“To all the ladies in the place with style and grace….” If the month of May means pops of pastels, placin’ bets on ponies and raising a little hell with a beveled bourbon highball in hand… all the while cocking your chic chapeau of course, this #BirthdayBucketList is for you. We’ve been chomping at the bit to put this gamblin’ gathering at the top of our #BirthdayBucketList but we figured in this case, slow and steady would win the race.
We wanted to unearth an experience worthy of your group of gorgeous gals where tradition took a bit of a turn… you didn’t think we’d be all big hats and mint juleps did ya? (Not to worry, both of these beautiful traditions remain solidly a part of this story) For this bucket list you’ll still worship at the alter of the Churchill Downs but your “Old Kentucky Home” is a decidedly more modern, chic and art-filled after party at relative new kid on the block, 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.
So gather your favorite guys and gals, grab those fabulous fascinators and head to Louisville to host a bourbon-filled bluegrass bash at the Derby and 21c – our cards are on the table and baby, they’re just showing hearts.
The Kentucky Gent
We asked local arbiter of cool, The Kentucky Gent, also known as Josh Johnson, story teller & curator of content as well as Southern Living Magazine's "Top 30 Bloggers of 2016" (also our pal) what he loves the most about 21c Museum Hotel Louisville.
"I love that every time I visit 21c it’s something different! Whether it’s the food, art installations, or a new cocktail program. The team at 21c is all about innovation, and that’s evident in every single room of each of their properties."
The Step-by-Step Guide to Kentucky Derby Gatherings
Josh is a gent, and all good gents know how to throw spectacular shindings.
Here is his step-by-step guide to gathering for The Kentucky Derby starting with an entire group getaway weekend at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, that leads up to the derby and ends with throwing a huge party in one of the gallery venue spaces at the hotel!
Speaking of gents, take a peek at these fine looking fellas who are currently on display at 21c Museum Hotel right now. Cocktails and conversations are so much more fun when surrounded by incredible art exhibitions like this. Wink, wink :)
One of the Oldest & Greatest Gatherings in the U.S. of A.
Ok, now peel your eyes away from the glorious art in the venue space at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville and let's get back to the event itself.
We are all familiar with The Kentucky Derby, dubbed "the most exciting two minutes in the world of sports," based on the approximate length of time it takes the winner to run from the starting gate to the finish line and claim his $2 million dollar purse. But it's more than the heart-pounding, pulsating horses hooves on hallowed ground, it's the entirety of the experience at America's oldest sporting event. The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May every year and in the bluegrass state, it's not simply a "horse race" it's an institution.
Imagine this - your ladies and gents will arrive, well-heeled & mad(ly)-hatted. You'll grin happily around at your girls as you raise one white-gloved hand to shade your eyes from the warm Kentucky sun, while the other grips an ice-cold mint julep with fresh sprigs that smell of spring. When the horses step onto the track for the Kentucky Derby post parade and the band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home" and 160,000+ people sing along it’s something to behold as your heart beats in time with one of the oldest & greatest gatherings in the U.S. of A.
While the Kentucky Derby may be the “two most exciting minutes in sports” that still leaves us with a whole lotta weekend left in Louisville – and we’ve got just the spot to park your posse and host your very own art-filled Derby bash for this very #birthdaybucketlist worthy weekend for the books.
Admit it, weekend getaways are just as coveted as those two-week-long once-in-a-lifetime locales we use as our screensavers. They're easier to plan, seem a bit more spontanous and yet feel just as necessary to the fabric of our lives. Dancing at the Derby, decked out in sprightly spring dresses & chic chapeaus while encouraged to imbibe local hand-crafted bourbon and sing a state's anthem with 160,000 of your closest new friends sounds like a weekend we'd want on the books like, right meow.
Where to host your pals at this spectacle for the senses? Where to eat? Gather? Gab? Dance the night away with new and old friends alike? We've got you covered and we're gonna 21c-u there.
A Horse of A Different Color
As much as the Kentucky Derby is rooted in 19th century tradition (and it is) the lowdown on the most chic place to lay your hat in Louisville is decidedly more modern, innovative & art-filled. You know you're not in Kansas anymore when you approach 21c Museum Hotel Louisville and are greeted by a massive (we're talking hotel-high) gold replica of Michaelangelo's David. Sure, it'll have you tittering over tipples - it's meant to be thought provoking. Statement-making. Cheeky. But more than anything, you know this isn't your average stately antebellum manor with grecian columns (also great, but expected), it's decidedly daring, disruptive and you'll know immediately your gathering is going to be a horse of a different color in the most gorgeous way, guaranteed.
Forged from abandoned tobacco and bourbon warehouses, 21c Museum Hotel Louisville is nestled neatly in historic downtown Louisville. It's a 91-room boutique hotel filled to the brim with spectacular surprises, interesting textures and a constantly rotating roster of throught-provoking contemporary art as well as an-award winning restaurant, Proof on Main.
Disco Balls Have Nothing On This Venue Space
But when it comes to the Derby, all we have to say is... saddle up. Picture this: you and your ladybirds will walk through the door like you own the place and for this wekeend, you do. At least that's how the 21c Museum Hotel willl make you feel. You're dressed to the nines and Insta-worthy backdrops are errrrrrywhere. It's what you drool over, from the reclaimed-wood floors, hand-blocked linen upholstery, exposed brickwork, timber trusses, and glass transoms that brings in a local, rustic feel, balancing out the ever-rotating, cool contemporary art.
It's that lovely mix of heady familiarty and complete disruption of the senses that makes complete and total sense, especially when Derby parties in Louisville are a dime a dozen... but yours won't be.
A striking, site-specific installation by Anne Peabody presides over the entirety of the Atrium venue space, where you'll boogie down with your best babes, called, very fittingly "Wheel of Fortune." For a gamblin' ramblin' Derby gathering, placing your bets and your bests under the silvery glint of this aptly named installation, seems not only Insta-worthy, but like your very own version of a disco ball on this bucket-list Derby weekend.
A Feast for Your Eyes & Tastebuds
21c Museum Hotel isn't simply a feast for your eyes and your mind, but your tastebuds as well. The Kentucky Gent and a few of his friends were gathered here just recently and if there's anyone who knows local Louisville cool, it's him. You'll nosh on heaping plates of tradition and innovation. The Smoked Kentucky Catfish Dip with house made hot sauce and sea salt crackers is a mouth-watering starter.
Can't miss? The fresh Charred Octopus Bagna Cauda with lime and toast - a signature dish that remains a permanent fixture on the menu.
For a little heartier fare, order the 30 Day Dry Aged Ribeye with a black mole, chimmichuri and triple cooked potato. Essentially you'll have your gathering cake and eat it too.
Polish off these mouth-wateringly magnificent dishes with the coolest cocktail menu around, and that's saying something in the land where bourbon was practically invented. Bartender Damien Cooke has developed a spin on the classic Mint Julep recipe. With Four Roses and cayenne syrup, this updated drink adds some spice to your Mint Julep enjoyment.
Damien and the folks at 21c Museum were kind enough to share their secret Mint Julep cocktail recipe with you! Shhhhh...
Hot to Trot
2oz Four Roses Yellow Label
.25oz Pierre Ferand dry Curaco
.5oz demerara/ cayenne syrup. 1:1
6 dsh fernet-branca
8 mint leaves/ plus more for garnish
Muddle mint in a sliver cup and stir all other ingredients in mixing glass. Strain in to julep cup. Top with crushed ice and mint garnish. Shaved bourbon spiced chocolate on top. Watching the bartenders create these magnificently muddled concoctions is almost as fun as sipping them (almost).
The Devil is in the Decor (and the Derby Details)
Between the silvery glint of the site-specific art installation, the rotating roster of art, hand-worn, reclaimed floors, hospitality and fresh fare, what else does one need to host a Derby party of epic proportion? The Kentucky Gent offers a few of his fave styling tips to round out your #bucketlist bash:
- For our little soiree, "flowers were provided by Fleur Louisville with Black Magic Roses used in place of the traditional red roses that are used to drape the winning horse at The Derby. 21c is a lovely mix of rustic features, like the wood tables, and modern elements, like the sectional leather sofas. It makes for the perfect backdrop for a variety of dinners, shoots, or just a night out with friends!"
- "The crew at 21c knows how to party. Their DJs are always top notch, and the guest lists are always quite impressive. What’s better than dancing the night away under a giant art installation while sipping a signature cocktail from the bar at Proof? "
- To make your party extra special - buy these gold pony cocktail stirrers from etsy seller GnomeSweetGnome.
Indeed our genteel "Gentelman"ly friend, what indeed is better than a day at the races followed by hosting art-filled after party at the coolest spot in town?
Asleep in the Cyclone
You must be feelin' lucky as there's still room to book your very own Derby bash at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville this year! There's a few rooms left too - think Herman Miller chairs, high ceilings, pewter mint julep cups, Malin and Goetz bath products, and rubber duckies in bathtubs.
There is one room in particular that you must add to your #BirthdayBucketList. It's called 'Asleep in the Cyclone' and is a piece of art itself. Yes, you can sleep in a piece of art! What is even more spectacular is that it's adjacent to the art gallery venue space at the hotel. You can host your event and then walk a few steps to your incredibly cool room designed by New York-based artists Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, giving you a completely immersive art experience.
"Constructed entirely of re-purposed barn wood, custom textiles, original sculptures, and other artworks, the room features a domed ceiling sculpture that recalls the geodesic designs of American architect Buckminster Fuller. A selection of records, chosen by Freeman and Lowe, is included, as are artist-designed blankets, linens, and other curated components."
Now it's Time To REALLY Party
Now that The Kentucky Gent has shown you how to host a full blown getaway weekend with juleps, bourbon and delightful fare from 21c Museum, you need to end it with an over the top bash. The Kentucky Derby and weekend vibes were just to get you warmed up for a raucous night of cocktails, confetti and late night dancing.
Yes Louisville lovers, we think you need to host a private shindig within the wild walls of the 21c Museum venue space. See below and be prepared to book your 'Asleep in the Cyclone' room and start planning your party (don't forget to send an invitation our way pretty please).
If you can't quite get it together for this year and instead you're DIY-ing your own garland of roses in your backyard while utlizing bartender Damien's "Hot to Trot" recipe, don't worry. As they say, there's always next year and if your heart beats in time with those thundering hooves, aching for a cool mint julep and silvery glint of an overhead art installation, put this weekend squarely on your 2017 #birthdaybucketlist. We'll 21c-u there.