Home Cocktails 23 Classic Kentucky Derby Cocktails

23 Classic Kentucky Derby Cocktails

These classic Kentucky Derby cocktails are a must on race day!

You may not think equestrian sports and booze have anything in common, but you’d be wrong! 

These classic drinks go hand in hand with the lineup of horses and fancy hats.

Mint Julep - a popular cocktail at the Kentucky Derby
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Whether you watch the Derby in person or on TV, these drinks will make your day better.

They’re cool, refreshing, and chock full of unbeatable Southern charm. 

So, join me today as I explore some of the most iconic Kentucky Derby cocktails.

1. Mint Julep

You can’t talk about Kentucky Derby cocktails without mentioning the Mint Julep. As the Derby’s official cocktail, it has to be number one on our list. 

In the past, the Derby has sold more than 120,000 Mint Juleps in a single day. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait in line to get yours. 

Make it at home with a simple mix of bourbon, simple syrup, and muddled mint leaves. It’s crisp, refreshing, not-too-sweet, and delicious. It’s a hard drink to beat, Derby or no Derby.

2. Brown Derby 

Are you in the mood for something a bit sweeter and with more flavor? Try the Brown Derby instead. It combines grapefruit juice, bourbon, and honey syrup.

It has a unique bittersweet flavor that highlights the grapefruit. You only get a hint of bourbon. It’s good for those who like stiff drinks that don’t taste too boozy. 

3. Kentucky Oaks Lily

You need a bottle of Grey Goose to make an authentic Kentucky Oaks Lily. While technically, any vodka will do the trick, Grey Goose is the drink’s sponsor. 

It’s the signature cocktail for the running of the Oaks at Churchill Downs, and it’s incredible. It features a lovely reddish-pink hue and a bright, citrusy taste. 

It’s tart and tangy, with just enough sweetness to cut through its sharpest edges. Just remember to top it off with a few fresh blackberries for aesthetics. 

4. Woodford Spire

There’s one thing you’ll quickly notice about these Kentucky Derby cocktails. Many of them are “sponsored drinks.” And sponsored drinks always use a particular brand of liquor. 

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Of course, you don’t have to stick to those specific brands at home. Take the Woodford Spire, for example. It’s an excellent cocktail with a tart and tangy lemon-cranberry flavor. 

Traditionally, people make the drink with Woodford Reserve bourbon. 

But you can use whatever bourbon you like. That’s the beauty of making these drinks at home. 

5. Kentucky Maid 

The Kentucky Maid is a simple summer favorite with a fresh and mild flavor. It’s like a fresher, earthier version of a Mint Julep with added cucumbers and lime juice.

It takes 5 minutes to make and is perfect for sipping and savoring. 

6. Man O’ War

For having such a fierce name, the Man O’ War is a surprisingly delicate drink. With just four ingredients, it takes only a few moments to prepare. 

Simply mix bourbon, orange curacao, sweet vermouth, and lemon juice in a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until the drink is combined. Then, enjoy! 

7. Kentucky Buck

Despite its masculine name, the Kentucky Buck is lighter and fruitier than the Kentucky Maid. It features a unique combination of flavors. 

It mixes strawberries, angostura bitters, lemon juice, whiskey, and ginger beer.

Though not overly sweet, the drink is wildly refreshing and impossible to resist. And the nose-tingly fizziness from the ginger beer is downright delightful! 

8. Horse’s Neck 

The Horse’s Neck is the go-to drink for anyone who needs a little hair of the dog. It’s supposedly one of the best cures for a hangover. It’s quick, easy, and totally minimalistic.

You need brandy, bitters, and a little ginger ale to top it off. It’s dry and soothing without being overly bitter. And hey, it has ginger ale in it! That’s always good for a tummy ache, right?!

9. Kentucky Bourbon Lemonade

If there’s one thing Kentucky gets right, it’s bourbon. (Okay, Kentucky gets a lot of stuff right, but their bourbon has to be high on the list.) 

That may be why so many of these cocktails feature Kentucky bourbon in the mix. This one is no exception. It’s Kentucky’s boozy version of lemonade, and you’ll love it. 

10. Blackberry Mint Julep

There’s nothing wrong with the Mint Julep as is. But I appreciate the Blackberry Mint Julep even more. It has all the crisp freshness of the classic drink. But there are blackberries!

And trust me when I tell you the berries dial this drink up to an 11! Try it if you want a sweet summer drink. It’s so good, it’ll make you groan.

11. Whiskey Smash

Are you a fan of sweet-and-sour cocktails? The Whiskey Smash might be just the thing for you. 

It’s a booze-forward drink with a few mint leaves, some lemon juice, and a tiny amount of sugar. It’s perfect for those who genuinely enjoy the taste of good whiskey. 

12. Bloody Derby

Calling all Bloody Mary lovers! The Bloody Derby is simply a Bloody Mary with bourbon instead of vodka. It’s savory, spicy, and full of tomato goodness. 

Don’t forget to jazz it up with a stick of celery, some briny olives, or a piece of candied bacon. 

13. Basil Julep

Spoiler alert: This will not be the last variation of the Mint Julep you see on this list. 

Since the Mint Julep is the official drink of the Derby, it makes sense that there are tons of twists on it. This one removes the mint leaves and replaces them with fresh basil. 

It gives the drink an herbier, more summery taste but is just as refreshing as the original. 

14. Bourbon Peach Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is a Southern staple, and sweet peach tea is one of its most popular variations. This satisfyingly sweet drink combines sweet peach tea with, you guessed it, bourbon. 

It’s sweet, boozy, fruity, and incredibly yummy. And if you aren’t in the mood for alcohol, the sweet peach tea recipe tastes just as good without it.

15. Chocolate Mint Julep

Do you often buy Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies in bulk? Do you hog all the after-dinner mints they give you at Olive Garden?

If so, the chocolate Mint Julep is the drink for you. It’s sweet, chocolatey, and minty to the max. It’s like Thin Mints or Andes mints in boozy, liquid form. 

16. Bee’s Knees

The Bee’s Knees is another classic drink that’s been around for decades. It’s a simple, sweetly tart mix of lemon juice, honey syrup, and gin. 

It features a lovely yellow color, a refreshing taste, and is also quite pretty. Garnish it with a lemon twist for something extra. 

17. Black Eyed Susan

Rum-based drinks are sorely lacking on the Kentucky Derby cocktail menu. The Black-Eyed Susan, though, is an exception. 

It’s a deceptively strong drink combining peach schnapps, vodka, and spiced rum. It’s fizzy and fruity and will remind you of a fruit cocktail cup. 

You’ll appreciate it as long as you enjoy the taste of pineapple. 

For more rum-based cocktails, check out my article “20 Classic Rum Cocktails.” 

18. Brown Sugar-Peach Mint Julep

This peachy keen twist on the traditional Mint Julep is a bit sweeter than the original. It still contains bourbon and mint. But you make the simple syrup with dark brown sugar. 

It gives the drink a richer, warmer, almost molasses-like sweetness. You also add peaches! In short, it’s a pretty sugary drink, but it tastes divine. 

19. Maple Bourbon Smash

Looking for a slightly sweeter version of the classic Whiskey Smash? Well, you’ve found it! This maple-heavy drink is perfect for fall or summer. 

It features fresh rosemary, star anise, and cinnamon for a loaded, spiced flavor. It’s rich and sweet and will warm your belly with every sip. 

20. Green Derby

Absinthe and bourbon make an interesting combination for any drink. And this one throws grapefruit peel, lemon juice, and basil into the mix, too! 

The flavor is bold but difficult to describe. It’s bittersweet, with notes of licorice, oak, and citrus. It’s not the easiest drink to describe, but it’s certainly easy to enjoy. 

21. Bourbon Milk Punch

This particular drink is less refreshing and more sweet and comforting. It’s perfect to indulge in after a big win at the Derby. (Or maybe a big loss if you need real comfort.) 

It’s a sweet combination of milk, vanilla, ice cream, and bourbon. It’s a bit decadent, but who says we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves?

22. Pineapple Mint Julep Sangria 

This drink takes the classic Mint Julep and adds dry white wine and pineapple juice. You also mix in some pineapple chunks to enjoy when you get to the bottom of the glass. 

It’s a fruity, tropical twist on the traditional that you will surely appreciate. 

Check out more great sangria recipes here

23. Kentucky Mule

As you can probably guess from the name, the Kentucky Mule is a variation of the Moscow Mule. You substitute Kentucky bourbon for vodka, but everything else stays the same.

It’s fresh, refreshing, and just a bit tingly. Any bourbon lover will be a fan.

23 Classic Kentucky Derby Cocktails

Celebrate in style with these classic Kentucky Derby cocktails! From the mint julep to the Brown Derby and Kentucky Maid, all of them pack a punch.

Ingredients

  • Mint Julep

  • Brown Derby

  • Kentucky Oaks Lily

  • Woodford Spire

  • Kentucky Maid

  • Man O’ War

  • Kentucky Buck

  • Horse’s Neck

  • Kentucky Bourbon Lemonade

  • Blackberry Mint Julep

  • Whiskey Smash

  • Bloody Derby

  • Basil Julep

  • Bourbon Peach Sweet Tea

  • Chocolate Mint Julep

  • Bee’s Knees

  • Black Eyed Susan

  • Brown Sugar-Peach Mint Julep

  • Maple Bourbon Smash

  • Green Derby

  • Bourbon Milk Punch

  • Pineapple Mint Julep Sangria

  • Kentucky Mule

Instructions

  • Select your favorite cocktail.
  • Gather all of the required ingredients.
  • Whip up a classic Kentucky Derby drink!

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INSANELYGOOD

Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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