Mystik Dan And Appalachian Sangria Win Big On Derby Day

For Kentucky Derby weekend 2024, TSR founder OJ Lima hosted a weekend retreat at Great Oak Manor on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Billed as A Taste of Appalachia & Whiskey,’ the weekend featured cuisine prepared by Chef Travis Milton and bourbon tastings curated by Lima. Both paid tribute to the Bluegrass state and its culinary exports. Before the weekend was out, a long-shot pony won the Derby in a nail-biting finish, and Lima debuted a new cocktail called Appalachian Sangria.

Great Oak Manor

Appalachian Culture And Cuisine

Stretching from West Virginia, through Kentucky, and ending in Mississippi, Appalachia is a distinct region with its own culture and cuisine. It's named after the Appalachian mountains, and is influenced by Native American, European and African folkways and traditions. Millions of years ago, the Appalachians were part of the same geological formation that created the Scottish Highlands, and in a moment of accidental synchronicity, Scottish and Irish immigrants settled in the region, bringing with them the practice of distilling whiskey.

Chef Travis Milton

The weekend’s food offerings were overseen by Chef Travis Milton. A native of Appalachia, Milton is an advocate for the region and its rich culinary traditions, which rely on seasonal local ingredients and cooking techniques that embody rustic ingenuity. Milton is currently the head chef at Hickory, the celebrated restaurant at Nicewonder Farm & Vineyards in Bristol, Virginia, where he's put his talents and ethos into practice.

An Introduction to Old Forester Bourbon

To match Chef Milton's culinary creations, Lima, who serves as Great Oak's Spirits Expert in Residence, themed the weekend around bourbon's oldest brand, Old Forester. He crafted multiple specialty cocktails, gave a talk/tasting focused on the historic brand, and led guests in a single barrel selection of Old Forester.

The barrel selected by the guests will be the hotel's first limited-edition release when they debut their whiskey club later in the year.

The Backstory of Appalachian Sangria

At the opening reception, Lima unveiled a new signature cocktail dubbed, Appalachian Sangria. It was a fortuitous mistake that brought the cocktail to life.

“I planned to make a cocktail with bourbon, and I wanted it to look elegant and be served in a wineglass to match the energy and creativity of Chef Milton's cuisine.” says Lima. "I drew inspiration from my rose sangria recipe, and made a fruit punch that substituted whiskey for wine and sweet tea for brandy."

“I was making the tea and cutting fruit at the same time. Someone came in to talk to me, and I lost track of time. When I finally tasted my tea, it was bitter,” Lima says ruefully.

“I tried mixing a sample cocktail but it wasn't coming out right. As luck would have it, Chef Milton and resident Chef Mallory came into the bar and saw me struggling. I asked them to taste it, and they agreed I'd over-steeped the tea."

“They chuckled, went back to the kitchen, and returned with a fresh pitcher of sweet tea they'd made for lunch. I subbed in their tea, and boom, the cocktail was fantastic. I made multiple pitchers, and it was a huge hit." Learn how to make OJ's Appalachian Sangria.

Kentucky Derby 2024

The festivities crescendoed on the afternoon of Saturday, May 4, with the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. As it came time to post, OJ served a Mint Julep, the Derby's official drink, which he'd barrel-aged prior to the weekend. Then, 18-to-1 long shot Mystik Dan beat out the heavily favored Sierra Leone and Forever Young in an exciting three-way photo finish.

Photographs Courtesy Of Jumping Rocks Photo.

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