This year’s Derby parties might be a little smaller because of the economy, but people still are having friends over to watch the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby. Brown-Forman’s “Chief Entertaining Officer” Tim Laird has hosted hundreds of parties and has some tips for hosting a Derby party at home.
Tips for hosting a Derby party:
Set a price for each ticket. Have each guest who wants to participate buy a slip of paper (ticket) and have them write their name and the name of the horse they want to win the race. Guests may buy as many tickets as they want. As soon as the results are official, count the number of winning tickets and divide that number into the total money bet to determine the payoff per winning ticket.
- Use themed invitations. The type of invitation you use will set the tone of the party – casual, formal, and/or costume. Costume ideas include: dress in your favorite jockey’s silks, creative hats required, or dress in the color of your Derby horse’s saddle cloth.
- Use easy decorations. Get racing forms and programs from friends who have been to the track for decorating your table, or download or print the racing schedule from the newspaper so you know who is in the Derby race. Make multiple copies so you have enough for all of your guests.
- Traditional table decorations include red roses in julep cups, or garnishing your table and food items with mint and red rose petals.Set up drink stations. Include a variety of ingredients and mixers where your guests can serve themselves. Make sure to be a good and responsible host and include an alcohol-free station with fun non-alcoholic mixers.
- Prepare Derby-themed food and beverages that are easy for you and your guests to enjoy. Offer traditional Derby drinks: mint juleps or Derby punches. Make “Mint Juleps for Many” with mint syrup or simply buying Early Times Mint Julep pre-mix, the “Official Drink of the Kentucky Derby,” and serving it over crushed ice with a sprig of mint for garnish.
- For larger parties and to be more economical, make punches or pitcher drinks of mint julep. Not only does this cut down on cost, but also makes it easier on the host as guests serve themselves.Get your guests involved. Assign tasks and items for them to bring as everyone wants to be included (and makes it easier on the host.) Have each guests bring an appetizer or dessert and give prizes for the best named and themed dishes.
Create fun and interactive racing games. Set up a game of horseshoes in the backyard, or offer ways to bet at home parties: Here are recipes from Laird.
Easy mint juleps
2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 ounce simple mint syrup (recipe follows)
Garnish with Kentucky mint sprig
To make by the pitcher:
16 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
8 ounces simple mint syrup
Mix bourbon and mint syrup. Pour into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a sipping straw.
Make mint simple syrup by combining 1 part water, 1 part sugar, 1 part loosely packed fresh Kentucky mint. Bring sugar and water to a boil while stirring to dissolve. Add mint and take off the heat. Let stand for 20 minutes then strain into a tempered glass jar, let cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
Tip: You can adjust the sweetness of the drink by adding more or less of the simple syrup.
Mint juleps for many
2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 ounce mint simple syrup
Glass: Tall with crushed ice
Garnish: Mint sprig
½ cup sugar
4 ounces lemon juice
6 ounces orange juice
4 ounces Grenadine
1 liter Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 liter Club soda
Combine sugar with the lemon and orange juice and stir well. Add grenadine and Woodford Reserve and stir again. Add the club soda, garnish with mint sprig and Ice mold and serve.