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How to Throw a Modern Kentucky Derby Party

Just in time for the races, New York City milliner Satya Twena hosts friends for a stylish hatmaking fête

New York City milliner Satya Twena and friends celebrate the Kentucky Derby with a sparkler send-off. 
New York City milliner Satya Twena and friends celebrate the Kentucky Derby with a sparkler send-off. 
Hatmaker Satya Twena
Hatmaker Satya Twena

Derby season has always been a time steeped in tradition: from mint juleps and preppy fascinators to trophies and Churchill Downs. But even the most staid attendees at the races would find plenty to love in the modern Kentucky Derby party milliner Satya Twena threw at her New York City showroom last week. On a Monday afternoon, with just a few faint whispers of spring in the air, Twena—a fashion insider with a penchant for headwear of all kinds—called together a star-studded group of friends for a fête.    

From the moment the industrial building's elevator doors opened, the sweet smells of magnolia, jasmine, and white grapefruit welcomed guests. The southern staples lined tables with a stunning mix of purple and black flowers and flickering candlelight. In keeping with the Derby theme, bartender Issac Flores of Dick & Jane’s bar in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, created a honey-infused update on a classic mint julep, appropriately called the “Brooklyn Stoop Sipper” (recipe below). To add to the magical setting, Satya's favorite bakery, Mah-Ze-Dahr, supplied the desserts: choux filled with decadent vanilla cream. What better way to toast the sport of kings?

Ranunculus, anemones, and peonies—the work of Brooklyn-based florist Phileanor—line a distressed-wood table in Twena's showroom.
Ranunculus, anemones, and peonies—the work of Brooklyn-based florist Phileanor—line a distressed-wood table in Twena's showroom.

No party of Twena's has really started until the guests have their hats. With playful odes to the decadence that defines horse racing at its highest levels, guests designed rolled-brim toppers wrapped in colorful ribbon, flowers, and vintage fabric. Properly attired and with culinary delights all around, guests celebrated the coming of spring amid music, laughter and fun.

A cheesecake from Mah-Ze-Dahr bakery sits atop a brass cake stand by Tom Dixon from Michele Varian. Guests included actress Maggie Grace and her fiancé, writer and director Matthew Cooke. Seletti’s Juxtapose collection was painted with equestrian-inspired themes.
A cheesecake from Mah-Ze-Dahr bakery sits atop a brass cake stand by Tom Dixon from Michele Varian. Guests included actress Maggie Grace and her fiancé, writer and director Matthew Cooke. Seletti’s Juxtapose collection was painted with equestrian-inspired themes.
How to Throw a Modern Kentucky Derby Party
Twena at work. An assortment of ribbons in varying colors and sizes. Guests created one-of-a-kind hats to wear throughout the party.
Twena at work. An assortment of ribbons in varying colors and sizes. Guests created one-of-a-kind hats to wear throughout the party.
Dick & Jane’s "Brooklyn Stoop Sipper"

Serves 1

Ingredients
a pinch of mint (5-7 leaves)
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce honey syrup
½ ounce yellow Chartreuse 
2 ounces bourbon 
3 dashes Angostura bitters 

 

In a small shaker, combine mint, lemon, honey, and yellow Chartreuse, then muddle mint to bring out aromatics. Add bourbon and ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass over ice, add bitters, and garnish with a mint sprig.

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