The Gleeful Gourmand: May 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Casual Kentucky Derby Party

The most exciting two minutes in sports is only a few days away (Saturday, May 7th)! Every year we look forward to hosting a Kentucky Derby Party - it's kind of our once-a-year "big hurrah" for good friends and family. It's fun to look back over the years and see how it all started: My husband and I watching the race. My husband and I watching the race and drinking Mint Juleps. My husband and I watching the race, drinking Mint Juleps, and eating yummy snacks. My husband and I inviting a couple of people to eat and drink with us. The entire neighborhood coming...the entire neighborhood plus our family and dearest friends.

Seems like it escalated quickly, but it was last year that we decided it was time to really turn up the volume and name this what it really was: A Casual Kentucky Derby Party. I love that it has turned into an annual event, and I've learned a lot over the years about what works and what doesn't. You still have time to cobble together your own party, with these tips:

• First of all, a Kentucky Derby Party is nothing without a good Mint Julep. I started out by mixing each drink individually, but eventually with a party this big, it was too much and too time consuming. Last year I went with a Mint Julep Punch, and it was awesome. Guests serve themselves, and it's so easy to make. For the record, Buffalo Trace is my favorite bourbon. You know, just in case you wanted to send me some.

Mint Julep Punch, and the drink station. We also provide wine, beer, water, and juice for the kiddos.

• We keep it "Dressy Casual" because...Kentucky Derby! Hats and bowties are always optional, but it's more fun when people wear them. I'll wear a nice dress, but my commitment to the theme ends (or begins?) at my $6 fascinator from Party City (I look absolutely awful in hats).

• For food we ask everyone to bring a dish to share. I have on hand lots of little snacks, plenty of chicken nuggets for the kids, and I also make Bourbon Balls to go with the theme. It takes a lot of pressure off as the hostess when people contribute, and it's fun to see what everyone brings!

A little friendly wagering, and the food spread. 

• Kids are invited, but we pray for good weather so they don't have to stay inside. We set up lawn games to keep them engaged as well.

• Décor: I buy Kentucky Derby inspired tablecloths, cups and napkins, and I also have red roses on hand as well since this is a "race for the roses."

• Wagering: You can open up a pool for bets on the horses, or there's even sites connected to PayPal that lets you truly bet as if you were there and Churchill Downs, but we do it a little more low key: Right before the party I check all the names of the horses, and depending on the number of adult guests, put the names of the horses either once or twice into a jar. Adults can pay $5 to draw one name. Whoever is holding the winning name at the end of the race wins the pot! Last year only one of our friends won, and she walked away with close to $150!

• Make it yours! It's all about friends and bourbon and good times. You can make it as classy or casual as you want it to be. has great ideas for parties and recipes, and keeps you up-to-date on the horses in the race. This year's post time (start time) is 6:34 p.m. EST.

Good food, good bourbon, and great friends is what it's all about!

Enjoy, and have fun this Derby Day!