5 Kentucky Derby Typical Food & Drinks

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Even though the Kentucky Derby is often referred to as the two most exciting minutes in sports due to the incredible race, most people forget to pay attention to the southern cuisine which is incredible.

While the horses are the true stars of the show, the food and beverages provided during the event are as delectable. 

From classic Southern delicacies to refreshing cocktails, here are five must-try Kentucky Derby foods and drinks that will elevate your overall Derby experience while you are browsing through the TwinSpires odds.

The History Behind Kentucky Derby Food and Drinks

Ah, the Kentucky Derby – where the horses are fast, the hats are fancy, and the food and drinks are downright delicious. 

But how did these iconic derby delicacies come to be? 

Well, it all started back in the 1800s, when the Kentucky Derby first began. Horse racing enthusiasts from all over the country would gather in Louisville to watch the races, and they quickly realized that they needed some sustenance to keep them going through the day. 

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And thus, the tradition of Kentucky Derby food and drinks was born – a delicious combination of Southern comfort food and refreshing cocktails that have been satisfying derby-goers for over a century.

Traditional Food and Drinks at the Kentucky Derby

Mint Julep – A Classic Derby Drink

Let’s start with the most iconic Kentucky Derby drink of them all – the mint julep.

You cannot go to the Kentucky Derby without getting a Mint Julep cocktail. This refreshing cocktail which is perfect for the hot Derby Day includes bourbon, sugar, water, and of course, fresh mint leaves. 

Traditionally, the Mint Julep cocktail is served in a silver cup filled with crushed ice, and it has become the iconic symbol of the derby since 1938.

So, if you want to get into the true Kentucky Derby spirit, make sure to order or make one yourself at home.

Hot Browns – A Derby Tradition

Forget about fast food which is traditional at most sporting events since you can get a healthy meal at the Kentucky Derby which is very delicious.

Yes, we are talking about Hot Browns, which has become sort of a Kentucky Derby tradition.

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This open-faced sandwich was developed in Kentucky at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. It consists of turkey, bacon, Mornay sauce, and tomatoes heaped high on thick pieces of bread. The Hot Brown is the ideal marriage of comfort food and Southern hospitality, and it’s been a must-order dish at the Kentucky Derby for decades.

Burgoo – A Hearty Stew

If you want something, even more, healthier, or you are not a fan of sandwiches, then the Burgoo stew is the perfect choice for you.

Burgoo, a thick and hearty stew full of meat and vegetables, is another Kentucky Derby classic. 

Burgoo is a Southern barbeque and outdoor event favorite, and it’s the ideal lunch to warm you up on a cool race day. 

Burgoo recipes vary depending on whom you ask, but common components include beef, pig, poultry, tomatoes, and maize. A warm bowl of Burgoo is the perfect way to refuel and revitalize, whether you’re a seasoned derby veteran or a first-time spectator.

Derby Pie  – A Sweet Treat

After finishing your main course, it is time for dessert, and the Kentucky Derby offers the perfect traditional Derby pie.

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No Kentucky Derby celebration is complete without a slice of Derby Pie. This chocolate and pecan pie is a Kentucky original that’s become a beloved dessert around the world. 

The recipe for Derby Pie is closely guarded by the Kern family, who first created it in the 1950s, but we do know that it’s made with chocolate chips, pecans, and a healthy dose of bourbon. Whether you’re watching the races from home or attending in person, a slice of Derby Pie is the perfect way to cap off a day of derby festivities.

The Lily – A New Derby Cocktail

If you don’t like the Mint Julep, or you are not a fan of bourbon, you can try the newly introduced cocktail called the Lily.

This cocktail was introduced to the Kentucky Derby in 2006 and has quickly gained in popularity, especially for people that prefer vodka. The lily is a delightful blend of vodka, cranberry juice, Triple Sec, and lemon juice.

Philip Okoye
the authorPhilip Okoye
Your favorite recipe author, faithful to every course. Mail me at

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