Saturday marks the 136th Kentucky Derby, a day right up there with the Super Bowl, the NBA finals and Wimbledon for giving us great excuses to have a party! Post time is set for about 6:15 p.m.—the perfect hour for a refreshing cocktail and a cool and creamy dip to honor the occasion. We’re serving mint juleps and Benedictine dip (named for Benedict’s restaurant in Louisville) with crackle bread—nothing too fancy, but honoring the culinary traditions of the day.
If you’re feeling really “authentic,” you could complete the menu and have Derby Hot Browns (turkey, bacon, cheese and cream gravy open-faced sandwich extravaganzas) or Kentucky burgoo (a thick stew of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables).
Premium Bourbon Whisky (we like Maker’s Mark)
Fresh mint (a nice big bunch), rinsed and dried
1 Cup of water (preferably purified)
1 Cup of granulated sugar
In a saucepan, combine the water and the sugar and boil together for about 5 minutes until it is clear. Put ¼ cup of mint leaves in a glass container, pour the simple syrup over them and allow the mixture to cool (the longer the better for the best minty flavor). When you’re ready to serve, half fill a julep cup (preferably silver) with crushed ice. Add one tablespoon of the syrup and two ounces of bourbon to the cup, and fill to the top with more crushed ice. Stir until the outside of the cup is frosted and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Benedictine—A Derby Day Dip
Makes about 1 ½ Cups
1 large cucumber
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons grated onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Peel, grate, drain and squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the grated cucumber. Put the cucumber and all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Let the dip chill for an hour or so to let the flavors blend and then serve with crisp crackers.