When Celebrations Collide: Cinco de Derby

See what we did there? Image: wingbeats551 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

This Saturday is the 144th annual Kentucky Derby, “the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports”! As it happens, it’s also Cinco de Mayo. These two events won’t converge again until 2029, meaning you need to make the most of this Cinco de Derby celebration.

As you’ve probably heard, Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. You know what that means: design specials around cocktail recipes featuring Woodford Reserve and Double Oaked bourbons.

This is also the time to highlight special Woodford Reserve expressions if you have them in your inventory. Train your staff to upsell the Master’s Collection—1838 Style White Corn, Brandy Cask Finish, Cherry Wood Smoked Barley, Batch Proof 2018 (125.8 proof!)—and Distillery Series expressions (again, if you have any of them in your collection).

Read this: Woodford Reserve® Releases Commemorative 2018 Kentucky Derby® Bottle

Of course, you don’t have to only push your bourbon. Woodford Reserve produces the award-winning Kentucky Straight Rye. This rye whiskey is characterized by a spicy nose with “rye, black pepper, cedar and cassia bark sweetened with a dusting of marzipan” and hints of “pear, apple and almond.” On the palate, Woodford Reserve’s rye has flavors of “clove, rye, mint, molasses, sorghum and honey mingle together with hints of apple and malt,” and a long, sweetly spiced finish. You and your bartenders have time now to play with substituting this rye for bourbon in traditional cocktails. Unsurprisingly, several of the horses’ monikers lend themselves to cocktail names: Magnum Moon, Good Magic, Vino Rosso, Bolt d’Oro, Flameaway, and Blended Citizen to name just a half-dozen.

Don’t forget, however, that Saturday isn’t just about the Kentucky Derby—it’s also Cinco de Mayo. It’s up to you whether you want to combine the two celebrations. If so, quality tequilas and mezcals have proven themselves to be great substitutions for bourbons and ryes in cocktails, and vice versa.

Read this: The Riff-able Paloma is What You Should be Serving on Cinco de Mayo

Alternatively, you can execute Derby promotions from this Friday through Saturday evening, focusing on Cinco de Mayo to close out your night. The race’s post time is scheduled for 6:34 p.m. EST, with the race commencing at 6:46 p.m. EST, meaning you’ll need to give your guests a reason to keep the party going.

“The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” isn’t just a catchy slogan. The winner of the Kentucky Derby will cross the line in about two minutes. There’s plenty of Kentucky Derby coverage being televised and streamed, so make it known to guests that your festivities will begin hours before the race.

The Kentucky Derby has also been known as the “Run for the Roses” since 1925. The winning horse and jockey are presented with a garland of roses, a tradition that dates to 1896. That year—the first appearance of the garland—the arrangement consisted of pink and white roses. In 1904, the red rose became the official flower of the Kentucky Derby, and that’s what they use in today’s garland. You should already know where I’m going with this: decorate your venue with red, pink and white roses. Real, paper or plastic, that’s up to you.

Read this: Getting Lucky in Kentucky: Cocktails for Derby Day

Below you’ll find a few Kentucky Derby recipes to prime your creative pump. We won’t see another Cinco de Mayo for more than a decade, so make this one count!

Woodford Reserve’s Traditional Kentucky Derby Mint Julep - When Celebrations Collide - Cinco de Derby

Woodford Reserve’s Traditional Kentucky Derby Mint Julep

Recipe and image courtesy of Woodford Reserve

  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve (use Double Oaked for upcharge)
  • 1/2 oz. Simple syrup
  • 3 Fresh mint Leaves
  • Crushed ice

Express the essential oils in the mint and rub them inside the glass. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with more ice and fresh mint.

Tequila Julep by Natalie Migliarini of Beautiful Booze - When Celebrations Collide - Cinco de Derby

Tequila Julep

Recipe and image courtesy of Natalie Migliarini of Beautiful Booze

  • 2 oz. Tequila añejo (Herradura, El Jimador and Don Eduardo are Brown-Forman brands)
  • ½ oz. Agave syrup
  • 6 Mint leaves
  • 1 cup Crushed ice
  • 1 Mint sprig to garnish

Combine the agave syrup and six mint leaves in the In the bottom of your julep cups. Add crushed ice to fill the cups. Pour tequila over the ice and stir lightly to mix all the ingredients. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Woodford Reserve Thoroughbred cocktail - When Celebrations Collide - Cinco de Derby

Woodford Thoroughbred

Recipe and image courtesy of Woodford Reserve

  • 1 1/2 oz. Woodford Reserve (use Double Oaked for upcharge)
  • Ginger beer or ginger ale to top
  • Lime wedge to garnish

Fill highball with cubed ice. Add bourbon and top with ginger beer or ginger ale. Garnish with lime wedge.

Off to the Races cocktail by Woodford Reserve - When Celebrations Collide - Cinco de Derby

Off to the Races

Recipe and image courtesy of Woodford Reserve

  • 2 parts Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey
  • ½ part Yellow Chartreuse
  • ½ part Sherry
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Orange bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.