One simply cannot show up to the Kentucky Derby in jeans and a T-shirt, so you should expect the same for your guests. Have them dress in their most dapper clothing, with the men wearing 1920s-inspired suits and fedoras and the women wearing brightly colored cocktail dresses. Of course, you also need to encourage your female guests to wear the most outrageous hats they can. The more feathers, bows, and flowers, the better!
The winner of the Kentucky Derby is draped in a blanket of roses, and the race itself is nicknamed the “Run for the Roses.” So, of course, this beautiful bloom is a must-have. Decorate liberally with red roses and deep red tablecloths and napkins. To balance out this stunning bright red, have your plates and serving platters in bright white. Don’t be afraid to get some horse décor as well. In the weeks leading up to the Derby, scour secondhand stores and flea markets for wooden and brass horse statues to really complete your table.
The Kentucky Derby race itself only lasts for a few short minutes, so you’ll need plenty of other activities to keep your party going. In the spirit of Churchill Downs, set up your own mini-casino. Bet on horses before the big race and have a craps table, some bingo, and of course a rousing game of poker.
Even if you can’t necessarily make this year’s $1000 mint julep, your Kentucky Derby party would be nothing without some good ol’ Kentucky bourbon (and a more budget-friendly mint julep). Sip on some old fashioneds, whiskey sours, and a bourbon hot toddy. If you’re looking to get more creative with your whiskey, consider a bourbon colada or bourbon cider.
Once again, serve a similar menu to what the true Southerners will be eating at the Kentucky Derby. Consider a ham dish, such as pimento cheese biscuits with country ham. Of course, you also want to have something high-class, such as a delicious grilled beef tenderloin (which will be served cold at the Kentucky Derby) or a classic New York strip steak.
We don’t want to say that the Kentucky Derby is all about bourbon, but it is certainly our favorite part of this kind of party. Skip over typical desserts and serve up some warm, comforting bourbon cocktails with super sweet twists. We love this bourbon caramel coffee and a Kentucky hot cocoa straight from the Derby’s bourbon ambassador. If your guests need something to munch on that’s sweet and satisfying, consider a bacon bourbon caramel popcorn (which will double as a perfect race time snack).
For the most exciting two minutes in sports, be sure that your guests are actually focused on the television. The post time for the 143rd Kentucky Derby is 6:34 p.m. this Saturday. In anticipation of the event, make sure your TV is tuned to NBC and that you’ve arranged your living room in a theater-type configuration so that everyone has a great view.