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12 Kentucky Derby Party Dinner & Snacking Ideas

For those unfamiliar with the Kentucky Derby and the traditions that follow, the Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race held in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May. The Kentucky Derby is best known for its iconic fashion, competitive spirit, and mint juleps. The horses often have strange names; there are big decorative hats, and a lot is going on overall. 

Though it may seem like a niche event, the Kentucky Derby is a beloved day that is celebrated by Americans everywhere. The Derby is a fun day of high spirits and Southern culture that is nothing short of a good time. 

No matter what kind of party you are attending or hosting, food is a cornerstone of the event. As with any special occasion or major event like the Derby, you definitely need to be stocked up in the snacks department. If you are looking for an opportunity to go all out in the food and beverage department, the Kentucky Derby is the perfect time to do this. 

Not sure where to start? Here at Ohza, we love raising a glass to any kind of celebration, especially celebrations with a flair for the dramatic like the Derby. Here are 12 of our best Derby dinner and snack ideas that are sure to take the trophy at your next Kentucky Derby party. 

Drink Menu: 6 Classic Cocktail Ideas

You can’t properly enjoy the Kentucky Derby without making some of the Derby’s iconic cocktails for your next party. The Kentucky Derby has been around since the late 1800s, so there is a long, versatile list of different drinks that you can incorporate into your drink menu. 

The Derby is one of the best occasions to engage in the extravagance and go all out with your outfits and beverages. The key to nailing the spirit and the flavors of the Derby is to embrace the Southern flavors and traditions. Here are six cocktail ideas to celebrate the Derby that do just that. 

Ohza Mimosas 

While mimosas may not be the most traditional Kentucky Derby drink, they sure are our favorite. Whether you stick to a Classic Mimosa or mix it up with a Mango Mimosa, Ohza has an option that’s perfect for those warm May mornings. Plus, since our mimosas are neatly packed in cans, you don’t have to worry about any annoying cleanup.  

Mint Julep

The most well-known drink of the Kentucky Derby is the classic mint julep. During Derby weekend, over 120,000 mint juleps are served on average. It’s a fan favorite for sure. 

The mint julep is easy to make, refreshing, and perfect to sip on while you root for your favorite jockey. All you need is your favorite bourbon, simple syrup, and a sprig of mint to make this iconic cocktail. 

Bourbon and Sweet Tea

You can’t miss out on these two Southern staples: bourbon and sweet tea. Not only are they delicious separate, but if you put them together, it’s a match made in heaven. This is a summery, Southern spin-off of the classic Jack and Coke cocktail. 

Just grab your favorite bourbon and some freshly brewed sweet tea, and you’ve got yourself a sweet and Southern cocktail that is Derby-worthy. 

Lavender Lemonade 

One of the most refreshing drinks you can make for a warm day outside is lemonade. If you’re looking to take your beloved childhood favorite and turn it into a Derby-worthy cocktail, look no further. 

The easiest way to spice up your lemonade is by adding vodka and a hint of lavender. The lavender provides an aesthetically pleasing purple hue (that matches your Derby dress perfectly, by the way) and gives the lemonade an earthy but subtly sweet flavor to it. You cannot go wrong with a lavender lemonade for the Derby. 

Brown Derby 

Making a Brown Derby cocktail is another way to incorporate bourbon in a classic and timeless way. While the name feels fit for the horse race, this cocktail was actually named after a restaurant, not the Kentucky Derby. It’s still a timeless cocktail that encompasses the spirit of the race, and it’s worth trying out for yourself. 

The Brown Derby was created in the 1930s and is one of those iconic cocktails that encompasses the flavors of the era in which it was was created. It feels old Hollywood and high class to sip on one of these cocktails.  

The Brown Derby is made using a trio of simple ingredients (bourbon, honey syrup, and grapefruit juice) that, when put together, create a unique yet delicious flavor profile that is sure to impress. 

Horse’s Neck 

An appropriately named cocktail for the Kentucky Derby, a Horse’s Neck is a crowd favorite. It’s made with just a few simple ingredients and garnishes full of flavor and tang. To craft this cocktail, you just need bourbon, a dash of sassafras or sorghum bitters, and ginger ale. Serve it over ice and garnish with a lemon peel, and you have a classic Horse’s Neck that fits right in with the spirit of the Kentucky Derby. 

Appetizer Menu: 3 Iconic Ideas 

Before the race even begins, there’s a good chance that your guests may be hungry. Appetizers are a must for any celebration or event that draws a crowd. 

For an event like the Derby, finger foods or small bites are the best way to keep your guests fed and happy while they mingle and gear up for the big race. Like the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby is a day of competition and high spirits. You will want the right appetizers to kick off the event in style. Here are three appetizers that are dressed to impress for the race. 

1. Pimento Deviled Eggs

Pimento deviled eggs are the perfect combination of two signature Southern dishes. Deviled eggs are always a party staple, but the added spice of the pimento makes them an almost perfect pick for the Derby. They’ve got a little a kick to them that makes you want to come back for more. These pimento deviled eggs are creamy, hearty, and sure to satisfy you when you are so hungry you could eat a horse.

2. Benedictine Spread or Dip 

For a dish that is true to the spirit of the South and, more specifically, Kentucky itself, you can’t get any better than Benedictine. Benedictine is a light cucumber-based spread that is generally served on finger sandwiches or as a dip with crackers. It originated right in Louisville, Kentucky, making it a seamless pick for a Kentucky Derby celebration. Not to mention, it’s absolutely delicious. 

3. Fried Green Tomatoes

Another classic Southern staple is fried green tomatoes. When you can’t get your hands on juicy red tomatoes, green tomatoes are your friend — and nobody does green tomatoes better than the South. The key to achieving that iconic taste (and avoiding soggy tomatoes) is only using unripe green tomatoes for frying. 

Just fry your green tomatoes in a pan with some breading, and you’ve got a simple, satisfying Southern dish to share. 

Dinner Menu: 3 Iconic Ideas 

And they’re off! When the horses and jockeys hit the track and a winner is crowned, it’s time to dig in. Your main course meal for your Kentucky Derby party should be just as good as the main event. There are so many different Derby-inspired meals that stay true to the nature of the race. Here are three of our favorites to highlight at your Kentucky Derby party. 

1. Buttermilk Fried Chicken 

You can’t have any kind of Southern-inspired celebration without fried chicken. This one is pretty self-explanatory. 

For starters, who doesn’t love fried chicken? Fried chicken is a classic, and for an event as classic as the Derby, you need a meal to match. There are various ways to deep fry chicken, but the one that takes the cake every time is buttermilk fried chicken. No one will go hungry if you serve this as your main course at your Derby party. 

2. The Hot Brown 

The Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich invented in 1926 by a Louisville chef named Fred K. Schmidt. It’s packed with full Southern flavors that you can’t miss and has since become a Kentucky traditional meal served at large celebrations and gatherings. For your next Derby party, the Hot Brown may be the ultimate choice.

If you are looking for a meal that is hearty and iconic, an open-faced Hot Brown is the winner. 

3. Kentucky Burgoo 

Kentucky Burgoo is a traditional Kentucky stew made with a variety of vegetables and meats, intended to feed large crowds. This is the perfect choice for your next Derby dinner. 

Kentucky Burgoo is delicious, traditional Kentucky food and it’s a great way to feed your hungry horse lovers. Kentucky Burgoo is sure to warm your insides and keep your spirits lifted, whether your horse wins or not. 

Off to the Races

However you decide to celebrate the Derby this year, a full, versatile menu is a must. From iconic cocktails to traditional appetizers and main courses, no one should go hungry at your Kentucky Derby party. Here at Ohza, we believe that life is worth celebrating, and one of the most entertaining ways we do that is with events like the Kentucky Derby. 

If this is your first Kentucky Derby or you have been a lifelong fan, it’s one of the best times to dress up and unwind. The Kentucky Derby is one of life's many joys that deserves to be celebrated in style. With the races right around the corner, it’s time to grab a deviled egg, pour yourself a mint julep, and fasten on your Derby hat, because this is going to be the best Kentucky Derby yet, all thanks to your delicious menu and friends that make all of life's events just peachy. 

Sources: 

Classic Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe | The Spruce Eats    

Lavender Lemonade Recipe | Simply Recipes 

​​Horse's Neck Cocktail Recipe | The Spruce Eats   

Benedictine Spread or Dip Recipe: A Louisville, KY, Original | Style Blueprint   

Best Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe | Allrecipes  

Kentucky Hot Brown Turkey Sandwich Recipe | The Spruce Eats

Kentucky Burgoo Recipe With Chicken and Beef | The Spruce Eats  

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