Those who don’t have a ticket to the 143rd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs need not worry: D.C. does a fine job of replicating the allure of race day — complete with free-flowing Mint Juleps, Southern-themed brunches, and fancy viewing parties.
Restaurants do all the work. So just throw on a big hat and something seersucker (or plaid) and get ready to party Louisville-style all weekend long, despite the actual horse race lasting just a quick two minutes.
Head to the Louisiana-inspired restaurant on Saturday, May 6 for a chance to score a free dinner. Catch the races on big screens while consuming $5 race day specials and Bulleit bourbon samplings. For the Kentucky Derby, it’s all about the hot browns, burgoo stew, Derby pie, and Bulleit-spiked Mint Juleps. The best “Derby Day” hat or bowtie wins gift cards.
Specials on mint juleps and Kentucky hot brown bites, and the Chinatown restaurant will be giving away two tickets to the Preakness at its party.
BLT Steak will be featuring a Peach Julep and a Traditional Julep Friday and Saturday for $16.
Bourbon will host its longtime watch party with brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Classic Mint Juleps prepared with crushed ice and Old Forester, the official bourbon of Churchill Downs, will be just $10 all day. Classic Derby pies are among the passed treats Bourbon will offer guests. A prize will be offered for the best-dressed, and a separate raffle will also shower rewards on one lucky winner.
Get a Mint Julep for $12, or experience its lesser-known sibling, the Oaks Lilly. Served at Churchill Downs on race day, the companion drink features vodka, orange liquor, lemon juice, cranberry juice, and is garnished with a lemon wedge and a blackberry.
Farmers & Distillers
Founding Spirits’s latest offering, Founding Spirits American Whiskey, is finally ready after being pot stilled and barrel aged for at least 18 months at Copper Fox Distillery. On Derby Day, a branded copper julep cup with a copper straw will be handed out to the first 10 guests who purchase a bottle of the signature release ($52).
Jack Rose Dining Saloon/Dram & Grain
Head to this bourbon-stocked rooftop for Derby punch ($8), Mint Juleps ($9), bourbon cocktails ($10), whiskey flights, stogies, complimentary Southern bites, and a live viewing of the 2017 Run for the Roses.
And for those looking for a more intimate 20-seat viewing experience, Jack Rose’s subterranean cocktail den will play host to an underground viewing party from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring Derby-themed drinks. Reservations are recommended.
Expect traditional Derby food specials like fried green tomatoes ($9), Kentucky Hot Browns ($16), and Chocolate Bourbon Derby Pie ($8) from 3 p.m. until close. A menu of assorted juleps ($9) will be served, including the Classic Mint Julep, as well as peach and blackberry iterations. Rolling Rocks will also be on special ($5); there’s also gift card giveaways for a Best Dressed competition.
The downtown steakhouse is offering two special Derby Day cocktails ($13) this weekend in honor of the races. The Kentucky Rose cocktail is made with Bulleit bourbon, fresh lemon juice, house-made grenadine, BitterCube Cherry Vanilla bark bitters and mint leaves. The Derby Day Mint Julep is Ocean Prime's spin on a classic, featuring Old Forrester bourbon, simple syrup, Disaronno, Angostura Bitters, and mint leaves.
This Merrifield spot plans to feature Mint Juleps and Kentucky Mules on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6.
Voltaggio Brothers Steak House
Beverage director Dane Nakamura has developed a Mint Julep ($16) that employs sous-vide to create a Wild Turkey 101 bourbon flavored with baked apple-brown butter. The bourbon mixture is then served with a healthy batch of mint, Angostura Bitters, and crushed ice.
The hotel will host a viewing party at The Next Whisky Bar. Get bottomless Julips, dive into food stations, hat and tie contests and more for $50+ per person through EventBrite. Festivities kick off at 3:30 p.m.
It’s the 31st Annual Bonnets & Bow Ties Kentucky Derby Party at this historic D.C. hotel. Celebrate with an afternoon of Maker’s Mark Mint Juleps, an open beer and wine bar, a southern style buffet, a live jazz ensemble, casino-style games, as well as a contest for the “Best Derby Bonnet” and “Fanciest Bow Tie.” Tickets are $99 per person and the festivities are scheduled to run from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.; for reservations, call 202-942-7000.
After Bonnets & Bow Ties, “The Race to the 200th Cup” begins. Upon selling 200 Mint Juleps in the Round Robin Bar, The Willard will release 100 limited edition commemorative Round Robin Bar Mint Julep cups.
The pewter cup pays tribute to the famous drink and its historical significance to The Willard as the Mint Julep was first introduced to the District by Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay in the hotel’s bar in the 1840s. The lucky purchaser of the 200th mint julep will receive the first commemorative cup.