mind. But there's also, by no means less important, the refreshments. Down there at Churchill Downs, you have yourself a fancy little drink that has been made pretty well-known: the Mint Julep. The drink is traditionally served in a silver or pewter cup and etiquette dictates that one should only hold this lovely cup by the bottom and top edges so as to allow frost to form on the cup's exterior. Oh my.
The Mint Julep
A staple at the Derby since 1938, Churchill Downs serves up on average around 120,000 mint juleps over the entire two-day Kentucky Derby event. And if you're willing to spend a pretty penny, to the tune of $1,000, they'll serve it it to you in a really swanky souvenir cup made of sterling silver, which includes an engraved horse and rider with a gold-plated rose garland and gold-plated straw. (On the plus side, you can walk away feeling good that a portion of those proceeds go towards retired race horses).
If you're not a big mint julep fan, there is always the Oaks Lily, which is composed of vodka, triple sec, sweet and sour, and cranberry juice. Perhaps not as famous as its minty cousin, but tasty nonetheless!
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KENTUCKY DERBY FUN FACTS
- In the two-day Derby event, Churchill Downs will sell 40,000 of the Oaks Lily cocktails (and the 120,000 mint juleps).
- To make and serve these drinks requires 7,800 liters of bourbon (Woodford Reserve), 475,000 lbs of shaved ice, 2,250 lbs of mint (all of which is locally sourced), and goodness knows how many pounds of sugar.
- No-hard-stuff drinkers will consume 425,000 cans of beer.
- Kentucky Derby attendees will scarf down impressive amounts of food as well. The average is 18,000 Kentucky BBQ sandwiches, 142,000 hot dogs, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,700 lbs of chicken, 11,520 gourmet sausages, 13,800 lbs of beef, 4,500 lbs of pork chops, 560 roasted turkeys, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 lbs of potatoes, 1,892 sheets of Derby Pies, 30,000 cookies and 300,000 strawberries.
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Looking for a colorful and delicious, Kentucky-inspired recipe to serve at your Derby Party? Look no further! This beautiful and refreshing Crawfish and Arugula Salad is a surefire hit!
Happy Derby Day, all!