Kentucky Derby Afternoon


When my friend asked me last week if I wanted to go to a Kentucky Derby party on Saturday I immediately thought, YES! picturing a big, glamorous hat, a mint julep in hand and gorgeous men everywhere. (The event was hosted by Esquire magazine—cough cough). But when I caught wind of the pretty penny I’d have to fork up for a ticket, it seemed downright irresponsible to spend so frivolously, being that I have just recently been inducted into the society of the unemployed. And then I remembered that secret stash I put away for special occasions! So I ran to the phone and dialed my friend with the affirmative.

Anxious all week, not so much for the race itself, but for the celebration, Derby day finally arrived. And knowing nothing much about the Kentucky Derby, save for the presence of the aforementioned big hat and mint julep, I arrived at the venue only hoping my ensemble was stylistically on the mark. Thankfully, it turned out I fit right in. Even if I hadn’t, surely I would’ve had a smashing good time, because it was just one of those events, where every detail lay perfectly in place, where not a corner was cut, where the goal was to impress. When the brains behind the fête include the Editor-in-Chief of the hottest men’s magazine and the CEO of one of Gotham’s most esteemed restaurant groups, you know you won’t be disappointed. 

The morning’s rain showers cleared out just in time for the late afternoon bash to get underway and made for a perfect Derby day on the courtyard of Eleven Madison Park. Ladies and gents dressed to the nines in vintage-inspired ensembles with hats and heels, bowties and seersucker suits; a ‘flower of the Kentucky Derby’ red rose on every table; Nat Sherman cigars and live Kentucky Bluegrass, the scene felt like one straight out of Louisville in the 1940s.

And of course, food and drink were a plenty. Barmen looking just as dapper as the guests mixed fancy bourbon cocktails—the mint julep of course, served in a silver cup, which little did I know is really nothing more than a bourbon slushy, but quite delish, indeed! Servers dished out plates of fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits at one stop, and a cornucopia of the most divine seafood at the next, loaded with an oyster raw bar, lobster, king crab and shrimp. I blushed when the server commented how hungry I must’ve been when showing up for a third helping of grits. Such a lady I am, I know!

As for the race that lasted all of two minutes, I have to say I even loved it. Regardless of the bourbon-induced haze I found myself in, I stood in awe of the thoroughbred contingent and cheered with my ‘Old Kentucky’ in hand at the little horse that could…and did.

I have to say my first steps in four-inch stilettos with a big-brimmed hat, that despite being apropos was a bit of challenge, were somewhat daunting with a few near run-ins with other equally decked-out gals. But by the end of the afternoon, I was wishing for more occasions to play dress up, big hat and all.

As I asked my friend when we left, can we have a Derby party every weekend? I’ll bring the bourbon!

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