Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Mint Julep, anyone?

Photo Credit: Bill Frakes | Sports Illustrated

Known as the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby is the perfect excuse for me to host a day of festivities and fun. The race is almost always held on the first Saturday in May, so I find there’s plenty of time to plan the perfect party. 

- Invitations -

I like to start with the invitation as it sets the tone for the event as well as relays important information such as when and where, any special attire (hats anyone?) and preps guests for (fun) wagering games (don't forget your twenty)!

- The Hat -

A Derby party wouldn't be complete without guests showing up in their best (prettiest, quirkiest) hats. There aren’t any rules to follow when choosing a hat — from simple and classic to extravagant and bold, it’s all about having fun! While the spotlight is often on women’s hats, I encourage men to join in on this tradition too with fedoras or a bowler hat. 

- The Outfit -

Second to the hat is the outfit. I love to encourage Derby Attire - (bright, fun spring colors is just what we need this time of year). Trainer Tip - be sure your outfit doesn’t steal the spotlight - the hat must be the star!

- Entertainment -

What’s a horse race without some wagers on the line? Here are two wagering games to try:

• Lucky Long shots: Bet which horse will come in last.

• Blind Draw: Write the name of each horse in the race on a piece of paper. Set a price for guests to pay to draw a name. The person with the winning horse wins the jackpot!

Don’t forget to have a best-dressed contest for guests to vote on their favorite ensemble!

- Food -

My Derby Parties (I suspect in Kentucky as well) are largely social events - they consist of drinks, fun, and conversation. As such, I like to prepare a buffet style spread for guests to enjoy throughout the day. It also makes serving easier, which is great for me!

Foods that can be served as individual portions are perfect. The menu may include pulled pork sliders, deviled eggs, chicken salad sandwiches, pimento cheese dip and spicy watermelon cubes. Gourmet popcorn like caramel bourbon or cheddar cheese and spicy pecans are easy snacks.

I love finishing with my famous (in my world) Pecan Pie Tartlets made with Kentucky Bourbon.

- Drinks -

It wouldn’t be a Kentucky Derby Party without Mint Juleps. I've also served the Jockey Club, similar to a Manhattan, the two-ingredient Horse’s Neck (bourbon and ginger ale) and the Man o’ War, named for one of the greatest racehorses of all time. A pitcher of sweet tea is a must!

- Decor -

I like to keep my decor simple. Since the big race is often referred to as “The Run for the Roses”, I like to use roses as my main visual. I place individual roses in derby glasses (I find roses pair nicely with silver) and tuck them throughout the house with a larger arrangement of roses for the main centerpiece.

If you did want to add a few more details to your decor try integrating anything horsey - horse statue(s), horseshoes, blue ribbons, jockey silks and perhaps astroturf running down the table for the win! 

- Everyone's in the Winner's Circle -

I love sending my guests home with a token from the day - a memento to remind them of the fun times we shared and to show them just how much they mean to me. We all have busy schedules, so I want them to know how much I appreciate them taking the time to attend. Of course, a hug works just as well!

All that's left now is to turn on the TV and we are off to the races!

1977 Derby Winner - Seattle Slew
Photo Credit Neil Leifer |Sports Illustrated

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