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Set Up A Bourbon Bar Tasting Party

A bourbon bar and tasting is one of the most fun and interactive ideas for entertaining at home. Men especially love this tasting bar so it’s a great idea for guys night in or a birthday party idea for the guys. This is also an essential element to host the best Kentucky Derby viewing party! See how to set up a bourbon tasting bar with tips and decorative touches.

bourbon bar tasting party ideas

Host a bourbon tasting party 

The first Saturday in May is the Kentucky Derby which kicks off the race for the triple crown. Although I’ve never been to the derby, I have been to a few steeple chases here in Virginia and in North Carolina. And I certainly love watching that iconic 2 minute race on the tv screen.

With that in mind, what could be better or more apropos than setting up a bourbon tasting bar while watching the race? You don’t have to wait for the derby though, because this party idea holds up great all on its own.

Being from the South, bourbon is our spirit of choice when it comes to mixing up highballs. There are so many good brands to choose from in the mid- to high- price points. This is NOT a time when you want to scrimp. You can find something good for about $40 for a 750ml bottle.

chalkboard silver tray sign - bourbon tasting barset up a bourbon tasting bar for the Kentucky derby. Here are loads of stylish and fun ideas.Kentucky Derby themed bourbon tasting bar

The bourbon bar consists of 3 stations

  • Sipping cups for small tasting and comparing
  • A mixers area for making highballs
  • A mint julep station for making the traditional derby drink

Style the bourbon bar with southern themed decor

  • To set the scene I used a moss runner to mimic the infield and the parking/tailgating areas where the real party happens at the Derby.
  • Some red felt roses and horseshoes are placed on the table as a nod to the “run for the roses.”
  • Silver serving pieces are used to give that classic Southern charm.
  • To make things easier on the host, I used 8 oz canning jars for glasses. Traditional julep cups may be a little difficult to come by for a crowd but if you have them, by all means use them.
  • Each glass has a drink marker that resembles a jockey’s whip, and can be used to identify guests drink by the color of ribbon.

mint juleps for the bourbon barbourbon tasting bar

What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

While they are essentially the same, bourbon whiskey is made with corn, while Scotch and Irish whiskey are made with barley.

  • I chose 4 quality brands of bourbon to sample. Some of my favorites are Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Long Branch, Woodford Reserve, & Jefferson’s Reserve. You can find an extensive list of best bourbon under $100.
  • The mint julep station is set up with mint simple syrup {recipe below}, ice and a fresh mint plant that doubles as decor and a drink garnish.
  • The area for mixed drinks has a variety of sodas and water to blend with the bourbon of choice. My personal favorite is ginger ale, but my husband likes to add a little sparkling water.

bourbon bar chalkboard traybourbon tasting party favors on a tray

Provide some bourbon infused food for your guests

  • Since we can’t live on cocktails alone, you must serve some hearty party food. These bourbon meatballs hit the spot and are a crowd please’r! I never met a man who didn’t love to have cocktail meatballs at a party!
  • To stick with a southern theme you can make pimento cheese spread and serve with crackers, bread, or raw vegetables.
  • Finally, a great way to send your guests on their way and remind them of what a great time they had, is to set out bourbon themed party favors. Mini bottles of bourbon are the perfect choice for the guys, while homemade bourbon balls are a sweet treat for the gals. 

bourbon tasting barmint simple syrup recipe for mint juleps

Mint Simple Syrup for Mint Juleps

This came from the folks at Early Times, who provide the “official mint julep of the Kentucky Derby”

  • 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.

Is this your idea of a fun party?  I know my friends would be over the moon with this idea {especially the guys}.  This would be fantastic for any occasion, especially a gentleman’s birthday or a bachelor party.

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