Even if you don’t have a literal horse in the race, there’s no denying the flamboyant-hatted, julep-drinking appeal of the Kentucky Derby; not to mention the myriad parties to come along with it! And you don’t even need to fly South in order to celebrate the springtime sporting event, thanks to the following rollicking, bluegrass-soundtracked galas, right here in NYC.
Eleven Madison Park: $275 tickets (benefiting the Saratoga WarHorse Foundation) sell out almost immediately to EMP’s annual soiree. And this year’s batch are bound to go like hotcakes, considering it will likely be their final Derby party. Which is why they’re going for broke by bringing on Michael Solomonov, who’ll add fried chicken and donuts to Daniel Humm’s roster of snow cones and raw seafood.
11 Madison Ave, (212) 889-0905
Saxon & Parole: A reliable Derby destination (considering its racehorse-referencing moniker), Saxon + Parole is doling out $120 passes to a fiesta featuring a live bluegrass band, games, betting and prizes, a wide selection of unlimited beer, bubbles and juleps, and seafood towers, whole suckling pig, cotton candy and pies from chefs Brad Farmerie and Nicole Gajadhar.
316 Bowery, (212) 254-0350
Sweetwater Social: Dust off your seersucker suits for a trip to Chris Santos’ subterranean Sweetwater Social, and its Derby Day prizes for best dressed. Other festive extras include a southern-inspired food menu, and appealing drinks specials such as $30 whiskey flights, a $10 “Garland of the Roses” cocktail, $10 Sacred Bond Frozen Grasshoppers, $10 Elijah Craig Juleps, and $8 Cold Spell Mini Julep Shots.
643 Broadway, (212) 253-0477
Maison Premiere: No tickets are needed for access to this James Beard-honored bar, whose Kentucky Derby party entails live music, a radio broadcast of the race, impeccable mint juleps from cocktail guru Will Elliott, the city’s best oyster selection, and a revamped menu from newly appointed Executive Chef, Damon Wise; look for Scallops with aji dulce, Skate Wing in brown butter, Lobster Rolls with Cape Cod chips and Pork Porterhouse over silky pommes puree.
298 Bedford Ave, (347) 335-0446
Watermark Bar: This bi-level indoor-outdoor venue along the East River is celebrating the 143rd Run for the Roses with onsite balloon hat makers (in case you forgot your chapeau at home), games of horseshoe and corn hole, stick horse races, a broadcast of the Kentucky event on 8 flat screen TV’s, and a Maker’s Mark Mint Julep bar.
78 South St, (212) 742-8200
Pier A Harbor House: Smack dab astride the Hudson, this Battery Park oasis is transforming into the Churchill Downs of the North; kicking off the day at 1pm with Mint Juleps, Southern hors d’oeuvres, giant chess games and bluegrass on their outdoor plaza, and continuing the party inside of their Long Hall Gastro Pub and Oyster & Commissioners Bar later in the afternoon, for exclusive Derby Day sips and eats.
22 Battery Pl, (212) 785-0153