I’ve always had a love for big hats, bourbon, and horses so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love watching the Kentucky Derby. It’s the one day a year when the rest of the nation loves horses as much as I do! It’s a celebration of the south and gentile glamour. Here’s how I hosted my Kentucky Derby dinner party, recipes and all!
Key elements for a great Kentucky Derby Party:
- Bourbon (in as many forms as possible)
- Red roses
- Southern food
- Mint juleps
- Fabulous hats
- Chic outfits
- Fun photo ops
And the Derby on TV, of course! Just because you want to watch the Derby doesn’t mean you can’t make it a garden party. Floppy hats and fabulous outfits just scream garden party. Serve your first course outside, watch the best two minutes in sports, then discuss the race during dinner.
I hosted my Kentucky Derby Party outside in the garden. The Kentucky Derby always takes place the first Saturday in May, which is a brilliant time of year for outdoor entertaining. I set up my 6′ card table in the back under the shade of a large tree and carried six of my indoor chairs outdoors. Setting up a party in a spot where you don’t normally dine (such as my courtyard table) adds to the glamour of the event.
The only “decor” I set up was my flower wall, which originally appeared at Disney Dinners: Alice in Wonderland. I replaced the pastel flowers with my red rose garlands because it wouldn’t be a Kentucky Derby Party without an abundance of red roses!
I also have to mention my brand new bar cart. I am so in love with this! My dad built it for me after I saw something similar (but not nearly as pretty!) on Instagram. He’s been working on quite literally all year. It’s a three-tiered cart with a towel bar, removable chalkboard, and it’s on wheels so I can move it all around the yard. You’ll be seeing it frequently on The Rose Table! For my Kentucky Derby Party, I styled the bar cart with fresh pots of mint and made it a mint julep station.
The table was really very simple: a white lace tablecloth with silver and red touches. I had a few candles in silver votive holders.
The Place Settings
The place settings were simple: my Emma dinner plates, silverware, mint julep cups, and white napkins pulled through red rose napkin rings for a fluffy, full napkin look.
I reused my red rose napkin rings first seen at Disney Dinners: Beauty and the Beast. They’re so perfect for a Derby party! If you don’t have rose napkin rings, you could always tie white napkins with ribbon and stick a rose at each place. Another great option would be a silver napkin ring. The more silver at a Derby party, the better! Silver screams julep cup.
Red roses are a must for any Kentucky Derby Party. The race is, after all, a run for the roses! The winning horse is presented with a garland of red roses. I had four dozen red roses on the table in silver vases. Not just any silver, either! These are real horse trophies won by my incredibly talented dressage trainers at Black Star Sport Horses. You can recreate the look with any silver pitcher or vase.
If I could dress every day like I’m going to the Derby, I would. In fact, I kind of do! Tell me honestly: do you know anyone who wears more floppy hats and fascinators than me? I surprised myself by sporting my butterfly fascinator – a game day decision, I assure you – with an off-the-shoulder blue dress and chandelier earrings.
My friends could not have looked any more lovely! They really got into the Derby spirit, which is half the fun of the Kentucky Derby.
You absolutely must serve mint juleps, darling. They’re as essential to a Kentucky Derby Party as horses are to a race! My mint julep has two ingredients: bourbon and a homemade mint simple syrup. Crushed ice and mint sprigs are all you need for an authentic mint julep. Bonus: the 1-4 ratio makes it easy to mix up a whole pitcher so you won’t be measuring all night long. Get the recipe here.
Update: Want a fun twist on the traditional? Try my Lavender Julep!
Southern food is a must for any Derby Party. I served decadent chicken and waffles for the main course so I started out light with deviled eggs as an appetizer. And for dessert? I turned my love of mint juleps into a brownie!
Bacon and Chive Deviled Eggs
These creamy deviled eggs are topped with crispy thick-cut bacon and a sprinkling of chives from the garden. They’re also a bit healthier than your average deviled eggs, as they’re filled with Greek yogurt, champagne vinegar, and dijon mustard. Get the recipe here.
Chicken and Waffles with Pimento Cheese and Bourbon Maple Syrup
This is the ultimate comfort food. Crispy homemade chicken tenders sit on top of a pile of creamy pimento cheese on a fluffy Belgian waffle enrobed in bourbon maple syrup with a sprinkling of chives. I mean, come on. If you’re skeptical about the syrup / cheese combo, just trust me: it’s divine. Get the recipe here.
Mint Julep Brownies
Mint bourbon brownies are piped with bourbon whipped cream and drizzled with dark chocolate mint hot fudge sauce. Even the non-chocolate lovers at the party loved this fudge-y treat! Get the recipe here.
The menu was a hit with my friends. There is no greater compliment than clean dinner plates!
After dinner, we enjoyed sitting by the fire under the stars.
Watch the episode:
The question is: who are you betting on this Derby Day?
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Wear hats and drink bourbon,