A Peek Inside The Menu For 2023's Kentucky Derby

Spring has officially arrived, and with it comes anticipation for warm weather and annual outdoor events. In Louisville, the countdown to the Kentucky Derby has begun, and the Churchill Downs racetrack wants to whet our appetite before the big event. On March 21, the official menu for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, held this year on May 5 and 6, was announced via press release.

For the second year in a row, the menu has been created by Chef Kenneth Hardiman of Levy, the official hospitality partner of Churchill Downs, and the event is presented by Woodford Reserve Bourbon. "Leading the culinary team at the Kentucky Derby is one of the highest honors a chef can have, and I'm excited for the opportunity to add to the Kentucky Derby's rich culinary legacy again this year," Hardiman said in a statement. "Moments like the Kentucky Derby challenge and motivate us chefs to be at our best, to focus on all of the details, from the seasonal ingredients we source all the way down to the garnishes, in order to create amazing food and beverage experiences for our guests who enjoy the event in different ways."

The menu was announced as featuring "classic Kentucky dishes with a fresh twist" and will feature locally sourced dairy and produce in its meals and cocktails.

Delicious Derby dishes

The Derby organizers indicate in the release that over the course of the weekend, they expect Chef Hardiman and the roughly 1,000 members of his culinary staff will serve over 200,000 dining guests, including 24,000 VIP members. Although the race itself lasts for only about two minutes, guests planning to make a day of the 149-year-old social event will want to linger to enjoy the planned menu. The weekend's selections include two signature entrees: roasted pork loin medallions with green peppercorn demi-glace and sweet onions, as well as seared chicken breast with a local honey glaze, scallions, benne seeds, and citrus.

Also featured on Chef Hardiman's race day menu are two locally sourced salads and three down-home local side dishes with gourmet flair: mashed bourbon sweet potatoes with candied pecans, cheesy creamed corn with jalapeños, and glazed spring vegetables featuring fresh squash, carrot, and parsnips with pomegranate seeds.

Race day cocktails

While the event will feature several delightful dining options, the Kentucky Derby is often more associated with its cocktails than its culinary fare, and this year's menu promises to deliver on that front as well. There are four signature cocktails listed on the race website, including the drink that is nearly synonymous with the race — a signature mint julep made with Old Forester Bourbon. Event organizers estimate nearly 145,000 mint juleps will be poured over the course of the race weekend, using up 1,500 pounds of mint and 20,000 bottles of bourbon!

If Mint Juleps aren't your cup of tea, the menu also includes the Finlandia Oaks Lily, a take on cranberry juice and vodka featuring triple sec and sweet and sour mix, the Herradura Horseshoe Margarita made with Herradura Silver tequila and agave nectar, and the Woodford Reserve Spire made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, cranberry juice, and lemonade. Bartenders will also be mixing a mocktail version of the Spire featuring tea instead of bourbon for those wanting to partake in the festivities without alcohol. Finally, a selection of Kendall Jackson wines will also be available on race day.