How to Throw the Perfect Kentucky Derby Party
You can bet on a good time at this Kentucky Derby party. Pastel embellishments, homemade mint juleps and a themed game make for thoroughbred fun.
Treat ’em to Pecan Tarts
For a little sweetness on Derby Day, serve vanilla-kissed pecan tarts. (For bonus points, top each nutty morsel with a spoonful of homemade bourbon whipped cream.) If you prefer a full-size cake, bake up this authentic Kentucky bourbon Bundt for the event.
Set the Scene
Pastels, seersucker fabric and floral patterns are race-day essentials. Incorporate them into your Kentucky Derby party decor via serving ware, napkins, tablecloths and more. And for the finishing touch, unfurl a faux grass table runner down the center of your Derby Day buffet spread as a nod to the lush lawns of Churchill Downs.
DIY Your Derby Decor
Welcome guests with a gorgeous garland like this one from Design Improvised. Of course, it’s fitting for your Southern soiree, but the best part is that it’s so easy to make yourself. All you need is festive party fans, ribbon and a hole punch. And you’re off!
Send Out Invitations
Invitations set the tone for a party. They let you know what to expect and give you hints about the theme. Want guests to bring something? Want them to dress for the occasion? Let them know in a way that’s fun and to the point.
Dress to Impress
Channel your inner Southerner and don a chic chapeau. On race day, women commonly wear coordinating pastel hats or fascinators, dresses, bags, shoes and even parasols. Men make their mark with vibrant suits or blazers, ties, horsebit loafers and hats of their own. To really feel like you’re at Churchill Downs, ask partygoers to dress accordingly.
These pretty pink desserts will perfectly match the dress code.
Fun fact: Roses are the official flower of the Kentucky Derby because the winning jockey and horse are famously adorned in them. (This is also how the Derby earned its other moniker: Run for the Roses.) Pick your favorite rose color, then fill a vase with them or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make a wreath.
Prefer edible blossoms? Try our recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Meringue Roses!
Set Out Stable-Inspired Decorations
You can’t have a Kentucky Derby party without horses…or at least horse figurines. Spray paint a set of miniatures for extra fun. Let them graze on the table among the dishes, atop cake stands and along the table runner.
Build a Mint Julep Bar
One of the indisputable Kentucky Derby food traditions is having a mint julep: a cocktail made with bourbon, mint and simple syrup, served on the rocks. During race weekend in May, more than 120,000 mint juleps are sold at Churchill Downs. Set out a serving tray with the quintessential ingredients as well as crushed ice, glasses and stirrers.
Don’t stop there! Go all out with a Kentucky Derby cocktails bar where your guests are sure to find a drink they’ll love.
Bring on the Benedictine Spread
Mint juleps aren’t the only thing on the menu. Classic dishes native to Kentucky, like Benedictine spread, have become staples of race day. Made with cream cheese, dill, onion, cucumber and, occasionally, green food dye, this fresh dip is delish with bread, crackers and veggies.
Serve Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders
If there’s one thing Kentuckians know how to do, it’s make comfort food. Inspired by the iconic open-faced Kentucky Hot Brown, which was first created at Louisville’s Brown Hotel, these Kentucky Hot Brown sliders are loaded with turkey, bacon, pimientos and cheese. Pair ’em with one (or more!) of the best Kentucky Derby appetizers.
Pick a Winner
Every Kentucky Derby party needs an activity. Have attendees pick from a bowler hat or fedora a numbered piece of paper randomly assigned to a racehorse. Whoever selects the winning horse’s number wins a prize at the party’s end. Any of these irresistible edible party favors will do, or let the champ take home the hat used for the drawing.
Offer a Nonalcoholic Beverage
Have guests sit back and relax with one of these nonalcoholic spring drinks. Put this Pink Rhubarb Punch in a gorgeous cocktail glass and it’ll be the talk of the party—besides the race, of course. Make sure there are plenty of Kentucky Derby desserts to go with the sippers.
Set up a Derby Stream
Feel the excitement of watching the race by setting up a livestream. You can find the race on NBCSports.com, but make sure the livestream is up and running before the party begins. Since the race goes by so fast, set a timer so you and your guests don’t miss a thing!