This Kentucky Derby-themed spread also makes a perfect Mother's Day brunch

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

The marketing around Mother's Day is often so frilly and flowery. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. But I'm a mom and, while I do like pink wine, I also like grilling out. I drink my bourbon neat.

While I love spending time with my kid, I'd also like to just sit down on the porch and have some quiet time. Maybe with that bourbon. I can — and did — make my own brunch reservations. And I'm more than certain I'm not alone.

This year, the Kentucky Derby and Mother's Day collide on the same weekend, May 7 and 8 respectively. Still, a Derby-themed Mother's Day brunch sounds fun and gives you an excuse to drink mint juleps during the day. Like you needed one.

More:Everything I know about grilling I learned from my dad, except for one thing: patience

Here's a full menu that will work both for Mother's Day and for the Kentucky Derby — or both. And it's not particularly frilly. It's just good.

If you're looking for even more recipes, join me over at, where you can find classic mint juleps and even a bourbon-spiked berry shortcake.

Strawberry mimosas are a crowd-pleaser.

Strawberry Fields Mimosa

This recipe, created by Woodford Reserve Brand Ambassador Sergio Serna, takes the classic mimosa up an extra notch in both terms of flavor and alcohol content. 

Makes: 1 drink


1 1/2 ounce Woodford Reserve or another bourbon

1 ounce Giffard fraise des bois (or any strawberry liqueur)

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Sparkling wine (sparkling rose is also an option)



Combine bourbon, Giffard, lemon juice and ice in a shaker tin. Shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a flute, top with sparkling wine and garnish with a strawberry.

This blue cheese and caramelized onion tart is bold,  filling and perfect for Mother's Day. Note: The tart pictured was prepared in a pie pan, while the recipe here, made on a sheet pan, will turn out a rectangular tart.

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart

We love the bold flavors of this classic tart. Serve it for breakfast, a brunch spread and even for a light dinner. Note: The dough must be refrigerated for at least one hour. 

Serves: About 12



4 cups all-purpose flour

1 pound butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

2 eggs

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper


4 cups caramelized onions (recipe follows)

4 cups crumbled Oregon blue cheese

2 cups grated Swiss cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh thyme


2 cups half and half

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 


Place the flour, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the eggs and pulse until the mixture starts to form a dough. Remove from the work bowl and gently knead on a lightly floured work surface. Form into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a 13” x 18” jelly roll pan or half sheet pan. Line the pan with the dough, making sure there are no cracks. Chill the dough for 30 minutes again. Line the dough with foil and fill with baking weights or beans. Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown and the dough is set.

Gently remove the foil and beans, and then put the pan back in the oven and cook until the dough is almost cooked, about 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven; sprinkle the caramelized onions, chopped thyme, Swiss cheese and blue cheese evenly over the partially baked shell. Whisk together the custard ingredients and then drizzle the custard over the crust until it is just barely filled. Return to the oven and bake until the custard is set and the tart lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and cool before cutting into squares. 

To caramelize onions: Thinly julienne 6 large yellow onions. Heat a heavy-bottomed, large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and add 1/3 of the onions. Sauté until they are completely softened and browned to a caramel color; adjust the heat as needed. Remove from the pan and repeat until all the onions are cooked. You may need to wash the pan between batches if there are browned bits stuck to the bottom.

Tomato and watermelon salad.

Tomato and Watermelon Salad 

This refreshing warm-weather salad was created by the executive chef of Churchill Downs. It should serve about 8 people. Try serving it in cups or small bowls, especially if you're serving it with the tart. You don't want to sog out the crust.

To make it extra bold, add a minced, cored jalapeno pepper or two. 


4 small heirloom tomatoes in assorted colors, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

1 small English or regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

¼ cup sliced red onion

1 cup 3/4-inch cubed red seedless watermelon flesh

1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh basil and mint

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon, red onion and herbs. Toss gently. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the tomato mixture and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Woodford Reserve Cherries & Cream Julep

Try this sweet spring take on a classic cocktail, developed by Woodford Reserve Bourbon.

This cherry mint julep offers a twist on a classic.


2 ounces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1/2 ounce cherry juice

Half a vanilla bean pod, cut into small segments

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Mint sprig, cherry and vanilla bean pod for garnish

Crushed ice

Makes: 1 cocktail


In the julep cup, add 1/2 ounce cherry juice. Add half a vanilla bean pod cut into small segments. Add teaspoon of powdered sugar. Muddle or mix together. Add crushed ice to 2/3 of the cup. Add 2 ounces of Woodford Reserve. Top off the cup with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig, real cherry and vanilla bean pod. 

Find more Mother's Day-Derby crossover recipes at

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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