Kentucky Derby Party Ideas

by Chris NeaseApril 29, 2014

I love this time of year.  There are so many opportunities for parties and get-togethers from Cinco de Mayo to Mother’s Day to graduations.  This week I’m focusing on one of my favorite party ideas for Spring – a Derby Day party!  Although I’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby, I hope to get there one day and immerse myself into the festivities.  Being the Southern girl that I am I can appreciate the food, the bourbon, and the fashion.  Oh yeah, and there’s a 2 minute race to watch too!  Here are some tips and recipes to help you host a fabulously traditional Derby viewing party.

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The menu you’ll want to serve is classic and iconic.  I don’t know of any other event where hot browns are a MUST have item on the menu, but they are delicious and scream “Kentucky Derby.”  I put my own Southern spin on these by using mini biscuits as the base.

Likewise, benedictine spread and mint juleps are on the menu.  Get the recipes for these at the bottom of the post.  I also added bourbon meatballs, and mini pecan pies to the table.  The theme of the day is definitely “bourbon.”

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Set the stage for your Derby day party with a few well placed themed decor pieces:

  • A moss mat runner on the table mimics both the infield and the parking lot where tailgating occurs.  Find these at your local craft store.
  • The “run for the roses” party wouldn’t be complete without a centerpiece of red roses.  Place them in a container that resembles a trophy cup and give them some height by placing on a small box.
  • Toy horses from the Dollar Tree get dressed with a number cloth made of felt and number stickers.
  • Fashion plays a big role in the sport of horse racing.  Encourage the women to wear fabulous hats and sun dresses to your party.  You can also use a hat as part of your table decor by displaying it on a wreath stand.
  • A few horseshoes and red felt roses on the table complete the look.

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Silver mint julep cups are great to use if you can find them, but I like the alternative of serving drinks in small canning jars.  They give that Southern feel and they’re the perfect 8 ounce size.  To add a little flair to them, I made stir sticks that mimic the look of a jockey’s whip.  Tying thin ribbon on to a short wooden skewer is all you need to do, and the different colors can help each person identify his or her drink.

For a final farewell, send guests home with a small jar of bourbon balls, or mini bottles of bourbon.  The jar lids are topped with a horse silhouette that I found online and printed on to pale yellow paper.  To finish it off tie a ribbon around the lid and place on a tray for guests to grab as they go.

All of these ideas are quick and simple to pull together and create a festive atmosphere for watching the race.  Start your party a couple of hours before the race and enjoy the day with family and friends!

Baby Hot Browns

  • 10 mini biscuits – I find them in refrigerator cans containing 5 biscuits each
  • 1 1/2 cups diced deli turkey
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • about 6 or 7 plum tomatoes, sliced

Cheese Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Cook biscuits according to package directions.  Let cool and slice in half.  Set aside.

To make cheese sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and add flour.  Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk; cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add Cheddar cheese, while whisking until cheese melts. Stir in diced turkey, salt, and ground red pepper.

Top biscuit halves with cheese & turkey mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and half of bacon.  Cook at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes or until Parmesan is melted.

Remove and top with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with remaining bacon.

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Classic Benedictine Spread

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and grated
  • About 1/4 of an onion, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Drain all the moisture out of the grated cucumber and pat dry with a paper towel.  Do the same with the onion.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate a couple of hours or over night so flavors can marry.

Serve as a dip for crackers and veggies, or spread on white bread to make small tea sandwiches.  Cut off crusts and serve.

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Signature Mint Julep

This is the “official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby” recipe by Early Times.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • fresh mint
  • crushed ice
  • bourbon whiskey

Make the mint simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a sauce pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Let syrup cool and add 6 to 8 sprigs of fresh mint.  Cover and refrigerate over night.

Make one drink at a time by adding 1 tablespoon mint syrup with 2 ounces of bourbon over ice.  Stir to combine and chill.

Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Are you ready to celebrate the Kentucky Derby? For more entertaining tips for your home, visit Homes.com’s Entertaining Category in the Idea Gallery today!

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Chris Nease
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