Kentucky Derby hats, mint julep and more: Churchill Downs traditions explained

From lavish hats to many mint juleps, the Kentucky Derby is a horse race steeped in tradition.

The Kentucky Derby will be run at Churchill Downs once again this pleasant Saturday evening.

Not only is this horse race the first leg of the Triple Crown, but it is a gathering of sorts to celebrate spring time with a one-of-a-kind event. It is the place to be if you are anyone worth knowing. Whether it is the decorative hats the many female attendees wear or the never-ending supply of delicious mint juleps that will be guzzled down the entire time, the derby is all about traditions.

Here is what you need to know about some of these traditions synonymous with Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Derby hats: Why do attendees wear them?

The Kentucky Derby derives much of what it is about from the Epsom Derby over in the U.K. People were dressed to the nines overseas, so Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., the man responsible for creating the event and establishing Churchill Downs, decided that is what they will do in Louisville. These hats were seen as a sign of good luck and have stayed en vogue ever since.

Kentucky Derby: How to make a mint julep

The mint julep has long been the official beverage of the derby. This bourbon cocktail may be at its apex annually in Louisville, but it is a fine adult beverage that can be, and probably should be, consumed every day of the year. Here is what you will need to make your own mint julep so you can have one before the Run of the Roses. Pace yourself, even though you are watching sprints.

Mint julep ingredients

  • 8 mint leaves
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Mint sprig
  • Angostura bitters (optional)

How to make a mint julep

  1. Whether it is a julep cup or a glass reserved for drinking something on the rocks, muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup first, ever so lightly.
  2. Then, you are going to want to add some bourbon and pack that cup/glass with some crushed ice.
  3. You then will need to stir it until the vessel containing the mint julep is frosted on the outside.
  4. Lastly, you are going to want to put even more ice on top of the drink to create somewhat of a dome emanating from it. From there, feel free to add a mint spring or some bitters if you are feeling dangerous. After that, you will so be mint julep-ing and living your best life.

Why is Kentucky Derby called Run for the Roses?

The Kentucky Derby is often called the Run for the Roses because the winning horse will have a blanket of roses draped over it like the absolute champion he is.

It is also called “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” well, because that is how long the race usually lasts.

Now that you are caught up to speed on all the derby’s traditions, sit back and enjoy the races.