Of course there are the horses, the hats and the legendary racecourse, but the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7 Churchill Downs has our brains on bourbon. Not only did this iconic American spirit get its start in the Bluegrass State—the most famous bourbon distilleries are still located there—the Derby’s official cocktail is also the classic bourbon-laced mint julep. So if you’re thinking of hosting a gathering with friendly bets and fancy hats, consider adding bourbon to the menu.
Sure, there will be plenty of cocktails to consider, but bourbon’s many culinary virtues extend well beyond the bar. Whether you go sweet or savory, or stick with those sips, these recipes are sure to be winners (even if your horse isn’t).
The most obvious recipes for bourbon are of course those of the cocktail variety. We especially love the quintessential mint julep and a sweet and citrusy twist on the Old Fashioned, two of the cocktail canon’s most iconic bourbon drinks. But because bourbon is the official American spirit, this drink also suggests our bold individuality with a dose of fun, so the other cocktails in this category mix things up a bit and go beyond the bar. Cheers.
This version of the iconic Southern cocktail — which combines three parts bourbon with one part simple syrup, invigorating infused with fresh spearmint — is sanctioned by the Kentucky Derby as the official mint julep recipe. Get the recipe >
Extra orange old-fashioned
A true old-fashioned would become diluted and unappealing with juice, or with muddled fruit. But using an oleo saccharum as a sweetener brings in even more of those orange oils, for a drink where the citrus flavors are bright and powerful, without any juice compromising the potency and clarity of the drink. Get the recipe >
The rich, spicy warmth of chai is a perfect drink for a cold winter’s day – and it’s made even more warming by the addition of a bourbon like Maker’s Mark, whose notes of cloves, vanilla and caramel blend perfectly with the ingredients in the chai. . Get the recipe >
Peanut, Pepsi and Bourbon Float
Peanuts in Pepsi, once a common tobacco field snack, is now a tall glass of fantastic. This frothy spectacle of sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy and boozy is the gold standard of ice cream floats. Get the recipe >
Savory Bourbon Recipes
Just because bourbon likes to hang out during cocktail hour and come back for dessert doesn’t mean you should avoid it during most of the meal. Lean on its gentle heat to balance out a barbecue sauce or marinade, go for the buttery roasted lobster or add depth to sweet potatoes. And that’s just the beginning.
Plenty of spices and butter make a roasted lobster pan even more sumptuous, a flambee with bourbon gives as much flavor as it does drama. Freeze your lobster for 15 minutes before dividing it in half to make it easier on yourself (and the lobster). Get the recipe >
Sweet Potato Casserole With Bourbon And Pineapple
A variation on the traditional sweet potato casserole, this side gets its deep flavor from bourbon and pineapple. Get the recipe >
Chicken liver toast with spiced pecan nuts
This Southern Aperitif Classic Gets the City’s Louisville Treatment Evidence on Main† Grilling the bread keeps the bread crispy throughout cocktail hour. Get the recipe >
Braised Brisket Sandwiches With Pimento Cheese
Stout, bourbon and soy sauce create a potent umami braise for the brisket in these delicious sliders, from Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky, which are then topped with spicy pimiento cheese, spiked with a Korean red chili paste called gochujang. Get the recipe >
Sweet Bourbon Recipes
By law, Bourbon mash must be made from at least 50 percent corn, so it’s naturally sweet; the resulting distillate is then aged in new American oak, which imparts its intoxicating baking spice taste and aroma – a match made in heaven for many desserts. Showcasing classic combinations, from chocolate and creamy butterscotch to pecans and peaches, these five recipes are a great base for putting a drunken dessert on the table.
Croissant bread pudding with Bourbon sauce
This extravagant dessert — from author and editor Sarah Gray Miller — uses croissants and a generous amount of whipped cream. Soak the raisins in the bourbon while you assemble the rest of the dish. Get the recipe >
These chocolatey treats are what editor-in-chief Shane Mitchell calls Southern truffles — “booze and bad to the bone.” Get the recipe >
Roasted Peaches on Bourbon Syrup with Smoked Salt
A handful of pantry ingredients—brown sugar, smoked salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and bourbon—turn simple roasted peaches into a sublime summer dessert. Get the recipe >
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
A scoop of vanilla ice cream forms a beautiful foil for the bitter, intense dark chocolate in the filling of this pecan pie. Get the recipe >
Sufganiyot with Bourbon-Orange Glaze
The use of chemical leavening agent – baking powder – makes chef Sara Bradely’s Kentucky riff on the classic Hanukkah donut recipe faster and easier than old-school fermented versions, while sprinkling the warm donuts with boozy orange jam eliminates the need for fiddly piping bags. Get the recipe >
Bourbon Butterscotch Ice Cream
This grown-up frozen treat combines bourbon-laced custard with bags of dense butterscotch. Get the recipe >