Entertaining : Top Tips & Recipes to Host the Best Derby Viewing Party

the Best ideas and recipes for hosting a Kentucky Derby party are right here. See them all...

I’m going to just be bold here and declare this to be the best list of ideas for hosting a fantastic Kentucky Derby party. That’s right, you can add an embellishment here, or a banner there, but if you include the ideas shared here you’ll cover all the important bases for a derby viewing party including horses, roses, bourbon, hats, food, and more.

What’s more is that you won’t go crazy trying to pull it all together by the end of the week. Items are easy to access, and set up is a breeze. A good thing since the race itself only lasts 2 minutes! HA! Gather together a couple of hours before so you can build up anticipation, have some cocktails, and place your bets.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - flower centerpiece


  • Cover the refreshment tables with moss runners from the craft store. They will emulate the field and provide a fantastic base for food and drink.
  • Pick up toy horses from the Dollar Tree and add numbered sheets to their back like the horses wear in the race. Simply cut a rectangle of felt fabric and attach a number stickers to the sides.
  • Place a few horseshoes on the table.
  • Place a dozen red roses inside a silver urn or trophy cup.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - hat centerpiece


  • Make sure the ladies wear large, over the top hats! The gents can also wear hats and bow ties.
  • Use hats as decor too. Place 1 or 2 on a tall stand. Here I used a wreath stand to anchor one end of the table with height.


Kentucky Derby party ideas - mini hot browns recipe


Serve these quintessential derby dishes to your guests: hot browns, benedictine spread, mint juleps. The recipes are provided below.

Baby Hot Browns

  • 10 mini biscuits – I find them in refrigerator cans containing 5 biscuits each
  • 1 1/2 cups diced deli turkey
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • about 6 or 7 plum tomatoes, sliced

cheese sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Cook biscuits according to package directions.  Let cool and slice in half.  Set aside.

To make cheese sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and add flour.  Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk; cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add Cheddar cheese, while whisking until cheese melts. Stir in diced turkey, salt, and ground red pepper.

Top biscuit halves with cheese & turkey mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and half of bacon.  Cook at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes or until Parmesan is melted.

Remove and top with a slice of tomato and sprinkle with remaining bacon.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - classic benedictine dip or spread recipe

Benedictine Dip or Spread

  • 8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and grated
  • About 1/4 of an onion, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Drain all the moisture out of the grated cucumber and pat dry with a paper towel.  Do the same with the onion.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate a couple of hours or over night so flavors can marry.

Serve as a dip for crackers and veggies, or spread on white bread to make small tea sandwiches.  Cut off crusts and serve.

You can also serve these bourbon sauce cocktail meatballs {a staple at any party where men are included}.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - "jockey sticks" for drink stirrers


  • Make these easy “jockey whip” drink stirrers. Use thin ribbon in different colors and tie them on to the ends of wooden skewers for a decorative touch to the glass.
  • I don’t know anyone who has enough silver julep cups for a party. I think the next best thing to do for a crowd is to use 8 oz. canning jars. They keep that Southern feel and they’re economical too.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - mint julep recipe

Naturally you’ll want to serve mint juleps. Use this classic recipe made with mint simple syrup.

Classic Mint Julep

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • fresh mint
  • crushed ice
  • bourbon whiskey

Make the mint simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a sauce pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Let syrup cool and add 6 to 8 sprigs of fresh mint.  Cover and refrigerate over night.

Make one drink at a time by adding 1 tablespoon mint syrup with 2 ounces of bourbon over ice.  Stir to combine and chill.

Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - bourbon bar

Kentucky Derby party ideas - dessert mini pecan pies


  • Bourbon pecan pie is a derby classic, but why not serve it with a twist? Bake the filling in mini pie shells so guests can grab and go. You can use muffin tins for the perfect portion size, or you can “cheat” by picking some minis up at the bakery.
  • Whip up a batch of bourbon dessert balls too. These make fantastic sweet nibbles and can be made a couple of days ahead of time.

Kentucky Derby party ideas - favors are mini bourbon bottles and bourbon dessert balls recipe


  • Win or lose the race, send your guests home with themed favors. Mini bottles of bourbon are a great take home gift for the guys, while packaged bourbon balls are a treat for the girls.

Will you be hosting, or watching the race on Saturday? We actually have a Cinco de Mayo party to go to but I’ll bet the race will be turned on just in time to watch.

Have a great day!


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