The Kentucky Derby is coming up on Saturday, and that means it’s party planning time if you aren’t heading to Churchill Downs in Louisville.

What does it take to put together a fun Derby watching party? It’s surprisingly easy. You’ll need a way to watch the race, of course. NBC will have the May 7 race, as well as hours of coverage on NBCSports.com.

And hats: Get creative, make your own at home.

For those who don’t bet online, you can still get the flavor by drawing Derby horse names out of a hat to root for.

Here are more ideas that will give you an authentic Run for the Roses flavor at home.

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Tawnya Rivers drank a mint julep and watched horses at Churchill Downs on Derby Day 2019 in Louisville. Kathryn Ziesig

Mint julep recipe

Here’s the secret to a great mint julep: Ice. It’s true. They taste best cold.

Don’t bother with the pre-made mint julep drinks you can buy at the liquor store. Because a julep is basically a fresh spearmint, simple syrup, ice and bourbon.

“The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book” by Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler has this recipe:

From the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com: Everything you need to know about Kentucky bourbon

But here’s the truth: Mint juleps at the track are not that great. It’s about the experience of having one at Churchill Downs. So feel free to skip the julep and try another (and much tastier in my opinion) Derby cocktail: The Woodford Spire. It’s also served at Churchill and made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, which sponsors the Derby.

A certain pecan pie with chocolate chips

You probably know the one I’m talking about. It’s sometimes referred to as May Day Pie because its association with the Derby. Kern’s Kitchen makes the original Derby Pie, a kind of corn syrup and pecan pie with chocolate chips and, sometimes, bourbon.

There are lots of variations on the theme, including versions that leave out bourbon entirely if that isn’t to your taste.

Lexington cookbook author Barbara Harper Bach, who knows her way around award-winning pies, has a unique take: She calls hers Racetrack Pie and dresses it up with bourbon whipped cream when serving. She also likes to put horse-themed cutouts on top while the pie bakes to give it a festive look.

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Barbara Harper Bach’s Racetrack Pie is a variation on the classic Kentucky pie with bourbon, chocolate and nuts. She uses cutouts to give it a festive look, then dresses it with bourbon whipped cream for serving. Barbara Harper Bach

Benedictine spread recipe

Other Kentucky specialties that you can add to the feast include Benedictine sandwiches, a kind of cucumber spread created by Louisville caterer Jennie Benedict more than 100 years ago.

Cookbook author Ronni Lundy included a version in her “Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken.” Serve on crustless white bread, with crackers or with veggies for dipping.

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Janet Patton covers restaurants, bars, food and bourbon for the Herald-Leader. She is an award-winning business reporter who also has covered agriculture, gambling, horses and hemp.
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