It’s derby time and if you are having a derby party, a must serve is the classic mint julep.  However, they are very laborious to make and a little tricky to get the correct balance of sugar, bourbon and mint.  I have the ultimate solution that will help you make mint juleps for many and enable you, the host, to skip the muddling.

Start by making mint simple syrup.  In a sauce pan add one part sugar and one part water.  Bring to a boil stirring to ensure all the sugar dissolves.  Once dissolved, take the pan off the heat and add one part mint (leaves, stems and all).  Stir and let steep for twenty minutes as if you were steeping a tea.  Let cool then strain off mint leaves and reserve the mint simple syrup.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To make mint juleps simply add to a tall glass with crushed ice:  two ounces bourbon, (Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs) and one once of the mint simple syrup.  Be sure to garnish with a large bouquet of mint and a sipping straw.

Tip:  I like to set up a self-serve mint julep station where guests build their own.  Besides the bourbon and mint simple syrup I also set out different syrups and nectars such as peach, raspberry, blueberry and others to make flavored juleps.

bbourbonOne of my go to appetizers is Bourbon Bacon Toasts.  The combination of bourbon and bacon really make this a delicious derby favorite.

  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1 loaf whole wheat bread
  • 1 jar Major Grey’s Mango Chutney
  • 2 tablespoons Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped


Preheat broiler to high. Cook bacon until crisp.

Chop into fine pieces and place on a plate.  Using a cookie cutter or the top of a jar, stamp out 1½-inch bread rounds.

You can usually get 3 rounds per slice of bread.

In a small bowl, mix the mango chutney and bourbon (you may want to heat the chutney slightly in the microwave so it incorporates easier).

Spread a generous amount of the chutney mixture on a bread round, then dip it in the bacon pieces so they stick to the bread.

Repeat the steps for each bread round.  Just before serving, heat under the broiler to further crisp the bacon.  Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.


Serves 8 – 10


Note:  The toasts can be made one day ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to broil and serve.