Serve Hot Browns, Kentucky Burgoo and Mint Juleps at Your Kentucky Derby Party

Food & Drink for Derby Day

The race itself may only last two minutes, but the excitement and party atmosphere builds all day 'til the moment twenty horses Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

Rich in history, it was Meriwether Lewis Clark, the grandson of William Clark (of the famed explorers Lewis & Clark), that actually built the racetrack with the help of his uncles John and Henry Churchill. The track opened on May 17th in the year 1875. The first race was 1-1/2 miles long, was run by 15 thoroughbred horses, was attended by 10,000 spectators in the stands, and was won by a horse name Aristides.

Since that time, the race has evolved. The stands and infield have grown to hold over 165,000 spectators, and Kentucky Derby traditions have become part of the fabric of the United States enjoyed by all, whether they are attending the event in person, attending a party at someone's home, or participating in a Kentucky Derby party at their local sports bar.

Along with fancy hats, special food and drink lead the way in Derby traditions we hold dear. One of these drinks is the mint julep, a bourbon drink that was created to celebrate both the race and the great Kentucky bourbons that are distilled locally. Profits from the sale of the famous $1000.00 and $2000.00 mint julep sold at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day are donated to the Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program and Old Friends Farm, a retirement rescue and sanctuary for retired race horses.

Some of the most beloved foods are the Hot Brown Sandwich and Kentucky Burgoo. The Hot Brown Sandwich was invented in 1926 by a chef at the Louisville Brown Hotel. At the time, the Louisville Brown hotel drew 1200 guests a night for dinner and dancing. Mr. Schmidt invented the "Hot Brown" to satisfy the late-night crowd's desire for a second late dinner or early breakfast, depending on their point of view. Ninety years later this sandwich is the number one item sold in restaurants and bars in the Louisville area.

A close second in sales and also identified as food made famous by the Kentucky Derby crowds is Kentucky Burgoo, a stew made with different meats and slow cooked to perfection. Bourbon is added for flavoring. It is the second most requested entree in Louisville during the two weeks of Derby Festiveness. The recipe dates back to before the first Derby Race to Kentucky homesteaders and called for wild game meat, venison, squirrel, rabbit, quail and pheasant.

Muddlers for Mint Juleps sold at Rapids Wholesale

Mint Julep Recipe

To prepare your own mint julep you need to start with a high quality Kentucky bourbon. The other ingredients include:

  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 5 mint leave sprigs
  • cracked or crushed ice
  • 2 tsp water

Put the powdered sugar and 2 tsp water and 4 mint sprigs in bottom of a frosted cold Collins glass. Use a muddler and lightly muddle the ingredients together. Fill the glass with crushed ice and then pour 2-1/2 oz of Kentucky bourbon over the ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a small straw.

Server Skillet Plates for serving Hot Brown Sandwiches sold at Rapids Wholesale

The Hot Brown Sandwich Recipe

The Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich covered by a rich bechamel sauce that was flavored with Pecorino cheese. This is the legendary original recipe, as shared by the Brown Hotel in Louisville.

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 14 oz. sliced roasted turkey breast, sliced thick
  • 4 slices of Texas toast (crusts trimmed)
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two-quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until they form a thick paste or roux. Continue to cook roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

For each Hot Brown, place one slice of toast in an oven-safe serving skillet plate and cover with 7 oz. turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of turkey and toast. Pour half of the sauce over the dish, completely covering it. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Place entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove and cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley and serve immediately.

Stew bowl for Kentucky Burgoo sold at Rapids Wholesale

Kentucky Burgoo Recipe

This recipe for Kentucky Bourbon Burgoo is shared from The Kentucky Tourism Website and may well be the best we have ever tasted. Be warned though, you are looking at 12 hours to prepare and cook this stew.

Part I: For the Meat Stock: (4-6 hours)

  • 2 pounds pork shank
  • 2 pounds veal shank
  • 2 pounds beef shank
  • 2 pounds breast of lamb
  • 1 (4-pound) chicken
  • 8 quarts cold water


Put the pork, veal, beef, lamb, and chicken into a large pot. Add the water and bring to a boil slowly. Simmer until meat is tender enough to fall off the bones, about 4-6 hours.

Lift the meat out of the stock. Cool the meat, remove it from the bones, and chop it. Return the chopped meat to the stock.

Part II: The Vegetables and Flavor for Burgoo (6 hours low and slow for flavor)

  • 1-1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 1-1/2 pounds onions
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and sliced thickly
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 quart tomato puree
  • 2 cups whole corn, fresh or canned
  • 2 pods red pepper
  • 2 cups diced okra
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cups dry lima beans
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tabasco
  • Steak sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce


Pare the potatoes and onions and dice them. Add the potatoes plus the carrots, green peppers, cabbage, tomato puree, corn, red pepper, okra, parsley, lima beans, celery, and bourbon to the meat and stock. Allow the stew to simmer until very thick - about 6 hours.

Season to taste with the salt, pepper, Tabasco, steak sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

Serve in a rustic stew bowl.

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