The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu

April 23, 2019
Kentucky Derby Party Menu

Hey, y’all! There’s no better time to be a Kentuckian than Derby Season. I always joke and say that the Kentucky Derby is my favorite holiday. And while it’s light-hearted in nature, I mean it with full sincerity. If you haven’t attended the Kentucky Derby, or visited Churchill Downs, put it on your bucket list! That said, if you are unable to attend, I have the Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu for you to enjoy!

The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu

If there’s one thing that I’m known for, it’s my annual Derby Party. It’s untraditional, though — I always hold it a week or two before the actual Run for the Roses. Why? I want to be at the track on the day of!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of decor should I use to highlight my menu?

I think the best – and at times, only – decor that you need at a Derby party is a plethora of fresh roses. As most Derby-lovers know, the winner of the Kentucky Derby receives a fresh garland of roses after completing the race. As such, there’s no other flower for your party! I find that the roses pair really well with silver. It’s also fun to display individual roses in vintage derby glasses!

Should I serve a main course?

Personally, I don’t think so! Derby Parties in Kentucky – the epicenter – are largely social. They consist of drinks, fun, and conversation — they aren’t sit-down in nature. As such, I’d recommend preparing a large spread for people to enjoy at their desired frequency. It also makes serving easier, which is great for the host/hostess!

What are the essential menu items?

I have many ideas listed below, but know this: the menu will be very southern-leaning. Instead of making Kentucky Hot Browns, try making my hot brown dip! As for drinks, you have to have Mint Juleps and an Oaks Lily on hand. Dessert should be a Derby Pie from Kern’s Kitchen or a homemade chocolate nut pie. Other menu favorites: benedictine, chicken salad, pimento cheese, pimento cheese sausage balls, and spinach dip!

What’s my secret trip to hosting?

Not everything has to be homemade — and prepare anything that you can in advance. If I were to suggest one item to be store-bought, it would be dessert. The Derby Pie from Kern’s Kitchen is as Kentucky Derby as it gets!

Menu Sections

There are many considerations when constructing the perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu. However, the menu will come down to three parts:

  1. Cocktails
  2. Appetizers/Finger Foods
  3. Desserts

The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu: Cocktails

Kentucky Mint Julep

Kentucky Mint Julep Recipe

If you’re going to have one offering on your Kentucky Derby Party Menu, it has to be a Kentucky Mint Julep. The official drink of the Kentucky Derby, it’s a legend in and of itself!

Kentucky Mint Julep
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Kentucky Mint Julep Recipe

The Oaks Lily

How To Make a 2020 Kentucky Oaks Lily Cocktail

Though the Mint Julep is more iconic, I think the Oaks Lily is equally as popular at the track. The Lily is the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, the famous race the day before the Kentucky Derby. A true southern cocktail, the Oaks Lily is a must-have item at your Kentucky Derby Party + all summer long!

The Oaks Lily Cocktail
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The Oaks Lily Cocktail

Bourbon Sweet Tea

Bourbon Sweet Tea Cocktail Kentucky Derby Party

It doesn’t get more southern than sweet tea — add some Kentucky flavor to it with the addition of our native spirit: bourbon!

Bourbon Sweet Tea Cocktail
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Bourbon Sweet Tea Cocktail Kentucky Derby Party

Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita

Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita, Kentucky Derby Party Cocktails

A fun take on the mint julep, my Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita is the perfect Kentucky Derby Party Cocktail for the tequila lover!

Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita
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Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita, Kentucky Derby Party Cocktails

Kentucky Mule

Kentucky Mule with Bourbon

Another great Kentucky cocktail is the Kentucky Mule. Substitute Kentucky Bourbon for vodka + add Kentucky-made Ale-8-One and you have one knockout cocktail!

Kentucky Mule
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Kentucky Mule with Ale-8-One

The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu: Appetizers/Finger Foods

Bacon and Benedictine Tea Sandwiches

Kentucky Bacon and Benedictine Tea Sandwiches

Benedictine is both a Kentucky and a southern staple. Originating in Louisville, the cucumber spread is one of the most commonly seen items on a Kentucky Derby Party Menu!

Bacon and Benedictine Tea Sandwiches
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Kentucky Bacon and Benedictine Tea Sandwiches

Kentucky Hot Brown Dip

Kentucky Hot Brown Dip

My Kentucky Hot Brown Dip is an easy-to-make version of the classic Kentucky Hot Brown, which is served at the Brown Hotel in Downtown Louisville. This dish is classic Kentucky!

Kentucky Hot Brown Dip
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KY Hot Brown Dip by JC Phelps

Southern Pimento Cheese

Kentucky Derby Party Menu

There’s nothing more southern than pimento cheese – and if there’s a recipe that I am most known for, it’s this one.

Southern Pimento Cheese
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Southern Pimento Cheese Recipe

Bourbon BBQ Cocktail Meatballs

Cooking With Bourbon

Cocktail Meatballs are a staple at southern parties, including Derby Parties. How do you make them extra-Kentucky? Toss in a little bourbon, y’all!

Bourbon BBQ Cocktail Meatballs
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Bourbon BBQ Meatballs Appetizer

The Best Southern Chicken Salad

The Best Southern Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is featured on menus all around the south. For your Derby Party, make a large batch + serve it on mini croissants!

The Best Southern Chicken Salad
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The Best Southern Chicken Salad

Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls

Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls are full of flavor — but are often dry. My Pimento Cheese Sausage balls are as moist as can be, as pimento cheese is used instead of standard shredded cheese. These are always a crowd favorite!

Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls
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Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls

Spinach Dip and Hawaiian Bread

Kentucky Derby Party Menu

There isn’t an appetizer that is easier – or more of a crowd-pleaser – than my Spinach Dip and Hawaiian Bread! Serve it in inside of the Hawaiian loaf + use the torn out middle as the accompaniments!

Spinach Dip and Hawaiian Bread
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Spinach Dip and Hawaiian Bread, Easy Party Recipe

Pimento Cheese Pasta Salad

Pimento Cheese Pasta Salad

If I can put pimento cheese in something, I will. Try my pimento cheese pasta salad and you’ll never look back!

Pimento Cheese Pasta Salad
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Pimento Cheese Pasta Salad

Bacon and Ranch Cheeseball

Bacon and Ranch Cheeseball

This cheeseball really is a home run. Bacon, ranch, and cheese — what’s not to love?

Bacon and Ranch Cheeseball
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Bacon and Ranch Cheeseball

The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu: Desserts

Mini Kentucky Chocolate Nut Pie

Kentucky Derby Party Menu

If you aren’t serving a store-bought Kern’s Kitchen Derby Pie, which I recommend — make my Mini Kentucky Chocolate Nut Pies! This recipe, which features chocolate chips, pecans, and walnuts, is the south served on a dessert plate.

Mini Kentucky Chocolate Nut Pie
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Kentucky Chocolate Nut Pie

Kentucky Derby Bars

Kentucky Derby Party Menu

It doesn’t get richer than these Kentucky Derby Bars, which I cut to the size of standard brownies. Decadent, y’all – just like the Derby itself!

Kentucky Derby Bars
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Kentucky Derby Bars

Granny’s Southern Pecan Pie

Kentucky Derby Party Menu

There’s no dessert, in my eyes, more southern than pecan pie. Granny’s Southern Pecan Pie stems from my Grandmother Jude’s Southern Kentucky kitchen — and I amp up the flavor by adding Louisville-made Rivulet, an artisanal pecan liqueur.

Granny’s Southern Pecan Pie
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Granny's Southern Pecan Pie With Rivulet

In my completely biased opinion, the Kentucky Derby is 100% worthy of celebrating. Put on the ritz, y’all!

Happy Kentucky Derby Season. Go, baby, go!

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,

JC

Keep Up With JCP Eats

Thank you so much for visiting the blog today! I’d love to keep in touch via social media. You can follow my content on InstagramFacebookPinterestTik TokTwitter, and LinkedIn. I also author a sister website to JCP Eats, Unabashedly Southern, on which I write about southern lifestyle. Read Unabashedly Southern here.

Enjoy constructing the perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu with meCheck out my other recipes here!

  • Reply
    Erin Wiedmar
    April 29, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Very helpful! Going to add biscuits and jam to the deli trays this year!

    • Reply
      jcpeats
      May 2, 2019 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks, Erin! They will be a hit! Happy Derby!

    • Reply
      Hannah Martens
      April 29, 2021 at 8:58 pm

      I loved reading your post JC!! I have never commented on a food blog and seriously never read what anyone wrote expect for the recipes but I read every bit of yours! Your pictures were so fun and cheerful it made me feel like I was stepping into a party at your house! My husband and I celebrate the Derby every year as its halfway to our anniversary and I always scour for good party and recipe tips. This year and maybe every year I’m going with your wonderful menu! Thanks so much for sharing!
      Hannah (Forest Park, IL)

      • JCP
        April 29, 2021 at 11:55 pm

        Thank you so much for the kind words, Hannah! Happy Derby (and happy half anniversary)!

  • Reply
    Leah
    April 28, 2021 at 9:38 am

    Wonderful recipes & ideas! I’m attending a derby party and want to bring something in theme, thanks for sharing!

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