Derby Day Drinks

Can't get to Kentucky to watch the Derby? Why not plan your own party at home? Southern Living food editor Marian Cairns has tips on how to throw the most fabulous Derby Day party!

• Mint Julep Recipe

3 fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon Mint Simple Syrup
Crushed ice
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) bourbon
1 (4-inch) cocktail straw or coffee stirrer
1 fresh mint sprig
Powdered sugar (optional)

Place mint leaves and Mint Simple Syrup in a chilled julep cup. Gently press leaves against cup with back of spoon to release flavors. Pack cup tightly with crushed ice; pour bourbon over ice. Insert straw, place mint sprig directly next to straw, and serve immediately. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

• Mint Simple Syrup
This recipe goes with Classic Mint Julep

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 to 12 fresh mint sprigs

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Boil, stirring often, 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add mint, and let cool completely. Pour into a glass jar; cover and chill 24 hours. Remove and discard mint.

• Salmon-and-Herb Cheese Bites
Prep: 15 mins.

1/2 (4-oz.) package sliced smoked salmon
18 (1/4-inch-thick) cucumber slices
1/3 cup garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese

Arrange 1/2 (4-oz.) package sliced smoked salmon evenly on 18 (1/4-inch-thick) cucumber slices. Place 1/3 cup garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese in a small zip-top plastic bag. Snip 1 corner of bag to make a small hole, and pipe cheese evenly onto salmon.

• Gazpacho Shooters
Yield: Makes about 4 cups
Prep: 10 mins.

1 (16-oz.) container refrigerated mild salsa
1 cup Bloody Mary mix
3/4 cup finely chopped seedless cucumber
1/2 cup water

Stir together 1 (16-oz.) container refrigerated mild salsa, 1 cup Bloody Mary mix, 3/4 cup finely chopped seedless cucumber, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve gazpacho in 2- to 4-oz. shot glasses. Garnish with cucumber sticks, if desired.