Off to the Races: How to Celebrate Derby Day!

The Derby Day party at Julep

ON MAY 7 in Kentucky, thousands of race fans will put on their Sunday finest and excessive headwear to watch horses run around the track for exactly one and a quarter mile. It’s a festive occasion to drink and put on fancy hats celebrated all over the South. Head out to one of these eight Houston spots to take in "the fastest two minutes in sports” — and just maybe win a costume contest.


Julep is getting down and derby for its annual Kentucky Derby Day Party on Saturday. As always, the Wash Ave hot spot is throwing an epic party to celebrate Kentucky Derby in style, and encouraging guests to show off their Southern flare and break out their best Derby hats and bowties. Expect house cocktails, mint juleps (of course!), Champagne, a Topo Chico station, two main bars, a whiskey bar, tacos from Cochinita & co., a live DJ set, and a Vinyl Ranch pop-up shop while the bar live streams the Kentucky Derby. The alfresco party will take place noon to 6pm, but the bar stays open until 2am. Pre-sale tickets $10, $20 at the door.

The Rustic

The Rustic

Can’t make it to Churchill Downs? The Rustic and Woodford Reserve are bringing the Run for the Roses to Houston. Kentucky Derby fans – as well as connoisseurs of fashion, great food, live music, and craft cocktails – will gather to join the race-day excitement at the annual Talk Derby to Me soiree May 7. For those getting out of the starting gate early to watch the first races, the Jam & Toast Brunch is from 10am-3pm (the full menu runs from 3pm to close). The Triple Crown Slider will make its annual appearance stacked high with fried green tomato, hot chicken and pulled pork. Splurge-worthy mint juleps will be crafted with Woodford Reserve Bourbon (frozen or over crushed ice). Dress to impress in your finest Derby attire for a chance to win prizes ($50 plus gift card) in three Best Dressed contests, which start at 4pm. For more info and to RSVP, visit the event page.

Loch Bar

Loch Bar (photo by Alex Montoya)

Size matters at Loch Bar, which is celebrating Derby day festivities this year with a “Big Hat Weekend.” The River Oaks District seafood tavern will come to life with a Kentucky Turtle Derby race May 7 at 3pm, where eight elite turtles square off and race to be the first to cross the finish line. The festivities continue with a “best hat” contest, raffle prizes, and mouthwatering mint juleps ($12) until 10pm.

Heights & Co.

Heights & Co.

This vibrant new Heights patio and cocktail bar will debut May 5 with a Kentucky Derby party starting at 1:30pm with refreshing mint juleps and a large projector screen broadcasting the race. Other signature spring cocktails will include the Salted Watermelon and The Spritz (sparkling rosé, aperol, and Topo Chico). Bar bites and entrees are on offer including Bruschetta (cherry tomatoes, grapes, apples, and tarragon), Steak Frites, and Brisket Grilled Cheese (12-hour smoked brisket, house cheese blend and brioche).

Rare Restaurant & Lounge

Chef Don Bowie’s new modern steakhouse will be whipping up classic mint juleps ($15) made with Angel’s Envy bourbon, sweetener and fresh mint, as well as a unique 4105 Julep ($8) with Bacardi spiced rum or Cazadores reposado, passion fruit syrup, fresh mint and Peychaud’s Bitters.


Bludorn is celebrating Derby day festivities with $15 mint juleps all day long. Guests can pull up a chair and sip on this classic Kentucky Derby cocktail while cheering on the races.

River Oaks District

The Granizado Smash at MAD

Sip in Kentucky Derby style on May 7 at Houston’s premier and pedestrian-friendly fashion and restaurant district. Toulouse will be shaking up standout mint juleps and broadcasting the race, as well as serving the signature fresh Blackberry mule and Rosé All Day Punch. Bisou is also offering a mint julep ($15) made with Angel’s Envy Bourbon, simple syrup, and mint. And MAD’s notable bourbon and mint cocktail, Granizado Smash ($18), is made with green mint-flavored shaved ice, Makers Mark 46, peach liqueur and lemon poured tableside. Fancy!

Brasserie 19

In River Oaks, Brasserie 19 hosts a Derby Day party and hat contest beginning at noon. The prize for the best headpiece is a Champagne brunch for six! Reservations are recommended.

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