It's all about the race, about the race, no treble.
It’s all about the race, about the race, no treble.

I get the question all the time — probably more than the ones concerned with my general health or how I managed to snag a gig writing about bars: “How do I avoid a hangover?” — or, if avoidance is no longer an option — “How do I get Seabiscuit off my head, shake off the shakes and reclaim cognitive thinking so I can order a Diet Coke and a Big Mac through that little box that’s screaming at me?”

Well, I wish I had a magical potion I could market, sell to the masses and be rich enough to afford Pappy — but alas, my advice is to stay hydrated, don’t mix up your liquors too much (Beer before gin, you’ll see your dinner again), start the day with mimosas and bloody marys, and don’t take breaks. There’s a reason bars don’t technically have to close from Derby Eve to Derby Day — our Founding Fathers knew that, and so should you.

The Derby Spirt is alive and well.
The Derby Spirt is alive and well. Look how it hovers over the city.

My other tidbit of advice is to buy into the Derby Spirit. Believe it, feel it, live it. Not only will it rouse you Derby morning like Julie Andrews on a mountaintop — even if you didn’t roll into bed until 4 a.m. — but it’ll relieve you of any pain, head-pounding, paranoia, quaint queasiness and general zombie-like symptoms you typically experience with a hangover.

It’s true. That same spirit wafts throughout the bowels of Bourbon Street in New Orleans every single day, but for one week a year, it populates Louisville like bearded dudes at The Post. Perhaps the tourists usher it in with their eagerness to be Southern for a day, or maybe it blooms with the dogwoods or permeates with the pollen.

If you don’t believe me, just try to recall the last time you had a hangover on Derby Day. You can’t, because they don’t exist. I’ve woken up with temporary tattoos all over my body and cold beer on my bed stand and still jumped back onto the saddle Derby morning and rode that party horse to victory.

•  •  •

The Bar Belle’s Other Tricks of the Trade:

Hats matter: Wear them loud, wear them proud.

Hats off to this man.
Hats off to this man.

Mayor matters: Why not corner him during the Great Steamboat Race and demand the key to the city? It’s become an annual tradition for me.

Still no key, but that doesn't mean I won't ask.
Still no key, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ask.

Glass matters: The Oaks’ Lily glasses are way cooler than the Derby ones — they’re perfect for mimosas and wine — but who drinks vodka at Churchill Downs? Ask them to make a mint julep in a Lily glass, and three out of five times, the sassy bartenders will oblige. If they refuse, move to the next station.

Juleps in a Lily glass, hold the sass.
Juleps in a Lily glass, hold the sass.
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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."