This post has been updated with additional events.
We're just over a week away from the Kentucky Derby, a two-minute horse race that's the perfect excuse for a full day of partying. Bourbon, big hats and seersucker are de rigueur at most of these May 2 events, so plan accordingly. (And remember, post time is around 6:24 p.m., so make sure you're in front of a TV before then.)
Admission is free unless otherwise noted.
Garden & Gun Derby Social
The hip Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun is taking over Jack Rose's rooftop deck from 4 to 7 p.m., offering mint juleps, Bulleit bourbon cocktails, Southern-inspired snacks, live music by Nashville-based singers Lindsay Ellyn and Taylor Alexander, a cigar lounge and a best-dressed contest. The race will be shown on multiple flat-screen TVs. All-inclusive tickets are $125, available from Garden & Gun's Website.
With the ticketed Garden & Gun party upstairs, Jack Rose is throwing its annual Derby viewing party in the first-floor saloon bar. (They're bringing in a projection screen for the day so that revelers don't miss a minute of the race.) As usual, there will be complimentary passed hors d'oeuvres – watch for the Kentucky hot browns – and drink specials, with juleps, Derby punch and neat whiskey ranging from $5 to $9. No RSVPs are required, but space is limited, so early arrival is suggested.
Bourbon Glover Park
Bourbon's 12th annual Kentucky Derby Celebration kicks off at noon, with brunch until 4 p.m. After 4:30, there are free passed hors d'oeuvres, including mini hot browns, cucumber sandwiches and crab-and-shrimp-stuffed cherry tomatoes. Drink specials include $8 mint juleps and $6 Derby punch. No reservations are needed for seating on the back patio or the main bar, though it does tend to fill up quickly.
Willard Hotel's Round Robin Bar
This year will be the 29th edition of the Willard Hotel's annual Bonnets and Bow-Ties Kentucky Derby Party, which includes live music, a Southern buffet, and prizes for the best bowties and bonnets. The $105 entry fee includes food and two mint juleps or glasses of wine between 3 and 6 p.m., as well as entry into multiple raffles. The Willard makes its julep from Henry Clay's original recipe, which gives it a certain amount of Kentucky cache. For tickets, call 202-942-7000.
The day begins at 11 a.m. with the Red Derby's traditional Big Hat Brunch, which features $5 mint juleps to go with the neighborhood bar's usual menu of huevos rancheros, papusas and breakfast burritos. The dress code is in the name: "If you've got a spectacular hat on, we'll recognize that, perhaps with a free mint julep," says owner Sasha Carter. Brunch runs until 3, but the drink deals continue all afternoon, along with free homemade Derby Pie. For race time, the Red Derby now has three projection screens: two in the main bar and one on the rooftop deck.
Some restaurants play favorites with the Triple Crown, but Acadiana shows all three races – the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont – with different $5 specials and cocktails. The series kicks off on May 2 with hot browns, burgoo stew and Derby pie, paired with Bulleit mint juleps. Admission is free, and there are hat and bow tie contests, with prizes for the prettiest, craziest and "Best DIY" of each.
Southern Efficiency's Derby Day Party doubles as pre-gaming for the U Street Funk Parade, which goes marching by at 5 p.m. Doors open early at 2 p.m. for mint juleps on tap and hot brown specials, and they'll show the race live if you can tear yourself away from the parade.
A special race-day menu at Logan Tavern features fried green tomatoes, Kentucky hot brown and Derby pie from 3 p.m. to close. Mint juleps are $8, but the bar also serves variations, including a blackberry-sage julep and a peach-tarragon julep.
Why is an English-inspired pub showing the Kentucky Derby? Why not? Watch the race on TVs on all three levels of the Brixton while sipping $5 Derby punch. Prizes will be awarded for the best male and female outfits.
The Melrose Hotel
A newcomer to the Kentucky Derby hoopla, the West End hotel is throwing a party in its garden-like Jardenea Lounge from 3 to 7 p.m., serving mint juleps and bacon old fashioneds, and showing the race on multiple flat-screen TVs.
Derby-Q Festival: BBQ, Blues, Bourbon & Brews Festival
An afternoon-long festival in downtown Fairfax's Old Town Square and Old Town Hall features live music; beer from eight Virginia breweries; a guided whiskey tasting; barbecue vendors; and the Kentucky Derby on a large screen. Admission is $10 for all guests ages 4 and older. A beer tasting package, which includes eight beer tasting tickets, is $25; a package including the whiskey tasting and eight beer tickets is $65. Seating for the whiskey tasting is limited, and all tickets can be purchased in advance from Fairfax County.
Little Miss Whiskey's
Little Miss Whiskey's marks the Derby with another of its perennially popular all-you-can-eat pig roasts, featuring a whole hog butchered and prepared by Queen Vic chef Ryan Gordon. The menu includes pig injected with a whiskey, apple and maple syrup sauce; peach bourbon-glazed ribs; beer-braised sausage with sauerkraut; and sides of pimento mac and cheese, jalapeno cheesy grits, and pork belly potato salad. The $48 ticket also includes unlimited pints of Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, Hellbender Southern Torrent Saison and Jack's Hard Cider until the kegs kick. Once you're sated, the Derby will be shown on a projection screen inside. Important warning: Pig roasts at Little Miss Whiskey's sell out in advance, and tickets are limited.
Bourbon Adams Morgan
Brunch is offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bourbon, followed by free passed hors d'oeuvres, $6 Derby punch and $10 mint juleps. The race will be shown in the main bar as well as on the patio, and owners promise they will raffle "rare whiskey bottles" throughout the day.
Adams Morgan bar Johnny Pistolas is turning the race into a fundraiser for a good cause. A $10 donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is good for drink specials from 2 to 8 p.m., including $3 Tecate, $4 Pacifico, and $5 mint juleps and Oaks Lilies. (The Oaks Lily is a vodka/cranberry/sour/triple sec concoction that's the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, a race that takes place the day before the Derby.) Entertainment comes from a DJ, and prizes will be awarded for the best outfit and best hat.
Mint juleps and Derby pie are fine if you're pretending you're at the Kentucky Derby, but Rebellion is embracing its more immediate surroundings: Its Kentucky Derby party promises a Chesapeake-style crab boil from 2 to 6 p.m., with $4 Flying Dog Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale and whiskey specials.
Annapolis whiskey bar Dry 85 is showing the race, but the party starts at 1 p.m. Mint juleps made with Makers Mark 46 bourbon are $11 all day, and each order comes with a souvenir rocks glass dipped in Makers Mark's signature red wax. Everyone wearing a fancy hat is eligible for prizes.
On Capitol Hill, Barrel offers several different takes on the mint julep, including a "slushie-style" iced julep; a version aged in barrels of Branca Menta, a minty Italian liqueur; and a draft version poured on the bar's patio. (All drinks are $12.) The kitchen's menu features hot browns for the day.