Derby Day is fast approaching. As fans head to Kentucky, hat boxes in tow, to witness firsthand “the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” their thirst for bourbon-based cocktails may be just as strong as their hunger for an exciting (albeit short) race.
While the Mint Julep may be the official cocktail of the event, there are plenty of other drinks sure to please bettors, jockeys, and fans alike.
Read on for six of the best Derby drink recipes.
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A Derby Day staple, the Mint Julep is a simple combination of bourbon, muddled mint, and simple syrup, served over crushed ice. Perhaps best known for the stainless-steel cup it’s served in, the Julep is refreshing enough to help beat the Kentucky heat.
A riff on the vodka-infused Moscow Mule, the Kentucky Mule is instead crafted with bourbon, lime juice, and ginger beer served in an iconic copper mug. The sweetness of the Southern spirit is balanced beautifully by the zippy spice of ginger beer, making for a quaffable sip ideal for day drinking.
While the Julep is a simple creation, there are plenty of ways to jazz up the classic and add more depth. This recipe does so by adding dark rum, Crème de Pêche de Vigne, two types of bitters (Angostura and orange), rose water, and Cava. Rather than muddled lime, the recipe incorporates mint syrup for a smoother, bubblier, slightly more sophisticated take on the classic Derby drink.
A cousin of the Julep, the Whiskey Smash adds muddled lemon to the recipe for an extra zesty pop. As it’s not served in the classic Julep cup, it’s lower-maintenance while adding pizzazz to any watch party.
Not a bourbon fan but still want to partake in the festivities? This recipe may be for you. Swapping out bourbon for Cynar and adding grapefruit juice, lime juice, and raspberry syrup, this is a lower-proof option for lovers of all things bitter and earthy.
A take on the classic Brown Derby — a simple drink made with bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup — this riff offers a depth of flavor while remaining surprisingly sessionable. Combine bourbon, maple syrup, grapefruit juice, and chopped strawberries for a drink reminiscent of a pancake breakfast.