Horse Race Homegating: Tips for Entertaining (Cocktails Edition)

Hungry Fan
May 4, 2017
The Kentucky Derby is "the most exciting two minutes in sports." The Preakness & the Belmont aren't far behind. Be sure the cocktails at your watch party are just as exciting!

The trick to throwing a great watch party--whether it's horse racing or otherwise--is variety, variety, variety.

Because let's face it, not everyone's got the same tastes and preferences.

Certainly, when you think of Kentucky Derby cocktails--or even horse racing cocktails (for spectating)--you think of the Mint Julep. But if you're going to host a Derby watch party, you've got to remember that not everyone loves bourbon. Some find it much too sweet. Thus, I recommend offering at least one other signature cocktail featuring an alternative spirit to appease everyone's palates. For me, vodka is a generally safe bet.

If you are lucky enough to attend Churchill Downs for the Derby, you'd find the Mint Julep--but you'd also find two other featured cocktails: the Oaks Lily, which is almost as famous and steeped in tradition as the julep, and Le Grand Fizz. Both are refreshing cocktails and a bit elevated, if you will. Mastering these cocktails for your own homegate is quite easy and will make you look like quite the host and mixologist.

The Oaks Lily

At Churchill Downs, you'll find the Oaks Lily served in a festive commemorative glass as the official cocktail of the Kentucky Oaks. A tribute to the elite horse race, the Oaks Lily is a delicious combination of Grey Goose, cranberry juice, orange liqueur, and fresh lemon. Though the Mint Julep is often synonymous with the Derby weekend, the Oaks Lily has long given the staple libation a run for its money as the cocktail becomes more and more popular. The friendly rivalry has established the Oaks Lily as the true tournament fan favorite with spectators clad in their best southern finery lining up to enjoy the refreshing cocktail. 

Get the recipe here.

You certainly aren't expected to serve the Oaks Lily in a commemorative, etched glass at your watch party. An easy substitute is a stemless wine glass or even a tumbler if that's all you've got. (And hey, if you've got a bunch of people coming over, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to stay away from glass. In the very least, try to choose a clear or clear-ish plastic cup to serve these in--as opposed to the standard blue or red Solo cup--because the color of this drink is too alluring to hide behind opaque plastic).

Le Grand Fizz

Le Grand Fizz is another fun and refreshing, not to mention kind of bougie, cocktail to include in your homegate adult beverage offerings. It's a snazzy twist on the classic spritz and features a revitalizing mix of Grey Goose, St-Germain, soda water, and fresh lemon juice. 

Get the recipe here.

Again, glass stemware is maybe not what you're looking to use for your watch party. I've found plenty of plastic stemware glasses online for a decent price. I'd suggest start there before reaching for the cheapo plastic cups.

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Enjoy racing reason! And good luck throwing the greatest watch party ever!