It’s Derby Season. Saying that arouses many emotions: I’m in disbelief that it is here, I am nervous because I am not ready, but more than anything, I am excited with every ounce of my being.
There’s no better time to be a Kentuckian. The best two minutes in sports each year, without doubt. The dresses, hats, heels, suits… it’s so glamorous! If you haven’t attended the Kentucky Derby, or visited Churchill Downs, put it on your bucket list!
I would argue that this is the best time to throw a party – and any great Derby Party menu should feature Kentucky delicacies! To help you do so, I’m teaming up with my friends at Kroger to share some of my foolproof, most reliable recipes!
While the menu is of utmost importance, don’t forget about the decor! I was very impressed with the selection of Derby-themed items at my Local Kroger. I chose to pick up a Derby Flag, an adorable horse + jockey, Julep Cups, Lily Glasses, and of course, red roses!
First and foremost, no Derby Party can happen without a Build-Your-Own Mint Julep Bar. The Punch Brothers said it best — “Heaven is a julep on the porch.” After having juleps on the porch of my new house with those that mean the most to me, I can attest to the validity of that statement.
The Kentucky Mint Julep
2.5 oz. Four Roses Bourbon
4-5 Mint Leaves
3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
- Pour simple syrup into a Derby glass.
- Add mint leaves and muddle to extract the flavor.
- Fill cup with crushed ice (almost to the top).
- Add Four Roses Bourbon.
- Stir and enjoy!
If you don’t like Mint Juleps (we can still be friends, y’all!), you’ll probably be a fan of the drink of the Kentucky Oaks, which is Friday at the track: the Oaks Lily. To host the ultimate Derby Party, I definitely recommend serving both cocktails. The best part? You can make the Lily ahead of time (and double, triple, quadruple the recipe!) to save yourself some stress during the event!
The Finlandia® Oaks Lily®
1.5 oz Finlandia Vodka
1 oz. Lemonade
.25 oz Triple Sec
3 oz. Cranberry Juice
- Mix vodka, lemonade, triple sec, and cranberry juice together.
- Pour over a glass of crushed ice.
- Stir and enjoy (plus, if you like, add a blackberry or two into the drink)!
Since the Kentucky Derby is the most quintessential event in the Commonwealth, the menu should reflect the heritage of our state. Thus, I chose to make some tried and true favorites, along with some dishes inspired by our amazing culinary scene!
The World's Easiest Spinach Dip
10 oz frozen spinach, cooked and drained
16 oz. sour cream
1 oz. packet of dry ranch mix
1 circular loaf of King’s Hawaiian Bread
- Cook frozen spinach according to directions on bag; drain until all juice is gone.
- Combine spinach, sour cream, and dry ranch mix; stir until fully combined.
- Refrigerate spinach dip.
- When ready to serve, remove the top and middle parts of the King’s Hawaiian Bread. Using the center as a bowl, scoop spinach dip into the bread and use removed hunks for dipping.
It doesn’t get much more Kentucky than country ham — and these elevated sliders, which feature an orange fig spread, are simply irresistible!
Pro tip: you can get sliced country ham at the deli in your local Kroger. It saves SO much time and it is just as good as preparing a whole ham yourself; plus, you’ll have less waste!
Country Ham + Orange Fig Marmalade Biscuit Sliders
1 package of frozen tea biscuits
1 lb. country ham
1 jar of Dalmatia Orange Fig Spread
- Bake tea biscuits according to the directions listed on the bag.
- After letting biscuits cool, slice through the middle.
- Spread Dalmatia Orange Fig Spread on both sides of the biscuit.
- Place country ham between the biscuit halves, combining the top and bottom sections.
My favorite food that originated in Louisville is, without hesitation, benedictine. It would be a travesty to have a Derby party without it! Invented by Jennie Carter Benedict near the beginning of the 20th century, benedictine has delighted Louisville (and southern!) diners for decades.
I usually serve mine in sandwich form with bacon; isn’t everything better with a little bacon, y’all?
Bacon + Benedictine Yeast Roll Sliders
1 package of Sister Schubert Park House-Style Frozen Yeast Rolls
1 package of bacon (I love the Private Selection brand at Kroger)
1.5 medium cucumbers (peeled, seeds removed, finely diced)
1 Vidalia onion (finely diced)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Salt, to taste
1-2 dashes of hot sauce
2-3 drops of green food coloring
- Cook Sister Schubert rolls according to the directions on the package. After cooled, slice an opening in the middle.
- Prepare bacon according to preference (I prefer to cook it in the oven). Once cooled, chop it into small pieces.
- Slice cucumbers in half, peel, remove all seeds, and finely dice.
- Finely dice the Vidalia onion.
- In a mixing bowl, combine diced cucumber, onion, cream cheese, salt, hot sauce, and green food coloring until well-combined.
- Scoop benedictine spread in the middle of the Sister Schubert roll, topping with bacon crumbles.
- Enjoy – I promise that these will be a hit!
Does it get more iconic than a Kentucky Hot Brown? Brilliantly created by Chef Fred Schmidt of the Brown Hotel in the 1920’s, the Hot Brown was originally made to feed the huge crowds of dancers and party-goers that visited the landmark hotel. It was heavy, filling, and immediately became iconic.
Once you have a bite, you’ll understand why.
To create the Hot Brown for my Derby Dinner Party, I chose to use the original recipe provided by the Brown Hotel. All credit goes to the Brown. I made very few modifications: I used peppered turkey breast as the meat, topped the dish with crumbled bacon instead of full slices, changed the layout/quantity of bread, and baked multiple hot browns together (casserole style) in a baking dish. This made mass preparation for a party much easier!
PS — this recipe, like all of the others previously mentioned, can easily be multiplied!
The Iconic Kentucky Hot Brown
(inspiration credit: the Brown Hotel)
Ingredients (yield: 2 hot browns):
2 oz. butter
2 oz. all-purpose flour
8 oz. heavy cream
8 oz. whole milk
1/2 c. Pecorino Romano, grated (extra tbsp. for garnish)
2-4 slices of peppered turkey breast from the deli (thinly sliced)
2 slices of Texas Toast
4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped (if desired)
2 thick slices of Roma tomato
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Nutmeg, to taste
Paprika, to taste
Parsley, chopped for garnish
- Melt the butter and slowly whisk in the flour to create a roux.
- Cook roux for an additional minute over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Pour the heavy cream and whole milk into the roux, whisking until the cream begins to simmer (around 3 minutes).
- Remove sauce from the heat and whisk in the Pecorino Romano. It is finished when the Mornay sauce is smooth.
- Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
- Cook bacon according to preference ( I prefer to cook it in the oven). Leave bacon in full slices if you want to go the traditional route; chop if you prefer to crumble it on top, like I do.
- Trim the crust off of the Texas Toast & broil on high in the oven until fully toasted.
- Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Layer Texas Toast in a baking dish, covering each with 2-4 slices of turkey.
- Pour the Mornay sauce in the dish, covering the toast.
- Top with a slice of Roma tomato and sprinkle additional Pecorino Romano on top of the dish.
- Broil until the cheese browns.
- Remove from oven, top with bacon, paprika, and parsley.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
There is no dessert more fit for the Kentucky Derby than the signature Derby Pie from Kern’s Kitchen. Created in 1954, it has been hand-crafted and enjoyed by Kentuckians (and world wide) for decades. The official pie of the Kentucky Derby, the recipe is a secret – however, it is publicly known that it is downright delicious!
The chocolate nut pie is sweet, rich, and is sure to please a crowd – and it can be picked up at your local Kroger!
You have the decor, the cocktails, the appetizers, the main course, and the dessert. The only thing left? Your friends! All of these dishes are best enjoyed when shared with those that you love.
Kentucky — and Derby — spirit is meant to be shared; I am so grateful that some of my nearest and dearest friends joined me for this fine occasion!
My first dinner party at my new house will be one that I will not forget.
All of items mentioned – from the food, to the alcohol, to the decor – I found at my local Kroger + Kroger Wine/Spirits Store.
I love Kroger because it is truly a one-stop shop; for that, I – and any host/hostess – am forever grateful.
As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
FTC: This is a sponsored post; however, as always, all opinions are my own.