Get out your fanciest hat and let’s make Kentucky Derby drinks! Here’s what to make on Derby Day or for any party needing some Southern flair!
Get out your julep cups, bowties and elaborate hats, y’all! The Kentucky Derby is here.
Whether or not you like to watch horse racing, Derby Day parties are a great reason to enjoy spring food, bourbon drinks and chocolate desserts on the first weekend in May.
From the mint julep (the official drink of the Kentucky Derby) to more adventurous bourbon cocktails, there is lots of inspiration below for your Derby party planning.
What is the Kentucky Derby?
The Kentucky Derby is a race of thoroughbred horses that is held on the first Saturday in May each year. It takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the American Triple Crown. The Triple Crown is the championship title given to a horse that wins the three main horse races in a single season: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
When is the Kentucky Derby?
The Kentucky Derby & Oaks will be held May 5 and 6, 2023 at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
A two-day event, the Oaks is always held on Friday and the Derby on Saturday. The Kentucky Oaks is another race for 3-year-old Thoroughbred fillies, which are female horses.
However, in 2020, it was postponed to September. It is nicknamed “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” because the race typically lasts just that long.
Kentucky Derby party food
If you are planning a party to watch the Kentucky Derby or any of the other Triple Crown races, you’re going to need some food and drinks with Southern flair!
And lots of bourbon! The Kentucky Derby weekend is notorious for using up barrels of bourbon. Louisville is home to horse farms and distilleries galore, making this event the perfect marriage of Kentucky heritage.
I pulled together a full list of drinks for you below, but if you need some help planning your food menu, check out these derby party recipes:
Savory derby food
- Set out bowls of spicy cheese straws, which are staples of Southern parties.
- There’s not much more southern than a big plate of deviled eggs. Top them with chives, jalapeño slices or bacon bits.
- Make pimento cheese for a dip or serve it on sandwiches. (Add bacon if you dare.) Dill dip is another great dip for a veggie plate.
- The Kentucky Hot Brown is the signature Louisville sandwich filled with roasted turkey, juicy tomatoes, smoked bacon and melted white cheddar cheese, that’s smothered in mornay sauce.
- The most famous Derby dessert is Derby Pie, a gooey chocolate bourbon pecan pie. You can also make Derby Pie brownies or bourbon chocolate chip cookies for a finger-food dessert with a similar flavor.
- More bourbon desserts will also be welcome. Make bourbon caramel popcorn, bourbon balls, salted bourbon rice krispie treats or bourbon ginger ale cake.
- Pecan desserts are also very Southern. Try pecan pralines or maple bourbon pecans.
- Finish the day with peach julep popsicles, an icy take on the classic derby drink.
Now that we’ve got the snacks figured out, let’s talk about the drinks!
I compiled a ton of recipes for Kentucky Derby drinks for you below, so keep reading!
Kentucky Derby bourbon
Most of the cocktails below call for bourbon, the official spirit of the horse race. If you have a favorite, certainly feel free to use the bourbon of your choice. However, bourbon is just one of the types of whiskey you can use.
My husband and I love Old Forester for its sweet caramel flavor it brings to a drink at a good price, but there are many more options out there that would be equally delicious.
Each year, the Kentucky Derby has a whiskey sponsor for its mint juleps. In 2023, it’s Woodford Reserve. So you could always go with their pick each year when you watch the Derby.
Angel’s Envy, Four Roses, Maker’s Mark and Bulleit are some of my favorites, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them! Check out my Bourbon 101 guide if you need help picking a brand to buy for your bourbon cocktails.
Kentucky Derby drinks
These Derby cocktails are sure to delight you and your guests on Derby Day. Now the only question is, which one will you make first?!
Let me know in the comments which one you love!