Kentucky Traditions for the Modern Kitchen

Story compiled by Graham Pilotte

Photos by Dan Dry

Derby wouldn’t be complete without its amazing Southern food traditions, and now you can keep favorite recipes in your kitchen year-round. Co-written by America’s CEO (that’s chief entertaining officer) Tim Laird and Churchill Downs Executive Chef David Danielson, the upcoming Bourbon Country Cookbook melds Southern hospitality, classic charm and a generous splash of bourbon into a compilation of 95 popular recipes. From old-time traditions to the most modern bourbon-based cocktails, this cookbook is a must-have for any Kentuckian’s kitchen.

“I’ve always had a passion for cooking and entertaining,” says Laird. When putting together a cookbook, he wanted to bring a little Kentucky flavor to his favorite Southern recipes. “I wanted to share the versatility of bourbon and how it can add a depth of flavor to foods and cocktails.”

Similarly, Danielson wanted to explore a newfound passion for Louisville’s best. “After moving to Louisville eight years ago from Chicago, I was completely taken by the history of Southern cookery,” he says. “I wanted to share my knowledge with everyone.”

The pair have created a cookbook filled with classic Kentucky traditions. “The idea is to bring people together and enjoy great company. Food and beverages are the conduits that make this happen,” Laird explains. “Many of the recipes have stories behind them that we shared in the book. By telling these stories, we’ve found that it gets people talking about many of their own recipes and traditions.”

“There are a great mix of old traditions – like the hot brown, pimento cheese and burgoo,” Danielson says, “as well as some twists that bring an updated vision to several dishes that are really highlighted in many of the lighter salads, vegetables and grains.”

Both authors have some favorite culinary customs highlighted in the book, and each is happy to share what he loves. “It’s all about the social occasion – gathering around the kitchen and getting people involved in the cooking experience,” Laird says. “Southern cooking along with a refreshing beverage gets people talking, laughing and having fun.”

As any true Southern cook can tell you, creating a dinner or a cocktail is about much more than just the food. “It’s the importance of sharing the table with both friends and family,” Danielson adds. “It’s so valuable to step back from the crazy hustle and bustle and take time to look at what we’re eating and to enjoy the company with whom we’re eating it.” VT

The national launch of the Bourbon Country Cookbook: New Southern Entertaining will take place 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 26, at the Frazier History Museum. The event will feature three cocktail samples paired with three food samples from the book. Admission includes an autographed book. For tickets, visit

Bourbon Peach Cooler

Makes: 1 cocktail

1½ ounces bourbon

¼ ounce peach schnapps

2 ounces peach nectar

1 ounce unsweetened iced tea

1 dash peach bitters (optional)

Peach slice, for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, combine the bourbon, schnapps, peach nectar, iced tea, and bitters, if using. Shake the mixture vigorously and strain it into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with the peach slice and serve.

Reprinted with permission from The Bourbon Country Cookbook by David Danielson and Tim Laird, Agate Surrey, 2018.