Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas1 of 11
If you want to throw a party worthy of a Triple Crown victory, look no further than this Kentucky Derby-themed celebration designed by Claire Thomas, the blogger behind The Kitchy Kitchen and the author of The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously. Stakes are high when you want to honor and impress the bride-to-be, but we are certain she’ll swoon over this old-fashioned soiree with its sporty details, savory spins on Southern cuisine, and a DIY activity that will ensure everyone gets dressed for the occasion.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas2 of 11
Make Your Pick
A bridal shower inspired by the annual “Run for the Roses” demands a table decorated in vases full of the vivid bloom. Trim the stems and arrange them in Derby souvenir glasses and julep cups for a touch that is both festive and unfussy.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas3 of 11
Gold and brass accents add a sporty touch to the celebration. Julep cups sit ready for the fresh mint and bourbon arranged on a vintage Kentucky Derby platter nearby.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas4 of 11
Drink of Champions
An intricate decanter holds ounces upon ounces of bourbon. Thomas mixed the base for her Make-Ahead Rosewater Mint Juleps the day before the shower and stored it overnight in the fridge for easy day-of prep.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas5 of 11
The tricks to making a sipper this delicious are (lots of) crushed ice and homemade mint simple syrup. Guests will be toasting and cheering, regardless of what happens at the finish line.
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Although Thomas is a California native, she knows how to fry up juicy pieces of the Southern bird, thanks to a friend of hers who hails from the Bluegrass State (and inspired Thomas to make her own recipe).
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When creating her Traditional Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe, Thomas knew it would quickly ruin if cooked entirely in a frying pan. Instead, she bakes the chicken after frying it for eight to ten minutes on the stovetop. “This step ensures that the meat is going to be succulent and awesome, but also that it’s going to be cooked through perfectly and have a really crispy exterior,” she says.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas8 of 11
Sharing the Limelight
In the South, sides receive as much TLC as the main event, and Thomas’s Hoppin’ John Salad, made especially for the shower, is no exception. Cajun seasoning and a bay leaf kick up a blend heavy on bacon, black-eyed peas, and mustard greens.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas9 of 11
Thomas made a second cupped crowd-pleaser for the shower. Her Succotash Gazpacho Shots are a refreshing way to pair veggies with fried chicken, rather than turning to standbys, such as coleslaw, potato salad, and green bean casserole.
Photography: Courtesy of Claire Thomas10 of 11
Part (okay, most!) of the allure of celebrating a party with a horse-race theme is the excuse to don a hat. After guests enjoy a plateful of soul food and a glass (or two) of mint juleps, they can craft their very own.
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This DIY activity is so easy, everyone can take home a head-turning accessory, like the one Thomas wears here.