3 Tips on How to Host a Kentucky Derby Party (or Kentucky Oaks Party!)

Cox’s & Evergreen Liquors have your Derby and Oaks celebration party essentials. Visit your local Cox’s or Evergreen Liquors for all your Derby or Oaks needs. Find your nearest location.

Kentucky Derby Party Hosting Tips (or Kentucky Oaks Party!)

When the sun shines bright on our ol’ Kentucky home, we know it’s almost Derby season! If you plan to host a Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks party this year, we’re sharing a few tidbits of Louisville wisdom to help you elevate your event.

First, you’ll want to decide which day to host your event. Hold your horses – we know the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday in May. Not as many folks know that here in Louisville, locals and visitors alike also celebrate on Friday, for the Kentucky Oaks. The Kentucky Oaks is an entire day of racing on the eve of the Derby and also takes place at historic Churchill Downs. The official Kentucky Oaks race is the highlight, in which only three-year-old thoroughbred fillies (female horses) are allowed to run. You’ll see all the elegant trimmings and traditions of the Derby, from elaborate hats and seersucker suits to a blanket of flowers for the winner, but instead of red roses, the Oaks winner is draped with a mantle of pink lilies. Hence the name “Lillies for the Fillies.”

Both events are in their 149th year and worth celebrating, so pick your event, invite your friends, and kick off spring with our lineup of festive Bluegrass recipes.

Derby Day Cocktails and Recipes

Whether you’re cheering for the fillies on Friday or celebrating Saturday’s Run for the Roses, a long day of racing calls for cocktails that suit the occasion. We’ve lined up 3 of our favorite drinks that will guarantee everyone at your party has something to sip.

The Kentucky Oaks Lily

She’s rosy pink, a little tart, and has a good kick of vodka. This blushing cocktail has been the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks since 2006. It was crafted by Tim Laird, the former Chief Entertaining Officer for Brown-Forman (one of the largest American-owned wine and spirits companies). The Lily has been an Oaks staple ever since.


  • 1 1⁄4 oz vodka
  • 3 oz cranberry juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz sweet and sour mix
  • Splash of triple sec
  • Crushed ice or ice cubes
  • Optional garnishes: lemon wedge and blackberries


  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake until well mixed (We recommend at least 15 seconds or until the shaker becomes cold).
  3. Strain and serve in a stemless wine glass over crushed ice.
  4. Garnish with a lemon wedge and fresh blackberries.

The Kentucky Mule

There’s no debate that the Mint Julep is the official Derby drink. That said, we recommend trying a new twist on a classic: The Kentucky Mule. Our Kentucky Mule recipe is a refreshing, Souther take on a Moscow Mule. With crisp ginger-and-citrus flavors, The Kentucky Mule swaps vodka for bourbon to give it a proper Kentucky spin. Add a copper mule mug and you’ve got a handsome drink that looks as good as it tastes.


  • 2 oz. bourbon (we opt for a good mid-price option like Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, or Woodford Reserve)
  • 1⁄2 oz. fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
  • 4 oz. ginger beer
  1. Pour the bourbon and lime juice into a copper mug.
  2. Add 4-6 ice cubes.
  3. Add ginger beer. Gently stir (too much stirring will flatten the ginger beer’s carbonation).
  4. Garnish with a few mint leaves for a nod to Derby tradition.

Strawberry Mint Lemonade Mocktail

Borrowing inspiration from both signature cocktails, this balanced mocktail suits any palate. For our hosts hoping to catch the races, this is an easy-to-make batch recipe so your guests can simply pour and adore. We’ve modified a classic Better Homes & Gardens recipe to suit your Derby fancy:

Recipe: (Makes 8 servings)

  • 48 oz (6 cups) water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups frozen or sliced fresh strawberries (the fresher the better)
  • 1 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 8 lemons (1/2 tsp. zest, 12 oz juice)
  • Lemon slices
  • Ice cubes
  1. Make the simple syrup.
    1. In a large saucepan, bring 24 oz (3 cups) of the water and strawberries to a boil.
    2. Stir in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves.
    3. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
    4. Add chopped mint; cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain syrup with a mesh strainer to remove the mint and berries. Let cool.
  3. In a large pitcher combine 24 oz (3 cups) cold water, your simple syrup, lemon zest, andlemon juice.
  4. Add lemon slices, additional strawberry slices, and mint leaves. Chill up to 4 hours before serving.

Kentucky-Themed Snacks and Sweets

Ask almost any Kentuckian and they’ll have their tried-and-true Kentucky Derby recipes. We like party appetizers and finger foods you can graze on throughout the day, and maybe most importantly, make ahead so you get to celebrate alongside your guests.

Kentucky Benedictine Spread Sandwiches

There’s a reason the saying is “cool as a cucumber.” This classic, creamy spread is easy to make, can stay refrigerated up to two days in advance, and checks every box for a classic Kentucky Derby recipe: Southern, simple, and savory. For a bit of salty crunch, add a slice of crispy bacon to each sandwich. If you’re looking for the ultimate ode to Louisville, toast some turkey for a reminiscence of the famous Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich. Or, skip the bread altogether and turn your benedictine into a dip. Serve with a variety of crackers, or fresh veggies.


  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 1 white onion (yields about 1⁄2 cup grated)
  • 2 packages softened cream cheese (8 oz each)
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
  • 4 Tbsp fresh chopped dill or 4 tsp dried dill
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 1⁄2 tsp pepper
  • Three drops of green food coloring (It’s traditional, but optional)
  • 2 loaves sliced white bread


  1. Peel cucumber, and cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds.
  2. Grate on a box grater, and transfer cucumber to a mesh strainer to drain.
  3. Grate the white onion. Add to colander.
  4. Sprinkle salt over the colander (helps drain excess moisture).
  5. Stir all ingredients except bread together in a mixing bowl. *If you’re preparing thisahead, stop now and simply refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Spread on 24 slices of white bread, top with bread to make sandwiches.
  7. Cut off crusts.

Kentucky Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

“Derby” and “pie” have become synonymous, and this decadent dessert couldn’t be easier to make. We even know a Louisville gal who got married in another state, and instead of wedding cake she opted to honor her Kentucky roots by having one of these pies at every guest table. Let’s just say no one missed the usual cake.


  • 1⁄2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1⁄2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3⁄4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3⁄4 cup pecans or walnuts
  • 1.5 Tbsp bourbon
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a fork.
  2. Pour into pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. (We weren’t kidding when we said this was easy!)

Enjoy a Tradition with 149 Years of History

In the end, the main thing that matters here is hospitality. Southerners are known for it, and if you’re aiming to celebrate the Kentucky Oaks or the Derby surrounded by friends, family, and whatever food and drinks you muster up, you’re doing just fine. Just don’t tell us you picked your winning horse based on the jockey silks, and we’ll still be friends on Sunday.

Visit your local Cox’s or Evergreen Liquors for all your Derby or Oaks needs. Find your nearest location.