Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party Checklist
Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party Checklist

To outsiders, The Kentucky Derby is a just a big horse race with Mint Julep-drinking spectators decked out in seersucker suits and big hats. While those stereotypes are partly true, The Derby is much more. It’s a unique sporting event unlike any other, combining century-old traditions with a festival atmosphere, style and plenty of fun!

You may not be able to attend The Derby, but you can host a party to make your guests feel as though they’re front and center for the most exciting two minutes in sports. Follow our checklist, devised with advice from Louisville locals and Derby experts, to bring the ultimate spring party to your home!

Read on for decor tips, food and drink recipes plus a free Derby Day printable!

The SettingDerby_Inset

~~ Elegant affair: a.k.a. “Millionaire’s Row Style Party,” use crystal and metallic accents, white linens and your best dishes.

~~ Casual: use checkered table cloths, disposable plates, or order the official party supplies of the Derby.

~~ The Derby is known as “The Running of the Roses”, so play it up by arranging red roses in either a large centerpiece or by scattering small arrangements around your space.

~~ Use fresh mint for its wonderful fresh scent and great eye appeal. Purchase small mint plants and cover the base of each pot with silver foil. You can also buy a bundle of it and place in glasses or small flower arrangements. Display them on the tables and around the party.

~~ Add touches of sparkle. You don’t have to use real gold and silver, obvi, but your items should catch the eye and sparkle. We love using metallic spray paint on empty wine bottles and then grouping them together.

~~ Add more decorative flair with silk scarves, hats, framed pictures of horses, binoculars and printable betting cards.

Fun and Games DIY-Rainbow-Fascinator

~~ Encourage guests to wear extravagant hats or fascinators and award prizes for the best!

~~ Speaking of fascinators, you can also have a “make your own” party! We love this idea of using tissue paper for fun and colorful hair accessories.

~~ Order official programs and/or racing forms.

~~ Invite your friends to dress the part. Think seersucker, big hats and brightly colored floral dresses.

~~ Run a “Betting” Pool: Place the names of all of the horses in a hat. Mix them up and have each guest pull a name. Once the race is over, award a prize to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners, also known as the “Win, Place, and Show” horses!

~~ Make sure your television is in a spot large enough for people to gather around.


Wine Bar
Arrange various white wine options and our New South Lemonade Punch (recipe below). Print and frame our free “Wine Place Show” card – a fun play on the famous “win, place, show” betting method.

New South Lemonade Recipe
A refreshing recipe made with RELAX Cool Red and lemonade, perfect for Derby day or spring parties.

3oz lemonade
6oz RELAX Cool Red
Fresh mint

Pour lemonade and RELAX cool red over crushed ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and lemon slice. To make a large batch, use 2 cups of lemonade to every one bottle of wine.

Drink Menu
For recipes, click on the images below.

Mint Julep
The traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century!

Grey Goose® Oaks Lily®
The Official Drink of the Kentucky Oaks, the day before Derby races.

Sweet Tea


Bloody Mary
Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 4.53.52 PM


The Menu
Derby party foods can range from a formal lunch to a casual barbecue!

Traditional: serve a buffet with finger/tea sandwiches, dips (including the Louisville specialty “Benedictine”), Burgoo, cheese grits and assorted salads. If your affair is more casual, serve barbecue or fried chicken, and “cookout-style” sides such as corn on the cob, green beans, potato salad and biscuits.

Modern Spin: plan a southern barbecue with ribs, biscuits, corn on the cob, and salad. Use red and white checked tablecloths. Decorate with spring flowers or roses. And if you collect horse figures, don’t forget to pull them out to decorate your tables.

Pick and choose from these traditional Derby menu items, click on the images for recipes!

Kentucky Beer Cheese Spread
Serve with pretzels for delicious dipping.

Sweet Spiced Nuts
These sweet, spicy, slightly salty nuts make a great snack, appetizer and garnish.

Benedictine Spread
A Derby classic cream cheese and cucumber spread. Use in finger sandwiches or served with pumpernickel toasts.

Mini Hot Browns
Juicy turkey slices and crispy bacon piled on toasted rye bread and topped with a rich cheese sauce.

Bourbon Balls
Bourbon Balls are a must-have Derby party food.
Bourbon Balls

Country Ham Biscuits
For a Derby Day classic, bake biscuits and fill with slices of country ham.

Kentucky Burgoo
Another Derby favorite! A stew of pork, beef, chicken and vegetables.

Finger Sandwiches
Tiny finger sandwiches are big on flavor, and always add a festive touch to luncheons.

Chocolate Nut Pie or order a famous Derby Pie®
This recipe takes pecan pie and adds the intense flavors of bourbon and chocolate.

View more food, drink and decor ideas and tips on our Derby Party Pinterest board.


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3 Responses

  1. Derby Time says:

    Everything looks delicious. Do I have to wait for the Derby?

  2. admin says:

    Thanks! Absolutely not, a Derby party is good any time of the year! :)

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