How to Host a Kentucky Derby Party at Home


Anyone who lives in Kentucky knows the kentucky derby the race may only last a few minutes, but the party goes on and on. If you’re planning on throwing a party — or parties — this Kentucky Derby season (actually a two-week party starting in April), you better start planning. The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place on Saturday, May 7.

From the perfect mint julep to festive decor, here’s everything you need to throw a memorable Kentucky Derby party.

How to Set the Scene for a Kentucky Derby Party

If you have space, an outdoor Kentucky Derby party is a perfect way to celebrate the spring event when the weather is nice.

It’s also easier to keep your company outside (and out of the kitchen) if you set up the food and drink tables on the patio, a deck, in the garage, or under a tent.

The outdoors also provides more opportunities for Kentucky Derby-related activities, such as horseshoe racing, badminton, cornhole, or horse racing for kids.

A small tent that you can buy or rent will provide shade if the weather is nice. But don’t put all your eggs in this basket. Make sure you have a plan in mind before your party for how to move your event indoors if the weather turns to rain. Seasoned Kentucky Derby fans know full well that rain is always an option on race day.

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How to Create a Kentucky Derby Winning Bar

Because the Kentucky Derby and the mint julep go hand in hand, let’s first think about how you’re going to serve your cocktails and mocktails.

entertainment specialist Peggy Noe Stevens likes to take out his collection of officials Kentucky Derby Glassware to serve him Kentucky Derby Day drinks.

Every year, Churchill Downs Racecourse releases a new official glass listing the winning Thoroughbreds up to the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. The traditional Kentucky Derby drink, the mint julep, is served throughout the day at the track in the official glass that guests take home at the end of the day.

“An at-home Derby party is the perfect reason to get your collection out and a colorful way to help your guests keep track of their own drink when you host a Kentucky Derby party,” Stevens said.

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If you don’t have a huge collection like his, you can create your own labeling method using an idea like the names of past Kentucky Derby winners. This method eliminates the waste of disposable glasses and cups and helps your guests hang on to the same glass all day.

And that means less cleanup for you after the final run.

How to pre-mix cocktails for a crowd

It’s a safe bet that most party planners don’t want to spend their entire Kentucky Derby day mixing cocktails one-by-one for their guests, which makes batch-mixed cocktails a great choice and a smart alternative. to the self-service approach of setting a few liquor bottles and mixers on the counter.

“I suggest premixing drinks like your mint juleps in batches that you fill into large jugs,” Stevens said. “It was the safest way to serve drinks during a pandemic because it eliminated so many touch surfaces, but it really is a great solution anytime.”

Not only can your guests serve themselves, but the pre-made drinks eliminate the need for someone to play bartender during your party.

Not sure how to properly prepare cocktails?

Stevens, who is the world’s first female Master Bourbon Taster and co-author “What fork should I use with my bourbon?” » with Susan Reigler, former Courier Journal food critic and correspondent for Bourbon+ and American whiskey magazines, layout instructions and cocktail recipes in their book.

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Cocktail Recipes for a Kentucky Derby Party

The mint julep is the classic Kentucky Derby cocktail. It’s made simply with muddled mint, sugar, and bourbon with lots of crushed ice. If you really want to win, Stevens advises including a variety of flavored juleps made with ingredients like strawberries, orange marmalade, or peaches.

But if the strong bourbon taste is too strong for your guests, a lighter, fruitier option is the Oaks Lily, which Tim Laird, co-author of “Cuisine of the Bourbon Country”, created in 2006 for Churchill Falls is a nice option.

With thousands served on the track each year, the pale pink vodka-based cocktail has become the signature drink of the Kentucky Oaks, which takes place the Friday before the Kentucky Derby. But really, it’s delicious any day of Derby week.

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Be sure to serve your juleps with a big bunch of fresh mint. The experience of bringing the julep to your mouth to sip and greet your nose with the minty scent is part of the experience.

You can also offer a non-alcoholic version by simply substituting bourbon iced tea.

By late afternoon, your guests may tire of traditional Kentucky Derby Day cocktails, so that’s when Stevens serves up his “Dark and Bloody Mary.”

“It’s always nice to have something other than mint juleps to sip and enjoy during the afternoon on Derby day,” she said.

Kentucky Derby Style Cooking Recipes

Honoring traditions on the track and at the table is important during Kentucky Derby weekend. To that end, serving Southern-style recipes made with ingredients such as country ham, oatmeal, Benedictine spread, pimento cheese, tenderloin and bread or corn pudding are always winners.

“You know, on Derby day, we graze like horses when it comes to food,” Stevens said.

Excellent appetizers include finger sandwiches, a throwback to the 1950s, with Southern twists like Pimento cheese, Benedictine spread and basil tomato slices.

Accompaniments can include lighter dishes like a beet and strawberry salad served in individual dishes.

“Beef tenderloin sandwiches are always a hit and can be served wrapped as mini burgers with the famous Henry bath sauce. Do it yourself or buy it at your local market,” Laird said. “Another clever idea is to serve individual servings of Shrimp and Grits and Hot Brown Mini Sandwiches in small china or glass dishes.

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Finally, for dessert, Bread Pudding is a Kentucky favorite.

“I serve it like a parfait and layer it in a mason jar with the pudding on the bottom, then a layer of bourbon whipped cream, and repeat the layers until the jar is full,” Laird said.

Another expert tip is a smart solution for pairing food and bourbon.

“I like to whip up appetizers and set the plate on a little bourbon pour for each of my guests,” Stevens said. “That way they get their drink and their food at the same time.”

Kentucky Derby Party Decoration Ideas

Nothing says Kentucky Derby Day better than jockey silks and red roses, so pay attention to your decor to add pop to your social gathering.

“Decorating your front door is a festive way to welcome your guests,” Stevens said. Local stores have plenty of decorative options in stock. Look for door decorations like red rose garlands and colorful jockey silks or create your own for a more DIY style.

When it comes to dressing up your food and drink tables, red roses are a must-have Derby decoration, since the Derby is also known as “The Rose Race”.

Place your roses in a silver bowl or vase for the ultimate Derby-inspired centerpiece. Stevens also recommends using your best polished silver (real or fake) to display your food and drink for an added touch of Southern charm.

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Floral arrangements don’t have to be limited to roses either. Filling empty bourbon bottles with flowers from your garden adds a nice touch. If there aren’t many flowers in your garden, buy some from the florist or grocery store like hydrangeas, sunflowers and zinnias. Stargazer lilies, the traditional flower of Kentucky oak trees, are also weekend favorites.

Kentucky Derby Board Game Ideas

Keep in mind that you are having a party to watch the Kentucky Derby on May 7th.

Before the roll call, you might want to hand out a list of surprising Kentucky Derby facts to add to the fun. If your guests dress in their “Derby Best”, have a contest for “Best Hat” and “Best Outfit”.

If you or your guests plan to bet on horse racing during Kentucky Derby Week, which begins May 2 and ends May 7, you can bet at the racetrack’s online betting platform, You need to create a username and password, but registration is free and doesn’t take much time. You can transfer money from your bank account to your binoculars account, then place your bets.

A binoculars The application is also available on smartphones.

Contact Kirby Adams at [email protected] or Twitter @kirbylouisville.

Kentucky Derby themed merchandise

Here are a few places to get you started with your Kentucky Derby home party shopping. Check with individual stores as many items are available online and in-store.

  • A taste of Kentucky: Shelbyville Road Plaza, 4600 Shelbyville Road and Village Square in Middletown, 11800 Shelbyville Road. Party supplies in paper and glasses, decoration and accessories for the home.
  • Caufield’s Novelty: 1006 W. Main St. Balloons, glassware, horse-themed accessories, paper party supplies, pennants, table runners and more.
  • Dees of Louisville: 5045 Shelbyville Rd. Kentucky Derby themed home decor and hats
  • Kentucky Derby Museum: 704 Central Ave. Kentucky Derby 146 official paraphernalia, apparel, art, decor, eyewear, paper goods and memorabilia. Free shipping on orders of $50 or more.
  • Party kits and equestrian kits: Shop online or call 502-261-7111 for clothing, barware and glassware, decorations, posters and souvenirs.

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