Kentucky: the state of Bourbon, bluegrass, coal mining, and, as of late, a pretty sweet rebranding campaign. Before you pretentious urbanites dismiss it entirely as a backwater flyover territory full of Southern hicks who couldn’t even rally behind Dixie (spoiler alert, assuming you’re reading this in 1860: after waffling for years, they ultimately joined the North in the Civil War), Kentucky believes in tradition, and we all owe tradition some goddamn respect (because tradition). In that vein, the 140th annual NASCAR of yesteryear gussied up in oversized harlequin hats, also known as the Kentucky Derby, is bursting out of the game Saturday, and we’ve got some places to watch it for ya.
Pete’s Candy Store (709 Lorimer St, Williamsburg) FREE
Best ladies’ hat wins a bar tab! Winner determined by popular consensus. They’ve also got bourbon-glazed ribs and Derby pies, and even if you know nothing about horses or racing, you can bet on winning the losing game in their appropriately-titled “Idiot’s Stakes” bets. From 3pm till the end of racing (7pm).
Mable’s Smokehouse (44 Berry St, Williamsburg) FREE
Mable’s is going heavy on the bourbon: $7 mint juleps (bourbon with mint). Old-Fashioneds (bourbon with bitters). Straight Kentucky Bourbon (Bourbon with an ass kicking). Gentle[wo]menly wagering and Derby pies grace this packed house with panoramic views of all the races, kicking off at 2pm.
Custom House (139 Montague St, Brooklyn Heights; $50 adv/$60 at door)
You’re likely too broke for this because this is Brokelyn you’re reading and this is Brooklyn Heights we’re talking about, but the price of admission is for a cause: the Junior League of Brooklyn (fancy ladies doing good–like volunteering and landmarking shit). Obligatory gendered prizes for best hat/fascinator on a lady and best-dressed gentleman. Small plate of hors d’oeuvres complimentary with price of admission, but you’re on your own for ordering Champagne by the bottle at the bar. Elitism commences at 4pm.
Hank’s Saloon (46 3rd Ave, Boerum Hill) FREE
FREE SANDWICHES at the afterparty! Who ever said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? How about a free dinner? Certainly not the kind folks over at Hank’s, who’ll be serving up the Southern version of the cucumber sandwich, Benedictine (mostly cream cheese with a little bit of cucumber juice and onion) spread on white bread as well as the Dixie delicacy roadkill stew known as burgoo. All this while rocking out to a self-proclaimed math-punk band right out of Louisville: the perfect way to unwind after a day of horse racing. The debauchery kicks off at 8pm.
The Graham (151 Montrose Avenue, Williamsburg)
Oh sure some of those other bars will give one person a $100 prize for dressing the best, but you’d rather leave the competition to the horses. In that case, hit up The Graham dressed in your finest Kentucky dandy duds and you can get yourself a free mint julep. Money saved on drinks means more money for gambling!
Floyd (131 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn Heights) Union Hall (702 Union Street, Park Slope) FREE
Sister bars Floyd and Union Hall are having dueling Kentucky Derby parties. Well, maybe not dueling, since they’re just each having a party for the convenience of the people who live nearby either one. Both parties have hat contests and $6 mint juleps. The differ in that you can get free beer cheese at Floyd and you can play a game of corn hole at Union Hall. Both parties kick off at 1pm, so should provide plenty of time for day drinking.
South 4th Bar (90, South 4th Street, Williamsburg)
South 4th Bar’s Cinco de Derby weekend is for the overachievers among us. Beyond a celebration of the Derby itself, where you can win a bar tab for being the best dressed man or woman among the drunken crowd and slurp $2 Juelp Jello shots, the bar will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo by offering $5 margaritas from now through Monday night. Shout at the horse in English and in Spanish, either way, it won’t know what you’re saying.
Remember: even if you don’t watch the Derby, don’t think you’re out of the woods. Oak barrel-aged whiskey is delicious and everywhere, rock and roll and bluegrass share origins and your computer is probably powered by coal (and that subway train you took today and the rails it rode on were made of steel which is an alloy of iron and, yes, coal). Kentucky is inescapable.