Elaborate hats, mint juleps and, of course, horses are synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, which takes place every May. If you can't make it to Churchill Downs to cheer for your favorite horse in person, you can host a Kentucky Derby party for family and friends. To increase your guests' interest in the race, organize a betting game where guests pull for their horse. Offering classic Kentucky dishes and beverages, along with other activities, makes for a successful Kentucky Derby betting party.
How to Host a Kentucky Derby Betting Party
Ask guests to dress up for your Derby betting party. Women can wear ornate hats featuring flowers and pair them with pastel sundresses. Men can don their finest seersucker or light-colored suit -- and they shouldn't be too shy to wear pastel, either. Or, for a more literal interpretation, someone can choose to come dressed up as a jockey. Dressing in your Southern best adds a bit of festivity to the party and will make your guests feel like they're at Churchill Downs.
Design a menu featuring traditional Kentucky dishes. The Kentucky hot brown, first served at Louisville's Brown Hotel, is a hearty entree to serve to guests -- create open-faced sandwiches with turkey, bacon cheese and Mornay sauce. Pair the hot browns with Southern fixin's like potato salad or hashbrown casserole. For dessert, serve the aptly named Derby pie, another Kentucky favorite, a chocolate nut pie that also originated in Louisville.
Serve cocktails for adult guests. For the mint julep, combine bourbon, simple syrup and fresh mint to create the classic Derby concoction. Serve in julep cups, which are stainless steel cups, that are sure to keep your cocktails cold. Offer other types of Kentucky bourbon to build an authentically Kentucky bar. Offer sweet tea and lemonade as nonalcoholic options.
Ask each guest to draw a horse's name out of a hat and contribute $1 for a friendly wagering game. Write every horse's name and starting position on a piece of poster board and write the guests' names next to the horse they drew. After the race, the winner gets to take home the pot.
If you have more guests than horses for your betting game, include extra slips of paper in the hat that duplicate horses' names. The winners can share the pot.
Instead of asking guests to contribute $1 to bet on the Derby, you can provide a small prize for the winner. Create a gift basket featuring Kentucky items like bourbon balls, a chocolate delicacy, a small bottle of bourbon and a julep cup.