Fun facts about the historic Kentucky Derby

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.

It goes without saying that the mint julep and the Kentucky Derby are practically synonymous. But just how many of these famous cocktails are consumed at the Derby? What's the Oaks Lily all about? And, what's the deal with the fancy hats? We were curious too, so we compiled a list of fun facts and stats about this classy equine event. We hope you have your julep ready!
Historic Churchill Downs

1. The Mint Julep, of course

A staple at the Derby since 1938, Churchill Downs serves on average around 120,000 mint juleps over the two-day 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 (pictured above), 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 toward retired race horses).

To make and serve these drinks requires 7,800 liters of bourbon (Woodford Reserve, the official bourbon of the Derby), 475,000 pounds of shaved ice, 2,250 pounds of mint (all of which is locally sourced), and goodness knows how many pounds of sugar. (We wish we did, but we really have no idea.) Learn how to make a proper one.

2. The Oaks Lily, its lesser-known cousin

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. The cocktail is actually the signature drink of the Kentucky Oaks, which is the race for 3-year-old thoroughbred fillies that is run the day before the Derby. 

While the Oaks Lily may not be as famous as its minty cousin, it is tasty nonetheless! In the two-day Derby event, Churchill Downs will sell 40,000 Oaks Lillies. Check out our recipe.

3. The surprising food statistics

Here are some other crazy food and drink stats. No-hard-stuff drinkers will consume 425,000 cans of beer. Derby attendees will scarf down impressive amounts of food as well. Based on averages, we're talking: 18,000 Kentucky BBQ sandwiches, 142,000 hot dogs, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,700 pounds of chicken, 11,520 gourmet sausages, 13,800 pounds of beef, 4,500 pounds of pork chops, 560 roasted turkeys, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 pounds of potatoes, 1,892 sheets of Derby Pies, 30,000 cookies, and 300,000 strawberries.

You Derby fans sure like to eat and drink. Yeesh!

4. The history of the fancy hats

Beyond the food and beverage traditions of the Derby, another tradition of the fashion variety piqued our interest: the hats. What's with the fancy and elaborate hats?


As the story goes, after returning from France, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. decided to establish a high-profile horse race in America. He raised money for a racetrack outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and held the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. American women at the time weren't so keen on horse racing, and the gambling and drinking that went along with it. So Clark and his wife enlisted the ladies of Louisville to attend the races to picnic with friends. They knew that part of creating allure for the event would be positioning it as a fashion event, so the dress code required "full morning dress" for men and women from the start. And thus was born the illustrious Derby fashion tradition. 

This year marks the 142nd time people will arrive at Churchill Downs with their derby hats—but even Col. Clark himself could not have guessed how important the headwear itself would become to spectators of a horse race. #themoreyouknow


We think it's safe to say that the Derby attracts some seriously hungry (and thirsty, and fashionable) fans, and we love it!

Happy Derbying!

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