The “greatest two minutes in sports” goes down this Saturday, May 4. It might be the shortest race in the Triple Crown, but the Kentucky Derby always inspires festivities that include free-flowing booze, elaborate hats, and swanky fetes. Plenty of Washington bars and restaurants are celebrating, and we found a party for (almost) every mood.
You want: Miniature ponies and an open bar
Go to: Brightest Young Things’ Prancin’ Party at the Hill Center
If anyone knows how to throw an eclectic rager, it’s the BYT crew. You’ll find everything from a barbershop quartet to a “newgrass” band, horses of all sizes and orientations, barbecue-bacon burgers from Spike Mendelsohn, and a host of big-name bartenders. Oh, and the race on the big screen.
Details: Tickets are available online for $60 and day-of for $70; 3 to 8 PM.
You want: Rooftop revelry
Go to: Jack Rose‘s viewing party
It’s an all-day party at this massive bourbon bar, starting with a rooftop brunch from 11 to 3. Stick around for the afternoon activities, which include specials on juleps and bourbon-spiked sweet tea, cigars, free Kentucky-inspired bites, and seven flat-screens showing the race. The derby will also be on in the downstairs saloon.
Details: Open to the public, with drinks and dishes priced individually; 4 to 7, with gratis food between 4 and 6.
You want: A $60 mint julep
Expert barkeeps Duane Sylvestre and Jamie MacBain concocted a special high-roller julep for $60, which comes with Hirsch Reserve 16-year bourbon, Frapin XO Cognac, and chocolate mint and is served in a julep cup to take home. Regular folk can also frequent a julep bar for less-pricey versions, and dress in derby-appropriate gear for a chance to win a bottle of the restaurant’s private-label Four Roses bourbon.
Details: Open to the public; party from 5 to 7.
You want: $5 specials
We’re fans of the Acadiana juleps, and, lucky for you, they’re only $5 during all of the Triple Crown races. You’ll also find $5 burgoo stew, derby pie, and hot browns, the race on the big screen, and samples of Bulleit Bourbon from Acadiana’s whiskey master.
Details: Open to the public; 4 until the derby is over.
You want: Boozy cupcakes and a barbecue
It’s a pretty laid-back affair at this New Orleans-themed H Street bar, with specials from Angel’s Envy bourbon and DC Brau, boozy CrunkCakes confections, and Philip Basil barbecuing on the back patio.
Details: Open to the public; 5 to 7.
You want: A red-carpet soiree
You’ll walk the red carpet in your Kentucky-inspired finest to the wood-paneled bar, where you’ll find juleps from barman Jim Hewes, plus a Southern buffet, live music, a raffle, and prizes for best costume.
Details: Tickets ($75) include all the entertainment, food, and two juleps, and can be purchased by calling 202-637-7350; 4 to 8.
You want: A party with a cause
Go to: The Young Leadership Council’s charity event at Penn Social
The fundraiser is in its fifth year, and includes guest deejays, raffles, games such as shuffleboard and cornhole, and a best-dressed contest to cap off the evening.
Details: Tickets are $25 online or $30 at the door; 4 to 7.
You want: A long-running bash
What could be more fitting than quaffing mint juleps at both Bourbon locations? Expect the usual impressive lineup of the namesake spirit, plus juleps, derby punch, and complimentary Kentucky fare, as well as screenings of the race.
Details: Open to the public; 11 to 7 at both locations.