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! 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!

First, we want to touch on setting the mood for your Derby Party, especially for those friends who have never attended one before. By sending your guests invitations, the old fashioned way, they’ll know what to expect in terms of dress attire - elegant fascinators for the women and bow ties for the men! Next is you want to have a cocktail for your guests as soon as they walk through the door. I created a twist to the classic mint julep – a Sparkling Peach Mint Julep - including fresh peaches and bubbly to balance the smokiness of bourbon. We will add flowers to add an elegant and colorful accent.

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. Not only must your dishes taste delicious, but you can’t forget the details are everything – meaning it’s time to break out your inner Southern Belle flare!

Appetizer: An easy spread you can have out is fresh seasonal veggies with pimento dip. I replaced cheddar cheese with goat cheese to give the app a lighter taste.

Main: A build your own pork sliders bar so guests can add their own condiments and additions. This dish pairs nicely with the 14 Hands Limited Edition Kentucky Derby Red Blend as this opulent varietal is a match made in heaven with pulled pork.

Side: The oh-so comforting southern cheese grits dish pairs perfectly with Pinot Grigio as a light contrast to the weightier taste of the dish.

Dessert: For those with a sweet tooth, Kentucky Bourbon Butter Cake with peach sauce screams to pair with Rosé as the citrus notes harmonizes well with the flavors in this cake.

Lastly, to get your guests hands-on with the Derby action, have a betting board out for attendees to pick their winners. We recommend a prize basket on hand for the winner to get your guests in the competitive spirit! See here for a bunch of great and easy examples.

You can find the above recipes and read more about my Derby party tips at samanthasommelier.com

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