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kentucky derby party

Ramona King

At a Derby Day party.

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Southern Kitchen's guide to Derby Day parties

This weekend is it: Derby Day! And whether you're celebrating from afar or at Churchill Downs itself, there's plenty to see, do, eat and drink in honor of the most exciting two minutes in sports. Our Southern Kitchen Guide to all things Derby Day will keep you plenty busy.

From party-planning how-to's and recipes aplenty to history lessons and bourbon primer, this guide will make this year's Kentucky Derby one to remember. 

How to throw a Kentucky Derby party
The Kentucky Derby is basically a holiday for Southerners who love getting dressed up, drinking bourbon, gambling and eating delicious food — which is, as far as we can tell, every Southerner we’ve ever met. If you can’t be at Churchill Downs for the annual Run for the Roses, you can still throw a festive Derby party in your home or backyard that will be the next best thing. Here are our tips for throwing a top-notch Kentucky Derby party.
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10 party-perfect Derby recipes (and serving suggestions)
Sure, while it would be fine to tune in to the Kentucky Derby from your living room, throwing a Derby-themed party is far better. To help you pull it off, we've gathered 10 recipes that are straight from the Bluegrass State (or at least inspired by it). They'll all sit pretty on a party-perfect buffet and will be perfectly suited for an afternoon affair, before, after and during the race. Don't forget the hats and bowties!
Try them all

Six twists on the mint julep to try during Derby season, and all summer long
The mint julep is one of our favorite spring and summer cocktails, especially during Derby season. All you need is a great bottle of bourbon, some sugar and mint, and a ice-smashing device and you're good to go. But while we love these classic flavors, we’re always interested in learning new ways to drink a julep. Here are six of our favorites to keep you on the julep train throughout the summer. 
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The dramatic story of a Kentucky pie that launched countless lawsuits
There's nothing like smacking a giant copyright icon on a box of pie to make people want to copy it. Much like McDonald's Big Mac sauce or the ingredients in Coca-Cola, the recipe for the "true" — or at least most strictly branded — Derby-Pie® is shrouded in secrecy. It is also guarded by what I'm assuming are the most litigious pie bakers in the country, if not the world. It's kind of a shame, too, because this pie is, besides the mint julep, one of the the most closely associated recipes with the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky itself. Full of chocolate and nuts, and perhaps a splash of bourbon, it's a slightly fancier and heartier version of pecan pie, and one that's made differently by just about every baker and every kitchen. But no one, except for the Kern's Kitchen pie company, can call it by its true name.
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Southern Kitchen's complete guide to sipping, sniffing and shopping for bourbon
Rather than heading into Derby Day, aka the biggest bourbon holiday of the year, unprepared, pull out your julep cups and snifter glasses and get yourself educated on America's original, and most beloved, Southern spirit. Our Southern Kitchen guide to bourbon has got you covered, from a history lesson and a shopping guide to recipes aplenty. Time to get sipping!
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Take a trip to Lexington, Kentucky for bluegrass, bourbon and more
If you missed can't make it to the actual Derby this year, don't worry. There is plenty of horse racing in Lexington, Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World. Recent trends in Equine Tourism give visitors of all ages an easy, delightful and budget-friendly way to watch world-famous horse races and see the animals up close at the region's many horse farms. Lexington's four-legged citizenry is part of the city's charm and culture. 
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Louisville is the perfect destination for your next girls' trip
On its face Louisville doesn't seem like the type of place for six 30-something women to spend a lively weekend. I convinced them all that this was a trip worth taking by using one very important word: bourbon. 
Hear about the trip

At Limestone Branch Distillery, whiskey-making is about reclaiming a family legacy
At Limestone Branch Distillery, located about ten miles away from the iconic Maker's Mark, two brothers are on a mission to reclaim their family's rightful place among the giants of whiskey distilling. 
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Photos (country ham, mint julep, mixing drinks, horses): Ramona King
Photo (pie): Kate Williams
Photo (Louisville): AC Hotel Louisville
Photo (Limestone Branch): Courtesy of Limestone Branch