5 Tips to Host a Kentucky Derby Party

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You don’t need to care about horse racing to host an amazing Kentucky Derby party. Let me repeat that. You do NOT need to care about horse racing! Our annual Derby soiree is centered around a few key elements, but you’ll notice that the race itself comes in as 4th priority, and we still have a great time!

  1. Mint Juleps
  2. Fancy Duds
  3. Southern Dishes
  4. “The most exciting 2 minutes in sports”
  5. “Run for the Roses” themed decor

Mint Julep Recipe

For a proper mint julep, you’ll need only a few simple ingredients.


  • Fresh Mint (place 8-10 leaves in your palm and slap the mint to release it’s oils).
  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • ¼ oz Simple Syrup (or to taste) then stir
  • Fill your Julep cup with crushed ice
  • Garnish with a sprig of mint, and ENJOY!


  1. Place 8-10 Fresh Mint leaves in your palm and slap the mint to release it’s oils.
  2. Add 2 oz Bourbon.
  3. Add ¼ oz Simple Syrup (or to taste) then stir.
  4. Fill your Julep cup with crushed ice.
  5. Garnish with a sprig of mint, and ENJOY!

I realize that not everyone owns a set of silver/ pewter julep cups, but a collins glass or whatever you’ve got will work just fine. If you do have proper julep cups, the metal will frost up making this drink seem extra refreshing on a hot day.

Fancy Duds

This is your excuse to all dress up in big floppy hats, fascinators, sundresses, bow ties, colourful pants and ascots! Why not let guests cast their vote for Best Hat, Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Gent? If your group is really into it, you could even have prizes for Silliest Hat or Best Bow Tie as well.

Just in case your friends are unable to buy/ make their own hat, you could set out a few extra fascinators and sun hats for them to borrow. This taupe hat was a spur of the moment DIY project for me, when my shipment of fascinator making supplies ordered off Etsy did not arrive in time. It’s not perfect, but it did the trick in a pinch!

Southern Dishes

We recommend making some Southern dishes, here are a few that were real crowd pleasers with our guests!
– Hot Brown Sammies
– Pulled Pork
– Benedictine Spread

Derby Pie

Traditionally this one is a standard size pie, but since my guests would be mingling I made a mini tart size version they could grab as they go. Better for holding a Julep in the other hand!


  • 24 Tart shells (or home-made pie crust if you’re a rockstar!)
  • 1 ½ Cups chopped pecans
  • 24 pecans, halved for topping tarts
  • 1 Cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Cup dark corn syrup
  • ½ Cup granulated sugar
  • ½ Cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ Cup bourbon
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ Cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp cornmeal
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Place your tart shells on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil to catch any messy drips.
  2. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate into the bottom of each shell.
  3. In a large sauce pan, combine corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, and bourbon. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla, butter, cornmeal, and salt. Gradually add the corn syrup mixture, whisking constantly.
  5. Fill each tart shell a bit more than half full, then top with a pecan half.
  6. Bake at 325° for approximately 25 minutes watching for the filling to set and the crusts to become golden brown. Cool before serving.
  7. Tarts can be made in advance and frozen, then thawed in the fridge the morning of the party.
mini Derby Pie and Bourbon Chocolate Chip Cookie

Salted “Derby Pie” Cookies

These elevated chocolate chip cookies made with bourbon were a delicious treat, so I’m sharing the recipe.


  • ¾ Cup cubed, unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ Cup packed, light brown sugar
  • ¼ Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 TBS good quality bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¾ Cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 Cup dark chocolate, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat just until melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Whisk in the egg, bourbon, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, powder, and salt. Then incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chunks.
  4. Make dough balls about the size of 3 TBS worth and place them 2 inches apart on your baking sheet.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Sprinkle with additional salt, and enjoy!

Red Rose Cupcakes

Dubbed the “Run for the Roses”, the garland is made up of over 450 red roses. As a nod to those, I went with Red Velvet but feel free to sub in your own fave cake flavor.

The Race (AKA “Run for the Roses”)

They don’t call it “The most exciting 2 minutes in sports” for nothing. If you’re not that interested in horse racing don’t worry, you can still host a super fun Kentucky Derby party. We’ve had guests who were having such a great time they missed the actual race, and that’s ok!

Rose themed Kentucky Derby Party Decor

Alright, now I’ve seen plenty of beautiful colour pallets used for Derby parties such as pastels, or blue and white, or green and yellow. These are all so unique and I do love them… but the colours of Derby for me will always be red, black, and white with metallic accents.

Here is a fun horse shoe shaped wreath that I hung on my door to welcome guests and set the party mood as they arrived.

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