Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Derby Day Punch

Check out our other 5 Best Cocktails

I had a dirty little secret in high school: I was a horse person.

In the burbs, this was standard. Perhaps even a status symbol. But in the city, being a rider was on the same social plane as being a drama nerd, which I happened to be too. Given these two factors, sometime around junior year, my friend Essie told me that it was a miracle that I was cool.

I am hard pressed to think of what possibly negated both horse and theater in my pedigree to make me acceptable company at the cool kids’ table. But I think part of it must have had to do with alcohol. For every horse show I attended in Connecticut on weekends, I also most likely attended a high school party, wine coolers et al.

In college, I realized that my weekend routine must have been early training for the drinking event that appeared each spring: Derby Day.

It was a dream come true. I got to watch miniature people competing on horseback, with my hair neatly tucked under a sun hat, and my Solo cup filled with whiskey. Derby day has also been one of the few party traditions that has lived on since college. And because we are so much classier now, we can afford to add fresh mint leaves to our whiskey, turning the drink into a classic julep.

This year, I’m reinventing the old Derby Day classic in punch form. This concoction was inspired by our BGSK catering bar captain, Matt, who suggested I try making a cross between a hot toddy and a julep, with chamomile simple syrup, plenty of lemon juice, and a hint of elderflower liqueur to add a floral note for spring.

If you’re tuning into the horsies next weekend, try serving your guests a few tumblers full of Derby Day punch. It is sure to bring out your inner cool kid, so long as you’re not afraid to let your hair down too.

From my kitchen, where horses and alcohol come hand in hand, to yours,



Derby Day Punch
Makes 20-25 servings

2 1/2 cups sugar
5 chamomile tea bags
10 cups bourbon
3 1/3 cups lemon juice (you can use store bought)
3 1/3 cup elderflower liquor
1 bunch mint leaves

Combine the sugar with 2 ½ cups boiling water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the tea bags and steep for 1-2 hours at room temperature. (This can be done days in advance).

In a large punch bowl, combine the chamomile simple syrup. Bourbon, lemon juice, elderflower liquor, and mint leaves. Add a loaf of ice (a giant ice cube made in a loaf pan) or a large handful of cubes, and some lemon slices for garnish (optional).

  • Linnea

    Your drink looks delicious! I like that it has elderflower liquor in it! In Sweden, elderflower “saft” is very popular… like a concentrate that you mix with water & drink! I remember picking these flowers with my aunt so she could boil them up with sugar. Yummy :o) Hope you had a great weekend!

  • Essie

    Aw Phoebe, you’re the coolest kid on the block. Especially when you make delicious cocktails like this. I don’t know what I was thinking back then…

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