Even if you know nothing about horses, the Kentucky Derby is an excuse to don your favorite seersucker suit, sundress or elaborately decorated hat and spend a day drinking mint juleps. Whichever party you attend, remember that post time is at 6:24 p.m. Saturday.
Jack Rose, which has been a popular destination for Derby viewing in recent years, won't be open to the public on Saturday: It has been rented for Buzzfeed's White House Correspondents' Dinner party. You can, however head for Bourbon in Adams Morgan or Glover Park, which will pour mint juleps in the proper metal Derby cups and offer complimentary hors d'oeuvres, such as mini Kentucky hot browns. Adams Morgan begins serving brunch at 11 a.m.; Glover Park opens at noon. Neither will charge a cover.
Poste's Derby Day is an afternoon of fun with horse racing games, live bluegrass and Derby souvenirs in support of local charity Brainfood. The $75 ticket includes a Southern-inspired feast by chef Dennis Marron and unlimited drinks from 3 to 7 p.m., including draft mint juleps and a special DC Brau Penn Quarter Porter aged in Knob Creek Bourbon barrels, and an official Kentucky Derby glass. Top prize in the Wii Horse Racing tournament will be a trip to the Jim Beam Estate in Clermont, Ky., with a private tour and an overnight stay at the Booker T. Noe house. If you come with a group of eight or more, the ticket price drops to $65. At the other end of the price spectrum, a $200 VIP ticket adds a guided bourbon tasting and private food and drink areas.
If you want to go beyond the usual juleps, Little Miss Whiskey's is roasting a "bourbon-injected" pig on its patio and serving slow-cooked bourbon-pecan brisket and peach-bourbon ribs. Celebrity drag queen Kristina Kelly is hosting a Derby fashion contest, so giant hats, pastel dresses and jockey outfits are recommended if you want to win gift certificates and other prizes. Doors open at 5 p.m. and there's no cover charge.
The Willard's Round Robin Bar hosts the classiest Derby Day viewing party in town: An older crowd dresses up with fancy bowties and bonnets to enjoy a Southern buffet, cocktails and live music, beginning at 3 p.m. The $80 ticket includes food, two mint juleps made using Henry Clay's recipe – he introduced the julep to Washington at the hotel's bar – and the official souvenir glass. Reservations are essential: Call 202-637-7350.
The Red Derby's annual Derby Day party starts at 11 a.m. with the traditional Big Hat Brunch -- elaborate sunhats requested -- where bloody marys and mimosas are $3. Mint juleps cost $5 all day, or "until the mint runs out, which is usually around 7 p.m.," says owner Sasha Carter. Around 6 p.m., the bar starts serving free Derby Pie, and the race will be shown on the bar's projection screens.
The Brixton has started hosting day parties on its roof deck on warm weekends, and its owners plan to show all three legs of the Triple Crown with special cocktails and contests. The series begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, with $8 Bulleit mint juleps and $5 draft beers. The race itself will be shown on both the roof and in the second-floor "lodge" room. Wear "Southern belle" or "Southern gentlemen" attire for a chance to win free drinks and other prizes.
Southern Efficiency is a temple of bourbon, but it doesn't have any TVs. So how will the Southern-flavored restaurant and bar throw a Kentucky Derby party? "We'll probably throw it on the radio and announce the winner," owner Derek Brown says in an email. "I think it's more exciting that way." What's actually exciting is the idea of mint juleps on draft, created by cocktail whiz JP Fetherston. Pair those with hot browns and bourbon balls and you've got the makings of a great party, even if you can't watch "the fastest two minutes in sports." Doors open at 2 p.m. for pre-race pregaming.
While the Taste of Merrifield has many more attractions than the Kentucky Derby – live music, a Port City Brewing Company beer garden, Lego-building tents for kids – the race will be shown on a big screen outdoors at the Mosaic District, and the day also includes a hat contest for women and pony rides for children. Gates open at noon.
Acadiana will show off its new big-screen TV and revamped patio during all three legs of the Triple Crown, with $5 food and drink specials for each race. For the Kentucky Derby, it's appetizer-sized portions of Derby pie, hot browns and burgoo stew, paired with (what else?) mint juleps, beginning at 4 p.m.
The Mint Julep isn't the only drink served at Churchill Downs: The Kentucky Oaks, an annual race for three-year-old fillies held the day before the Kentucky Derby, has its own cocktail, too. The Oaks Lily is basically a vodka and cranberry with sour mix and triple sec. The Lily will be on the menu at Logan Tavern's Derby viewing party, alongside mint juleps and a ginger Arnold Palmer, for $8. Other menu items include ham and biscuits and fried green tomatoes ($5-$8), and a $15 bourbon sampler that includes Angel's Envy, Basil Hayden's and Bulleit.
A previous version of this post misspelled the name of Red Derby owner Sasha Carter, and celebrity drag queen Kristina Kelly. This version has been corrected.