Sunday, April 30, 2017

Run for the Roses - A Champagne Derby Party

Without a doubt, one of my favorite spring events is the Kentucky Derby.  There are handsomely groomed horses, spring dresses, gentlemen in seersucker and colorful ties, big hats, bourbon, and oodles champagne.  What's a girl not to love? 

This year I partnered with G.H. Mumm to inspire you to throw your own champagne-filled Derby Party, and I hope that you send me photos of your glamorous parties and festive hats.  Seriously, it's one of the best days of the year.

The Menu

I like to keep my parties simple, mostly because throwing a party is always 1,000 times more stressful than I originally intended it to be, and things always go wrong.  So plan ahead, and anticipate a back-up plan (like ordering pizza when a dish ends up on the floor – don’t judge, it’s happened).

To Start

A Champagne Toast

Start off in the early afternoon with a toast of champagne, G.H. Mumm, of course.  Keep
a case of bubbles chilled in the refrigerator, and keep those bottles popping as your guests arrive.  For extra flair, break out the saber.  Everyone loves a good party trick, and nothing says party quite like chopping the top off a bottle of champagne.

Pro Tip: If you have never sabered a champagne bottle before, I recommend watching a few YouTube videos.  It’s incredibly easy, but the bottle has to be very cold to avoid embarrassing explosions. 

The Punch

Run for the Roses Champagne Punch

I know, I know, Derby is supposed to be all about Mint Juleps.  But unless you’re planning on hiring a skilled bartender to make craft cocktails for your guests or you don’t mind spending the entire party in the kitchen mixing bespoke Juleps, I recommend another strategy for your libations.  The remedy?  Punch.  Prep it ahead of time, make backup batches a head of time, and get the (bleep) out of the kitchen. 

This punch is inspired by a classic Mint Julep and all those amazing red roses that are synonymous with the event.  It is made with Bourbon, homemade Rhubarb-Rose Syrup, Aperol, Fresh Lemon, and topped off with an entire bottle of Champagne.  This recipe will serve 4, and for a good-sized party, I recommend having enough ingredients to make 4 rounds of punch. 

Like any cocktail, the secret ingredient to this punch is water – it needs the dilution of the ice to balance out the acidity and the sweetness of the Aperol.  Prep your ice blocks a few days ahead of time by freezing ziplock freezer bags full of water, or for those ambitious party people, prepare large blocks of clear ice using the Alcademics directional freezing method.  A big block of clear ice does look impressive in a punch bowl, I’m not going to lie.

Run For the Roses Champagne Punch
Created by Gastronomista

Serves 4

1 bottle of G.H. Mumm Champagne
1 c. Aperol
3/4 c. Rhubarb-Rose Syrup*
1-1/2 c Bourbon
1 Lemon, Juiced
5-6 dashes Orange Bitters

Build in a punch bowl over a large block of ice.  Garnish with lemon wheels, rose petals, and fresh mint.

Rhubarb-Rose Syrup

1 c. Sugar
1 c. Water
1-1/2 c. Chopped Rhubarb
2-3 dashes Rose Water

Add sugar, water, and rhubarb to a pot and simmer on medium-low for 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and mushy.  Let cool, add 2-3 drops of rose water, and strain into a non-reactive container.  Reserve the solids.  Makes approximately 1 cup of syrup. 


Rhubarb-Rose Compote with Brie, Fresh Fruit, and Mint

Use the leftover solids from the Rhubarb-Rose syrup to make a compote for your canapés, it is delightful served with brie and crackers.  Add fresh berries, fresh mint, and charcutarie to make a wonderful spring spread that is perfect for noshing.

Depending on how many guests you are having, prepare small sandwiches and other savory snacks to keep your guests satiated until dinnertime.  Another great pairing with champagne is caviar, crème fraiche, and potato chips, it’s salty, savory, and a decadent treat that is sure to make your guests laugh. 

The Table

There is so much great imagery for Derby to play with including the horses, the jockeys, julep cups, trophies, and of course, a celebratory pop of champagne!

I have a long-standing obsession with vintage silver serve-ware, an influence I can trace directly to my Grandmother, who was an expert hostess in her day.  I love how a touch of silver can make any event feel just a bit classier, and a lot fancier.  Although I was lucky enough to receive a few signature pieces of silver from my Grandmother, I have also been known to scour vintage markets and antique shops for great silver pieces like these amazing silver trophies. 

One of my favorite finds from my last antiquing haul was this mini silver champagne bucket flower vase that has a flower frog in the bottom, a perfect piece for champagne parties!! 

Another recent find is this horse trophy plate, perfect for serving hors d'oeuvres, or cupcakes topped with red roses.

The Hat

Ladies, we all know the best part of derby is the hats, and the bigger and bolder the better amirite?  I found the most amazing giganticred rose fascinator, perfectly suited for a Run For the Roses party. 

After the Party

After all the bets have been made and the horses have made their mad dash towards the finish line, the distinctive clinking of glassware is sure to be heard from party to party for those who won their bets (and those who did not).  A final round of bubbles is in order before heading out on the town, for a dinner on someone else’s watch.  It would be a shame to stay in and order take out, after all, your hat does look fabulous. 

Styling Notes
G.H. Mumm Champagne: Provided by G.H. Mumm
Coupes: Waterford
Trophies: Vintage
Skirt / Wrap Top Set: Billabong
Watch: Grayton Watches
Earrings: Lulu Frost
Hat: Fab Hatters


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