Bourbon Cocktails for Derby

I’m stepping outside of Kentucky this week and giving Oregon bourbon a try! These Derby-inspired cocktails are made with Burnside Bourbon provided by Eastside Distilling in Portland, Oregon. 

    Mint Julep Bourbon Ball Cocktail | Fake Food Free
After 10 years living in the Bluegrass state, it’s no surprise that I rarely look beyond Kentucky for my bourbon. It’s good stuff. Pretty much the whole world agrees. 

But as we explore new craft spirits, I’m trying more and more that I like, including bourbon. We are in California now, of course. So maybe it’s time to celebrate Derby week with something a little more local, or at least on the same coast. 


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Open-faced Bacon Turkey Sandwich with Kentucky Hot Slaw and Maple Bourbon Mayo Recipe

Open-faced Bacon Turkey Sandwich with Kentucky Hot Slaw and Maple Bourbon Mayo | Fake Food Free

I had never heard of hot slaw until about six months before we moved away from Kentucky. If you like German food, you won’t be completely unfamiliar with it as it’s similar to a warm cabbage salad. I just didn’t realize it was a Kentucky thing until I went to lunch with coworkers in northern Kentucky. Apparently that is where this delicious salad is the most popular.

I haven’t had it since. Although it’s always been in the back of my mind on the must-recreate list.

Now, a Hot Brown I’ve had before and I can take them or leave them. They have their good qualities, but they are also very heavy with a lot of cream sauce. Prepare for a nap after indulging is all I’m saying.

When I was trying to think of what to make in honor of this year’s Kentucky Derby, I decided it was time to try my own version of hot slaw. I thought it might go nicely with the good qualities of the Hot Brown (the turkey and bacon). And of course, there had to be bourbon involved. I piled it all up on fresh sourdough, because I can’t quite ignore the Bay Area, now can I?

This open-faced sandwich hits all the taste buds – sweet, salty and even a little sour (in a very good way, thanks to the slaw). I had some turkey cutlets in the fridge so I cooked those up with a little salt and pepper. They were perfect, but leftover roasted turkey will do fine.

Open-faced Bacon Turkey Sandwich with Kentucky Hot Slaw and Maple Bourbon Mayo | Fake Food Free

Open-faced Bacon Turkey Sandwich with Kentucky Hot Slaw and Maple Bourbon Mayo

Serves: 4


¼ cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp Kentucky bourbon
1 tsp maple syrup
Pinch of ground black pepper

Sandwich and Slaw
11 slices of bacon (I prefer pastured, heritage breed)
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar (I use mascavo sugar)
1 tbsp Kentucky bourbon
3 cups sliced green cabbage
1 cup sliced purple cabbage
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
4 cooked turkey cutlets or about 10 ounces sliced roasted turkey
4 slices sourdough bread, toasted


For the mayo, in a small dish, stir together the mayonnaise, grated garlic, 1 teaspoon of bourbon, maple syrup and black pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, cook the slices of bacon over medium-high heat (you may have to work in batches). Cook 8 slices to your desired doneness (these will go on the sandwiches). Cook the remaining 3 slices crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and let drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.

Drain the skillet so that you have about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat left. Return to medium heat and add the garlic and onion. Stir well to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan and watch the garlic closely so it doesn’t burn. Cook for about 1 minute. Carefully add the vinegar (step back to avoid the strong smell that will smoke up), brown sugar and tablespoon of bourbon.

Continue to stir and increase the heat to medium-high. Let simmer for about 3 minutes, until it begins to thicken.

Stir in the cabbage, reduce the heat to medium and cook about 2 to 3 more minutes. I prefer mine just barely wilted. Add the salt and pepper. Chop the 3 crisp slices of bacon and stir into the slaw. Remove from the heat.

To assemble, spread 1 tablespoon of mayo over each slice of bread. Top with one turkey cutlet (or about 2.5 ounces roasted turkey) and two slices of bacon. Divide the slaw evenly and arrange on top of each of the four sandwiches. Serve warm.

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12 Favorite Kentucky Derby Recipes

12 Favorite Kentucky Derby Recipes | Fake Food Free

You don’t have to live in Kentucky long to catch the Derby bug. We were there for about ten years, but I was hooked after our very first Derby celebration.

Did I mention that I’ve never actually been to the Kentucky Derby?

Everyone seems shocked when I tell them this. It’s a bit of a long story, but you basically have two choices – the infield with loads of intoxicated folks having a good time where you can’t even get a clear view of the race (or so I’ve been told), or tickets for the Grandstand side which, if you can even get your hands on some, are a bit expensive. Add to that, all the people I know who have gone (on the Grandstand side) and had a less than stellar time to see the big, but very short, race.

Compare that to hanging out at the local race track, Keeneland, in Lexington and watching the race on the big screen or having your own party at home. No traffic, no hot sun, you can still wear a hat if you want and there are plenty of bourbon-based beverages and good food.

What can I say? The latter won out for us every year.

Over those ten Kentucky Derbies, and within the past year, I’ve made a few favorite recipes that are perfect for celebrating the big day. Most with bourbon, some with mint and others with Kentucky classics in mind. There will be more to come in the future, but these should give you plenty of ideas for your own Derby celebration whether you need breakfast, brunch, drinks or dessert.

(Click on the recipe name to go to the recipe.)

Cornmeal Waffles with Bananas Foster Sauce from Jonathan’s Bluegrass Table

Bourbon Sweet Potato Waffles with Maple Cinnamon Butter

Mint Julep Scones

Bourbon Banana Scones with Walnuts

Wild Ginger Mint Julep

Kentucky Bourbon-Vanilla Soaked Cherries

Kentucky Bourbon Dogs

Pimento Cheese Dinner Rolls

Maple Bourbon Budino with Spiced Pecans from Bakeless Sweets

Mint Julep Blondies

Bourbon Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies with Coconut Oil

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale and Pretzel Caramels