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
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!
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!
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!
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!
There are many considerations when constructing the perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu. However, the menu will come down to three parts:
- Appetizers/Finger Foods
The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu: Cocktails
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!
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!
It doesn't get more southern than sweet tea -- add some Kentucky flavor to it with the addition of our native spirit: bourbon!
A fun take on the mint julep, my Blackberry Mint Julep Margarita is the perfect Kentucky Derby Party Cocktail for the tequila lover!
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!
The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu: Appetizers/Finger Foods
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!
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!
There's nothing more southern than pimento cheese - and if there's a recipe that I am most known for, it's this one.
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!
Chicken salad is featured on menus all around the south. For your Derby Party, make a large batch + serve it on mini croissants!
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!
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!
If I can put pimento cheese in something, I will. Try my pimento cheese pasta salad and you'll never look back!
This cheeseball really is a home run. Bacon, ranch, and cheese -- what's not to love?
The Perfect Kentucky Derby Party Menu: Desserts
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.
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!
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.
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?
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 Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Tik Tok, Twitter, 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 me? Check out my other recipes here!