Spring seemed to descend upon Kentuckiana this past week with one sun-kissed swoop, and we’re all anxiously hoping it is here to stay. As Louisvillians collectively thrust open their windows, in creeps the aroma of what we all know is coming:
Gusts laden with pollen shake pastel colored petals across the sidewalks, and visions of bourbon balls, mint juleps and last night’s questionable decisions begin dancing in our heads. We all begin making plans for what we know will be a week of decadence and depravity. For the past several years on Derby Day, I’ve taken to attending a magical Derby party hosted by some dear friends, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to offer some Derby party boozy hacks. If you’re hosting the shenanigans this year, let’s make life a bit easier on you and curate a soirée that’s quirky, creative, most-definitely depraved and Derby AF.
My friends, Heather and Chana, host the most epic of Derby parties — so much so that it’s been dubbed “Dirty Derby on (I won’t list their street name here, weirdos).” I asked Heather if she has hacks for curating such an iconic celebration, and she gracefully shared her wisdom — “definite things are TVs set up in every part of the house including outside to watch the races,” she said. “$1 bills to change people out so they can bet, a Derby program or two, shelter outside for when it rains, because it always does on Derby and speakers ready to be paired in main parts of the house so dancing can be done.”
One of the quintessential festivities that takes place during the Dirty Derby is our Run for the Rosé, a shindig extraordinaire created by our friend, Aaron Thomas (whom I’ve written about before). I suggest adding a version of this activity to your first-Saturday-in-May celebrations immediately. Here is how Run for the Rosé works: Partygoers are divided into even-numbered teams. Plastic cups, cheap rosé and server trays are needed. Place the same number of cups on each tray and fill with about 3 ounces of rosé (depending on your size cup; it needs to be just enough to weigh down the cup). One member of each team stands at the starting line and must be spun five times (this can be done by either putting forehead to baseball bat and spinning or having a designated referee spin them). The spinning takes place after several bourbons have been had, of course. Then, the contestant is handed the tray of rosé and must run around the yard, circling previously placed bases and then head back to the starting line. Then, the next teammate is handed the tray, and off they go. The team that finishes with the most cups of rosé still standing after all of their teammates have gone is declared the winner.
Now, my particular group of friends is quite competitive when it comes to Run for the Rosé, as many of us hail from the service industry and have been carrying trays for longer than we can remember. Choose your teams wisely, and disclaimer: Practice safety when it comes to inclement weather — I’ve seen this game turn into a dangerous slip-n-slide in the rain (which … can also be fun).
My last, personal party hack pertains to the booze, as I’ve come to find that with my love for cocktails and entertaining often means being stuck mixing libations for my guests all evening. Reserve your time for mingling and fun by planning ahead with a big-batch cocktail and easy touches for folks to create their own Derby-themed deliciousness. Your friends can still enjoy their juleps, and you can stay mostly hands-free with this riff on a Mint Julep. Let’s make it even more Southern with sweet tea! Grab a 3-gallon pitcher (you can cut these measurements for a smaller one) with tap dispenser, and add 6 cups of bourbon, six lemons cut into wheels and 3 cups of mint, and top it off with cold sweet tea. Mix that bad boy and add more bourbon to taste if needed. Create a garnish bar on the side with a cooler of crushed ice and mint sprigs, fruit. You can even offer various flavored bitters and simple syrups. The sky is the limit! Want to get fancy? Freeze large ice cubes with mint and rose petals beforehand and set them out for a boujee and adorable feature. Because, everyone loves to get a bit decadent on Derby day, am I right?
Whatever you’re doing for that first Saturday in May, don’t forget this very important boozy life hack: always add bourbon.