A few years ago, a new friend (who has become a dear friend), Joanie Simon, and I went to a Kentucky Derby party… fancy dresses, big hats, people-watching, and a mint julep or two, and we made it a tradition!
It seemed that only the resorts held events with much fanfare, but things have changed (in a good way), with a variety of restaurants getting in on the action. See below for a list of places to rock giant hats, seersucker suits, sip on bourbon cocktails, to celebrate the fastest, most exciting 2 minutes in sports!
Okra: Okay, you guys know I have an
obsession *ahem* affection for Crudo & their cocktails, and I feel the same way about Okra, with amazing dishes from Chef Cullen Campbell, and cocktails from Micah Olson & his amazing team. Love Southern comfort food? From 2pm to 5pm, nibble on fried chicken skins with habanero honey; smoked wings with homemade hot sauce; Kentucky hot brown dogs; country ham bolognese with biscuits… should I go on? Okra has an extensive offering of juleps, beyond the typical julep which includes the Okra Cup: housemade Pimm’s, lemon, cucumber, strawberry and seltzer; and Champagne juleps with gin, Champagne, raspberry, and mint. Tickets are available for pre-sale for $15 and include a hammered stainless steel mint julep cup, a free order of chicken skins (drizzle some Homeboy’s Habanero hot sauce on top!) and your first julep for only a penny. 5813 N. 7th St., Phoenix, 602.296.4147
Southern Rail: From 1-5 p.m., enjoy $6 mint juleps, Chef Beckett’s tasty dishes with a Southern twist, and a good dose of Southern hospitality. There will be multiple screens to watch the day’s events, with the big race starting at 3:34 p.m. Derby attire is encouraged, and Southern Rail will award prizes for best men and women’s hats, plus a “best dressed overall” category. 300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602.200.0085
Second Story Liquor Bar: Can we say swanky AND exclusive? Second Story’s Derby party is limited to 44 people & features welcome cocktails and passed appetizers, followed by an elegant 3course Derby-inspired menu prepared by Chef Nick Rusticus–you won’t be disappointed! They’ll have games, prizes, and, most importantly, mint juleps! 12pm-3pm & $100 per person. 4166 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 480.945.5555
Kelly’s at Southbridge: Stop by Kelly’s for their viewing party and enjoy classic Jim Beam Mint Juleps and refreshing champagne while you cheer on your favorite horse. Don’t forget to come dressed to the nines! Kelly’s will be giving away prizes for the best Kentucky Derby inspired hat.
And last, but not least…
Bourbon Steak: I went to this event last year, and I’m so excited to go again this year! Inspired by “Millionaire Row” at Churchill Downs, Bourbon Steak’s Kentucky Derby brunch and lawn party will feature Bulleit bourbon tastings from their own hand-selected barrel, cocktails, and elegant Southern-inspired bites that will make your taste buds happy. Executive Chef Jeremy McMillan will dish out Kentucky hot browns, pickled shrimp toasts, sweet tea-brined fried chicken, house-smoked Andouille sausage, sweet pies and more. Once you have your cocktail in hand, head out to the “Winner’s Circle” lawn to play lawn games or take a selfie with a thoroughbred race horse, all while watching the race on one of the flat-screen TVs. Winners of the “Best Dressed” contest can win a hat, dinner for two at Bourbon Steak and a weekend at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess! $95 per person includes a complete Southern-style lunch, dessert bar, three cocktails, live music, racing games, commemorative keepsake Kentucky Derby glass and much more. Reservations are required. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Drive, Scottsdale, 480.585.2694
So, have fun, help contribute to the mint julep consumption of mint juleps at Churchill Downs (those Kentucky lushes drink almost 120 THOUSAND mint juleps for the Derby!), and get home safely. I look forward to seeing your Derby outfits and cocktails on social media! #BoozeMafia