This year, in keeping with efforts to break the pandemic, we will have to wait until September to watch the majestic horses make their run for the roses, but there’s nothing to stop us from getting our happy on now. The Kentucky Derby has long been called “The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” which is proof that this event is really all about the party. Even if you don’t care for (or are ethically opposed to) horse racing, join me in putting on a fancy hat (keep scrolling for ideas to embellish a hat you already have) or a bow tie, and let’s get into the spirit with this Kentucky Derby party menu.
Each recipe title links to the instructions. Enjoy!
Kentucky Love Child
Like a Moscow mule, but made with real Kentucky bourbon. Gets its kick from spicy ginger beer, with a fresh lime garnish.
Sparkly Britches Lemonade
Because not everyone loves bourbon (yet). Hendrick’s gin, cucumber simple syrup, fresh lemon and a refreshing shot of bubbly seltzer.
A Southern spin on NYC’s “witty comeback.” Bourbon (rye, if you’re sassy), Aperol and a surprisingly simple lemon ginger syrup.
Kentucky Hot Brown Benedict
Elevate your happy with a brunch entree fit for Millionaire’s Row. All the Kentucky Hot Brown flavor, piled high with a steam-poached egg on a homemade sourdough English muffin.
Kentucky Hot Brown Party Dip
It has turkey, tomato, bacon and Gruyere, just like the traditional Hot Brown sandwich, but in an easy-to-make dip, perfect for a party of 4. Slather it on these cute little brioche toasts.
Hearts of Palm Citrus “Ceviche”
Bright and fresh like a ceviche, but with hearts of palm instead of fish. You’ll get loads of citrus and a touch of mint, refreshing after all the richness of the Hot Browns.
Sweet Photo Finishes
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Truffles
Made with simple pantry ingredients (and a good bit of bourbon), these impressive little bites are candy for grown-ups!
Southern Belle Lemon Bars
A classic creamy lemon bar, but a touch lighter on the carbs because I use almond flour in the crust and less sugar so the lemon can shine!
Mint Julep Sorbet
I saved the classic Derby cocktail flavors for last. Including water, this wildly refreshing recipe is made with only four ingredients!
Put on a Fancy Hat!
The spotlight is on fashion as much as the horses at the Kentucky Derby. If money is no object, you might simply pay visit to Formé Millinery Co. in Louisville, the official hat sponsor of the Derby this year. It has fine custom hats starting upward of $450.
Or, you could DIY it and spend something closer to $4.50. Here’s an easy tutorial to help you use common household items to dress up a hat you already have.
Choose Your Hat
I have two of my own in mind. The straw hat is already embellished with the flower design, so it doesn’t need a ton of help. The black hat has a very wide brim, and although black is not an ideal color for Kentucky Derby (it is Spring, after all), I happen to love the way bright colors pop against it. Plus, I’m a Leo and we tend to lean toward the dramatic anyway.
Consider Your Supplies
When my dear sweet husband and I married, we both wanted a quiet ceremony at home with little fanfare. My dress was pale blush satin with a portrait collar and I had the most fabulous shoes. I wanted something special to wear in my hair, but definitely not a veil, so I opted for a fascinator. Of course, nobody in my city makes them, so I turned to Pinterest for instructions and ended up with this:
It was surprisingly simple to make, with basic sewing supplies, a flower hair clip and birdcage netting I purchased from a millinery online. I’m always looking for ways to keep wearing it in some form or another.
I’ve also, on occasion, made fascinators for other people in my circle. One friend was having an unconventional wedding (wearing black lace, and believe me, she could pull it off) so I made a black rose fascinator for her, complete with a detachable birdcage veil and matching clips for her daughters.
Another friend was looking for a special way to honor her mom’s milestone birthday, so I made a custom fascinator with gold star buttons, which had special meaning for her. For the life of me, I cannot find a photo of it. But it was pretty.
My point is, I have scraps of supplies just screaming to be part of this DIY project, but I realize not everyone does. You might feel lucky to have a piece of ribbon tucked into a drawer somewhere. But you also just might have something very ordinary at your house that closely resembles birdcage netting. Especially if you’ve been buying certain produce items in bulk during lockdown.
Don’t laugh, it’s exactly what we’re going to use. And if we could just zoom in for a moment on the onion tag; friends, this cannot be mere coincidence.
Let’s Get Crafting!
Scavenge for other things you can use to temporarily dress up a hat you already have: ribbons, scarves, bows, hair clips can all come into play here. The brighter the colors, the better.
For my straw hat, I’m simply going to wrap a piece of ribbon (leftover from my wedding bouquet) around the band of the hat. It has a sort of wrinkly twist that I like, and it’s reversible bright colors. I’m attaching my wedding fascinator veil, and that one is done. I can’t wait to wear it!
For the black hat, which is extra wide and floppy, I want something flashy and bold. I’m choosing random ribbons from my sewing kit, the lemon and onion mesh bags, and an emoji gift bow I found in our wrapping paper bin. Oh, and a black feather left over from my friend’s black wedding fascinator. The onion bag is crimped at the ends, which is actually working in my favor. I’m going to cut open the lemon bag for more flexibility.
I’m short on time, so let’s see what I can do with this in about 5 minutes.
Okay, go find some things to dress up your own, and enjoy browsing (and hopefully making ) the recipes highlighted on this page. Race or no race, we’re having a Kentucky Derby party! Come hungry.