Things to Do on Derby Day

The race happens this Saturday, May 5. Here’s a roundup of goings-on and a couple of thoughts on entertaining.

Celebrate Derby Day with mint juleps. Photograph courtesy of iStock.

Derby Day falls on Cinco de Mayo this year. We’ve already rounded up a bunch of Cinco-related bar happenings; below you’ll find some of the bars offerings specials and such in honor of the race. Below that: some ideas for derby-themed parties, in case you’re pondering a last-minute shindig.

The Derby Day party at the St. Regis begins at 3 PM on Saturday. Watch the race while you sip mint juleps or an original cocktail by wine director Brent Knoll–he’s
created a bacon-rye Bloody Mary and a ginger Old Fashioned for the
occasion. (Side note: You can also get a damn fine mint julep at the
lounge at Bourbon Steak). Wear the best hat, win a free drink. Predict
the winning horse, win a complimentary dessert. Predict the second-place
horse, win a free cocktail. And here’s the kicker: predict the first-,
second-, and third-place horses in the exact order they win–the
so-called “trifecta”–and you’ll get dinner for two at Adour.

Meanwhile, at the Willard Hotel’s Round Robin bar,
a $75 entrance fee buys you access to the Bonnets and Bowties Kentucky
Derby Bash. The event goes from 3 to 8 PM. In addition to specialty
cocktails–including juleps made using Henry Clay’s original recipe,
meaning there’s water added–there’s a Southern buffet and a chance to
win prizes. For $700 you can reserve a private ten-person table. Reserve
by calling 202-637-7350.

Head to the rollicking Acadiana bar for $5 juleps in honor of the occasion, along with $5 food specials including hot browns, burgoo stew, and derby pie. Also offering derby pie and $5 mint juleps: the Red Derby bar in Columbia Heights–it was named for a hat but, you know, whatever.

Pick your poison at Jack Rose Dining Saloon on Saturday: It’s $75 per person at the Kentucky Derby Saloon Celebration (4 to 7 PM), which will feature an open bar with Kentucky-inspired cocktails and food. A free party on the roof celebrates both Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day with snow cones in mint julep and margarita flavors, discounted beers, and wrap sandwiches. That starts at 4. More information on Eventbrite.

Entertaining ideas:
If you’re planning on making juleps, consider dusting off this two-year-old Atlantic post by Washington cocktail whisperer Derek Brown. Especially important is Brown’s note about not overbruising the mint, which renders it bitter. Also remember to make simple syrup in advance so you’re not stuck waiting around for it to cool. And if you don’t have a fridge with a ice-crushing function, consider picking up a Lewis bag.

Balducci’s is offering special takeaway items for the occasion, including fried chicken, low-country pulled pork, pesto pasta salad, and coleslaw. Check out the website for more info.