Derby Day is finally here! And if you know anything about the team at Club 1201, you’ll know that we love the races and drinking bourbon!

The first Saturday in May kicks off the noble pursuit of the Triple Crown. For 143 years, Churchill Downs has hosted a fresh group of three-year-olds as they compete in the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs has brought in a great crop of horses this year! Here’s a quick look at a few:

Classic Empire made a fantastic comeback at the Arkansas Derby last month, after Casse (trainer) discovered an abscess on the right front hoof. He’s been looking strong and determined in his morning trainings at the track. Classic Empire, half-brother of American Pharaoh (who won the Triple Crown in 2015), is the likely favorite for the derby. He’s going off at 4-1 odds coming out of post position 14.

Thunder Snow looks like an interesting contender for Classic Empire, having been shipped in from Dubai. After arriving to the stables on Sunday, the horse had to be quarantined for 42 hours. He made his debut on the track during the Tuesday morning, looking pretty great. It’s a lot to ask of a horse—to travel halfway across the the world and then run a 10-furlong race—but he’s definitely ready to race. He’s going off at 20-1 odds coming out of post position 2. Post hurts him a little since he has more tactical speed. That said, he’s definitely worth a small bet to place or show!

Jersey-bred Irish War Cry could go either way, making him a wild card. He looks like a strong, fast horse. But he tends to “fight” his Jockey Rajiv Maragh a bit at the beginning of each training session before settling in. In July 2014, Maragh took a bad spill (one punctured lung, four fractured vertebrae and one broken rib), spending several months in a full body cast. This tough team going off at 6-1 odds coming out of post position 17.

Patch is a one-eyed horse trained by Todd Pletcher who made it to the Kentucky Derby after a second-place finish in this year’s Louisiana Derby.He was actually named Patch before the loss of his eye to a mysterious infection. Patch isn’t the only one-eyed horse to have competed in the Derby. In 2004, Pollard’s Vision (also trained by Pletcher) was blind in one eye since birth and finished 17th in the race. We don’t think Patch will win the race, but we’d like to see him run well! He’s going off at 30-1 odds coming out of post position 20, making him a long shot. Maybe worth a small bet for this feel-good story!

So now that you know a little more about the horses (click here for more horse profiles), it’s time to put on your best southern-inspired derby garb and sip on these five cocktails to help you bet on the ponies!

Horse’s Neck

A day at the races (or watching from home) should be fairly relaxing—that is, if you are prepared. But if you’re scrambling around doing last minute research on your phone before placing your bets, you’ll need a cocktail that’s quick and easy. Luckily, this American-whiskey classic has only 2 ingredients!

2 oz of Bourbon or American Rye Whiskey
Ginger Ale
Lemon Peel

Add the bourbon to a Collins glass filled with ice. Fill with ginger ale (or ginger beer) and garnish with lemon peel. If you have bitters on hand, you can add a couple dashes.

A Horse’s Neck used to be a refreshing glass of non-alcoholic ginger ale during late 19th century. Later, a jigger of bourbon or rye was added to create this simple cocktail.

Mint Julep

This is “the cocktail” of horse racing, so you can’t really celebrate Derby Day without drinking a couple.

1/4 oz Raw Sugar Syrup
8 Mint Leaves
2 oz Bourbon
Sprig of Mint

In a Julep cup or rocks glass, muddle the mint and syrup. Add the bourbon. Pack tightly with crushed ice and stir until the cup is frosted on the outside. Top with more crushed and garnish with bitters and a mint sprig if desired.

3. Man o’ War

This cocktail is named after one of the finest horses in racing history, winning 20 of the 21 races he ran. He didn’t compete in the Derby, but he won the other two legs of the Triple Crown in 1920. He’s also the granddaddy of famed stallion, Seabiscuit. Pay your dues to the legend, by indulging in this citrusy bourbon concoction.

2 oz Bourbon
1 oz Orange Curaçao or Triple Sec
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Cherry (Brandied or Bourbon-Soaked)

Add all ingredients into shaker with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or lemon twist and a cherry (brandied or bourbon-soaked).

4. Preakness

This Manhattan variation is named after another famed American thoroughbred. Preakness upset the heavily favored colt Foster to win the first Dixie Stakes (Dinner Party Stakes) in 1870 at the Pimlico Race Course. In honor of winning the first of the race, he had a race named after him—The Preakness Stakes. The Preakness Stakes is held on the third Saturday in May.

1-1/2 oz Bourbon or American Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz Bénédictine
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Cherry (Brandied or Bourbon-Soaked)

Add all in the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and a cherry (brandied or bourbon-soaked).

5. Bourbon Cider Sour

Compliment your southern wardrobe with this bourbon and apple cocktail. This drink is great to make in batches!

3 oz Bourbon
1 c Apple Cider
1/2 c Orange Juice
1/4 c Sugar
Apple Slices (Honey Crisp or Ambrosia)

Add all in the ingredients to a rocks glass or copper mug and fill with ice. Garnish with apple slices (honey crisp or ambrosia).

Cheers!

There you have it—five cocktails to help you bet on the ponies! Drop by sometime for a drink! One of our professional mixologists will whip you up a great cocktail.

Need some local spirits to try? Read our blog “Day Tripping: Local Wineries, Breweries and Distilleries to Try.”

And don’t forget to reserve your spot for this month’s wine dinner!

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