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How To Throw The Ultimate Kentucky Derby Party!

Updated: Jan 22, 2022

America’s Greatest Race since 1875, aka "The Run for the Roses" has finally arrived! Although the fastest two minutes in sports will be taking place at the legendary Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY, that shouldn't stop you from keeping up with all the Derby traditions and festivities at home! With the Kentucky Derby’s history and popularity, this makes it the perfect excuse to bring all of your friends together for a party. I am here to provide you with all the tips and tricks you’ll need to make your friends feel like they’re actually there, cheering on the horses at Churchill Downs! I am excited to have partnered with the famous preferred wine of the Kentucky Derby, 14 Hands Winery! In partnership, I’ll provide you with the best food and wine pairings the South has to offer, all with my own modern twist on things, to keep it extra fresh! From the classic Mint Julep to mouth-wateringly smooth 14 Hands Wine, and party fashion inspiration, we’ve got you covered with everything that this famous race has to offer!

14 Hands Wine has always been a staple at family gatherings, so it’s pretty special that I get to share everything this winery has to offer, especially during this time of year. 14 Hands wines are inspired by the unbridled spirit of the wild horses that once freely roamed eastern Washington – making it a natural fit for this event! Everything from décor tips, to what might be considered the ultimate Churchill Downs snacks, all paired with yummy 14 Hands wine - grab your friends, and your best fascinator or bowtie, because the race is about to begin!

The Cocktail...

The first thing you want to have ready as your guests walk through your door is a cocktail. No one wants to get to a party and not be greeted with a drink! To make your life easier have your cocktail pre-mixed, poured, and plated on an elegant tray, so all your guests have to do is grab one and begin mingling! The Classic Bourbon Mint Julep has been around since the 18th century, but I’m giving it a modern twist! Let's be honest, everything is better with a little bubbly! We will be adding 14 Hands Sparkling Brut, which will liven this classic cocktail up. Along with some bubbles, we will add some fresh peaches and of course some flowers to add an elegant and colorful accent. The lively fruit flavors of 14 Hands Brut, and the juiciness of the macerated peaches will balance itself perfectly with the smokiness of the bourbon. The result is the mouth-watering blend of sweet and savory! What really makes this julep stand out from the crowd is the Sparkling Brut. It adds just enough carbonation paired with a hint of sweetness to make the whole drink flow together in a delicious symphony of flavors. The best part is that this cocktail does not take a lot of prep time, and can easily be made fresh once your guests arrive. 


 Serves 4 

•4 cups crushed ice (I crushed my ice in a blender, pulse a few times)

•2 peaches, chopped

•1 cup bourbon

•1 tablespoon sugar

•1 bunch mint, torn (plus more for garnish)

•2 cups 14 Hands Sparkling Brut

•Fresh flowers for garnish


•In a large pitcher, place the ice, chopped peaches, sugar and bourbon. Leave to macerate for 15 minutes. (Most important part, this is where you really get that added sweetness). 

•Add the torn mint leaves and the 14 Hands Sparkling Brut. Mix with a wooden spoon.

•Pour the julep into glasses. Serve with some of the peaches and mint. Garnish with fresh flowers.

Now that you have your guests happy with a cocktail and they’re off mingling, it’s time to start prepping your food and wine pairings. I decided to use 14 Hands Wines as the inspiration for my Southern dishes and I am pretty confident your guests' eyes and stomachs will be incredibly happy! Not only must your dishes taste delicious, but you can’t forget the details are everything! Which means it’s time to break out your inner Southern Belle flare!

Now let’s dig into our food and wine pairings...

Dish # 1

 Pimento Dip with Fresh Seasonal Veggies:  I decided to prepare our Pimento Dip with fresh seasonal veggies as our main appetizer alongside our  14 Hands Sparkling Brut. I took a modern twist on this classic Southern Appetizer and replaced the cheddar cheese with goat cheese. The light and silkiness of this pimento dip is the perfect complement to our Brut’s crisp and  refreshing  palate. This Brut is truly a matchmaker with a variety of fresh appetizers at any Derby party, so feel free to get creative with this delish bubbly! 

Dish #2

 Build Your Own Pulled Pork Sliders: The richness and spice of slow-cooked pulled pork truly need a bold and flavorful wine to compliment it. We don't want to go with too big of wine so of course, the perfect match is our 14 Hands Limited Edition Kentucky Derby Red Blend. This opulent red blend showcases all of the classic Washington fruit characters you want in a wine with a kick of spice that is a match made in heaven with our pulled pork sliders.

Dish #3

 Southern Cheese Grits:  This oh-so-classic and comforting southern dish typically demands a red wine, but I  surprisingly  found our snappy 14 Hands Pinot Gris the perfect compliment to this cheesy goodness. When you're in a lighter mood, our Pinot Gris brings notes of citrus and stone fruit plus a weightier mouthfeel, that harmonizes the savory cheese and grits.

Dish #4

  Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with Decadent Peach Sauce:  Last but not least, our  mouth-watering  Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with rich and decadent peach sauce screams to be paired alongside our  14 Hands,Rose. When I think of our  beautiful  pink rose with notes of sweet citrus, delicate florals, and a touch of stone fruit, it truly harmonizes these flavors in this cake.

Party Esthetics and Activities To Keep Your Guests Having Fun Even After The Two Minutes Are Up...

Last, but definitely not least, we want to touch on setting the mood for your Derby Party, especially for those friends who have never attended one before. Want your guests to really feel like they are at the races? Set the style of your party immediately by sending your guests invitations, the old fashioned way. Include in the invite what the dress attire is for men and women so they will know to dress up in their most elegant fascinators and bow ties! There are a ton of cute invite designs to choose from  here! To be an even more epic host, make your guests feel like they are a celeb attending the races, right in your own home by surprising them with the Official Kentucky Derby Programs!

Of course, the ladies attending your Derby Party must steal the show in their elegant hats, but that doesn't mean the men of the group can't step up their look as well! To really inspire your guests to put on their best Derby attire, hold a contest of who wore it better! Each person can vote on which man and woman had the best hat and bow tie ensemble of the party! Click here for some bow tie and hat inspiration.

To get your guests hands-on with the Derby action I like to supply a betting board! Keep it simple and fun for your guests by creating a prize basket that will go to the winner! Include 14 Hands Wine, recipe cards, snacks, gift cards, etc.! This will not only be a fun gestor for your friends but can be a way to get everyone in the competitive spirit. There are a lot of ways and ideas to go about creating a board, click here for a bunch of great and easy examples!

Most Importantly, Enjoy Hosting Your Party!

Above all, enjoy hosting your party! As long as you are in good company and celebrating America's Greatest Race with your friends, your party will be just perfect! Don't be afraid to add your own spin to things and make it your own. Let the race begin!!

Photography by Dillon Driscoll

Creative Direction and Styling by Samantha Capaldi

Food and drinks prepared by Samantha Capaldi

Home and Kitchen of Julianne Boisvert

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