Throw a Cinco de Derby or Derby de Mayo Party!

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

"Luna azul de Kentucky brilla siempre..."


[Photographs: Meredith Smith unless otherwise noted]

What happens when the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo collide? You might call it Cinco de Derby or Derby de Mayo, or something far less appropriate*! Big hats, mustaches, horses, and booze are the ingredients for this holiday that only comes once every seven years. (Ok, I don't know if that's true, but it sounds good: Four score and seven Cinco de Derbies ago...) We've shown you how to throw a Kentucky Derby party and how to make a fiesta for Cinco de Mayo. As the resident Spanish speaking Kentuckian, I bring you the complete guide to Cinco de Derby!

*Derby Sanchez, and I give full credit to the brilliant Daniel Souza for coining the term.



Bringing Mexico and the Derby together is easier than you'd think. Since you have two themes to pull from, there are many more options for setting the scene. A burro piñata does double duty as equine symbol and a Mexican fiesta staple. As the Derby is alternatively known as "the run for the roses," springing for the real thing is one option, or go with brightly colored tissue paper.

Here's a step-by-step guide to making some:


Making these flowers is easy and doesn't cost more than a couple packs of tissue paper and some pipe cleaners. Using 8-10 sheets of tissue cut to 10x12-inches, fold the short end (about 1-inch) accordion style. Secure the tissue at the middle with a pipe cleaner, cut the ends into pointy or round petal shapes, and then pull the tissue up toward the center. And you have this!


You can make larger pom-poms by starting with squares of paper that are 20x30-inches. They're great for hanging from the ceiling.

Menu Ideas


[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Traditional Derby menus include daintier fare (country ham biscuits and benedictine sandwiches) than would be found at a Cinco de Derby party.

The pinnacle of the Cinco de Derby menu is the whiskey wiener. There is no food better suited to this affair than that drunken sausage. Beer cheese is an important spread to have on hand; consider substituting Dos Equis for Bass for a more Cinco de Mayo-y twist. And carnitas, folded in tacos or topping a fried tostada, is right up there with country ham biscuit for best pork and carb combo at this party.



[Image used with permission of Photograph: Sandra Denneler]

Have you ever seen a cuter or more clever cookie than these Cinco de Mayo piñata cookies?! They're AMAZING, right?! More cookies need a hollow center to hold your favorite candy coated chocolate inside. If you really want to raise the dessert bar, you'll make these. And keeping the colorful piñata flair, stay true to the spirit of Cinco de Derby by using a horse cookie cutter instead of the burro. You can get the recipe and how-to over on

For additional dessert options you could go the Derby track with pecan or lemon tassies or bourbon balls, or check out these 9 sweets for your Cinco de Mayo fiesta. Remember, the best part of a Cinco de Derby party is that you have two holiday menus to pull from.



[Photograph: Alice Gao]

A julep always has a place at this party. If you want to really embrace this holiday mashup, try making yours with an anejo tequila. Or better yet, offer your guests both a bourbon and tequila option.

For a perfect mint julep with bourbon or tequila, the technique is the same. (Here are some julep pro tips.) But don't stop at liquor options. Set up a julep bar with a couple of simple syrup variations:


I got the julep bar idea from this Southern Living article. The recipe variations they list include: mint syrup, grapefruit-honey syrup, peach-basil syrup, blackberry syrup, and pineapple-lemongrass. Olé!

Cantaloupe Margaritas

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Of course if juleps aren't your thing, try one (or a couple) of these instead:

Don't forget the tunes! Luna Azul de Kentucky by Mingo Saldivar y Sus Tremendos Cuatro Espadas is a must have. You can listen and buy it here.

Feliz Cinco de Derby, ya'll!