Derby/De Mayo Party Essentials

Derby/De Mayo Party Essentials

This Saturday is nearly a trifecta of fun for the weekend. You have Cinco de Mayo, not Mexican Independence Day, and the greatest 2 minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby. I’ll actually be at the Derby this year and can’t wait to see my first race at Churchill Downs. But, if I were here at home I’d be looking for or having a party. With a bit of a cultural mix how do you make both events come together??? Mexican food with Derby cocktails!

The Drinks

The Mint Julep is a classic cocktail for the derby and brings together, mint, sweet sugar, bourbon and a whole lot of ice! I found a story yesterday that walks you through how to make the classic cocktail at home. You bought those metal cups now you have a reason to use them! Yet, maybe everyone doesn’t want the traditional cocktail what else can we do? Well, my trip to the Derby is courtesy of Lipton Pure Leaf Tea and they’ve got some great cocktails, I may have recipe tested this past weekend, and a few are from their new spokeswoman Gail Simmons.

For starters, the tea they offer is made with ingredients you can actually say and recognize! The unsweetened has no calories. Here are a couple of fun “adult-able” cocktails.

Gail’s Cocktail
Lemon Ginger “Tulep”
3 tablespoons ginger simple syrup (recipe below)
6-8 fresh mint leaves – keep the sprig for garnish
1 cup Lemon Pure Leaf Iced Tea
Cold Club Soda
Candied ginger, for garnish
In an old fashioned glass, muddle the ginger simple syrup with mint leaves. Add ice and the Lemon Pure Leaf Tea; stir well. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with the candied ginger and sprig of mint.
Adult: Add 1.5 ounces of over-proof Kentucky bourbon before adding the tea.
Ginger Simple Syrup: makes 1.5 cups – ½ cup fresh thinly sliced ginger, ½ cup sugar, and 1.5 cups water – combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil  stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain in to airtight container, keeps for up to one week.

For the traditionalist…
Derby Day Tea-lep
Servings: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
3 ounces Pure Leaf Sweetened Iced Tea
3 lemon slices
6 large mint leaves
In highball glass, add mint and then crush. Add two lemon slices and
fill glass with ice, Pure Leaf Sweetened Iced Tea. Garnish with one
lemon slice.
Adult: For a special twist, add 1 ounce Kentucky bourbon.

For the Fancy Ladies…
Servings: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
3 ounces Pure Leaf Green Tea with Honey
1 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce cranberry juice cocktail
In shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake well, then
strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish, if desired, with lime peel.
Adult: For a special twist, substitute 1 ounce vodka for 1 ounce orange

For the kids, you can easily make the above cocktails without the bourbon or you can make an Arnold Palmer and garnish with the mint sprigs as well. Everyone likes a two toned drink and this one won’t disappoint the kids either.

The Food

Chicago has such a rich heritage of Mexican influence. When people ask about some of my favorite spots to eat, I usually name at least one to two Mexican places. If it were my party, I’d make some food and cater the rest. For the snacks, I’d obviously go with salsa, pico de gallo, and guacamole with crisp corn chips. I make my guacamole simply – avocado, onion, cilantro, lemon and lime fresh squeezed and garlic. It’s all about making this to taste so add more or less of what you like and don’t forget the salt and pepper. For some added heat, I sneak in some sriracha.

I’d cater the rest. My place of choice would be Big Star Catering. They have everything you can think of even if you didn’t want to make a thing. Tacos, tostados are the highlights but you can also get Horchata if you want to be super authentic.

I hope you have a fun weekend and enjoy the race as well as the celebration. If you’re feeling guilty about how many tacos you’ve eaten, at least feel better when you sip your cocktail and now that at least the Pure Leaf Tea is healthy!

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at Joe also contributes to Chicago and

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