When I think of favorite Kentucky Derby memories, there are, of course, stories about sitting right at the Finish Line, over-the-top Derby Parties, and elaborate hats. But, the truth is, some of my very favorite Kentucky Derby Memories are family parties when I was a kid. I can remember sitting in my grandmother's living room -- at a home where drinking or gambling would never be permitted -- and watching the Derby with my cousins. It was always so special to realize that Kentucky was the focus of the entire sports-loving world for the afternoon!
Here are some great tips for hosting a memorable Derby party at home.
1. Keep an assortment of great beverages!
When you think of Derby Day, of course you think of mint juleps! But, y'all know that everybody doesn't like the Kentucky Derby's signature cocktail. Try an Ale-8 "minty julep" mocktail for the kids. Keep some sweet tea and lemonade on hand for those who choose not to imbibe. Maybe mix up a batch of bourbon slush. Have a couple bottles of good bourbon on hand -- a high-wheat and a high-rye should satisfy everyone's tastes. And don't forget that crushed ice makes it all a little more festive!
2. Keep it low-key!
There's no need to pull out the fine china or even the silver julep cups. Make your guests feel comfortable with everyday serving pieces. I LOVE the mint julep cups from Louisville Stoneware. These carafes are only $3 at Target right now. And Derby glasses are always appropriate! I love using a well-loved quilt as a tablecloth. And colorful Fiestaware is always great for a party.
3. Everybody loves a tiny bite!
Make boxed brownie mix something extraordinary by adding a splash of bourbon to the mix, then topping the cooled brownies with a liberal sprinkling of sea salt; cut into tiny, bite-sized squares. Serve sweet Sister Schubert rolls as sliders with salty country ham. Mini hot browns and individual-sized Derby-Pies® are always great tastes of Kentucky!
4. Play some games.
Download a jockey silks template and let kids (and grown-ups!) design their own silks. Draw names of the horses in the field from a bowl, so everyone has a horse to cheer for. (If your crowd is gambling-friendly, set up a small pool for the race winner!) And purchase cheap feathers and flowers from a craft store to decorate Derby hats. Purchase a few extra Derby glasses for party favors that will remind your guests of the fun day.
5. Sing My Old Kentucky Home!
Don't forget the state song. It's a great Derby tradition!
Here's to a fun, laid-back Derby at home!