5 Derby Day Cocktails That Bring a Bit of Louisville to You

The 145th Kentucky Derby is upon us and not only will the world be watching - they will also be drinking. Bourbon powered cocktails and the Derby go together like peaches and cream. Sweet, slightly decadent and made to make you want more.

Here are 5 Bourbon cocktails you will want to try this Saturday.

1. Streetcar Named Desire

This cocktail was created by Max Messier, the Founder of Cocktail & Sons Bitters.


- 1 ½ oz. Old Forester Classic 86 Proof
- 3/4 oz. lemon
- 3/4 oz. Cocktail & Sons Mint & Lemon Verbena Syrup
- Aromatic bitters
- Mint sprig to garnish


Shake all ingredients sans bitters in a cocktail tin and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with 4 dashes aromatic bitters, lemon wheel, and a fresh smacked mint sprig. 

This one is for the roses, a winner all the way. It’s an aromatic cocktail that delivers on the nose and the palate.


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Derby Fact:
The Kentucky Derby has never been canceled. 145 years and going strong. And always on the first Saturday in May.

2. The Perfect Woodford Reserve Mint Julep

If you’re looking for a classic Derby Day cocktail to serve while wearing a Seersucker suit or your best Sunday bonnet, the Mint Julep is the way to go.


- 2 oz. Woodford Reserve
- 1 oz. water
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Crushed ice
- 4 sprigs fresh mint


Express the essential oils in the mint (Give them a good slap.) and rub them inside the glass or copper cup. In the same glass, add sugar, water, bourbon, and crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with more crushed ice and fresh mint.

The Mint Julep put the class in the term "classic cocktail" and is as Southern as the name *Beauregard.

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Derby Fact:
It costs $50,000 to enter the race but the winner gets $2 million, plus a bed of roses.

*Truth be told, the name Beauregard is French and means respected; regarded highly.

3. The Woodford Spire

If classic cocktails are not in your wheelhouse then keeping it simple might be the best way to go. And this easy to make (and batch) cocktail might be the thing that lets you enjoy the action while keeping your guests happy.


- 1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve
- 1 oz. lemonade (Feel free to play some Beyonce’)
- 1 oz. cranberry juice
- Crushed ice
- Lemon peel for a lemon twist to garnish


In a glass mix Woodford Reserve, lemonade and cranberry juice with a bar spoon. Add the liquid mixture into a copper cup, add crushed ice to the top of the glass & serve with a lemon twist.


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Derby Fact:
The Triple Crown is a unique title to have. Akin to winning a TONY, and Emmy and a Grammy in the SAME year. In the history of the Derby only 12 horses have ever been honored as Triple Crown winners.

4. The Kentucky Belle

From classic and easy going we move on to a next level cocktail created by Meghan Kelleher. Meghan tends bar at The Coupe in NYC and is a Staten Island girl, that has traveled the world to bring the best of tenderness and hospitality to her guests.


- 1.½ oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
- 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. Earl Grey Tea syrup
- 1/2 oz. Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur
- 1/4 oz. Merlet Créme De Pêche Liqueur


Combine all ingredients over ice and shake vigorously, strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass.

There is no doubt that the Belle will raise eyebrows and have guests asking for more.

Meghan preparing her cocktail. Photo credit: Woodford Reserve

5. Photo Finish

This is a Derby Day cocktail created by Becca Pesce, a hospitality goddess and longtime Angel’s Envy Guardian.


- 1.½ oz. Angel’s Envy Bourbon
- 0.75 oz. lime juice
- 0.75 oz. apricot Liqueur
- 0.5 oz. mint syrup**
- 2 oz. of sparkling Wine or Champagne


Shake and strain ingredients, except the Wine/Champagne, into a flute and finish with dry Sparkling Wine or Champagne. Garnish with a mint sprig.

**To make the mint syrup, blanch 14 mint springs in boiling water for 30 seconds. After, put them directly in an ice bath for 2 minutes. Blend on high for 5 minutes with 750 ml of 2:1 simple syrup. Strain and store in the fridge.

The Photo Finish Cocktail by Becca Pesce.

If you and your crew can’t make it to Churchill Downs in time for Derby Day, the cocktails listed above will help bring a bit of Louisville to you.

If you have a winning cocktail to add to the list, we would love to hear about it. Feel free to comment and add your best Derby Day cocktail.

Till next we drink and one for the road:
An NSA agent walks into a bar. The bartender says “Hey, I’ve got a great new joke for you!”. The agent smiles and says. “Heard it.” 

Cover image: Wikimedia/Bill Brine

By Lincoln C. Chinnery III

Lincoln C. Chinnery III

Lincoln C. Chinnery III is a freelance cocktail journalist who has written for AM New York and The Alcohol Professor. Lincoln enjoys all the major spirits - Bourbon being his favorite. He's a reader of anything related to cocktails and comic books. Find him on Twitter or Insta - @cocktailjournalist.



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