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Derby 101: Cocktails

Dylan Buell | Getty Images

[Editor’s Note: This post was previously published in 2018. Drinking is timeless, especially when a pandemic postpones your Derby Day festivities. Enjoy your cocktails responsibly.]

With less than ten days till the Kentucky Derby, time is running out to prepare for the 144th run for the roses.  The annual spectacle is seen through a variety of lenses.  Not all of those provide a crystal clear picture of the many different traditions that encompass the community.  That’s where I come in.

Before the call to the post, KSR’s Derby 101 series will teach you nuances of the race, the track, the tradition and much more.  From the rose garland in the Winner’s Circle to the muddy Infield, we’ll cover it all, starting with everyone’s favorite: booze.

Even if you do not like mint juleps, there are plenty of options to quench your thirst before the Kentucky Derby.

Traditional Mint Julep

  • Crushed Ice
  • 2 oz. water
  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 4 mint leaves

Everyone adds different touch to their own personal julep. My great uncle’s spin on the Mint Julep included an extra shot of Old Forester, which is exactly what I add to mine after I order one at Churchill Downs.

Oaks Lilly

  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 part Sweet n Sour
  • 3 parts cranberry juice
  • 1/4 part Triple Sec

My fiancee’s favorite drink, the ratios above are different than the official recipe.  The trick is to make it with the frozen cranberry juice (and liberal with the Triple Sec).  A lily should be more refreshing than a cranberry vodka.

Mrs. Tyler’s Bourbonade

  • 2 cups unsweetened ice tea
  • 1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
  • 1 12 oz. can of frozen lemonade
  • 1 12 oz. can frozen limeade
  • 1 750 ml bottle of bourbon
  • 7 cups water

Mrs. Tyler Thompson’s homemade summer cocktail recipe will give you one gallon of deliciousness that has a different taste than most drinks.

Dixie Highway Purple Drank

  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Purple

Woodford Spire

  • Crushed ice
  • 1.5 oz. of Woodford Reserve
  • 2 oz. lemonade
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • Lemon twist garnish

Brown-Foreman has rolled out a new concoction for Kentucky Derby 144.  Similar to Mrs. Tyler’s homemade treat, I will definitely try one at home before venturing to the track.

Tequila Sunrise

  • 3 oz. orange juice
  • 1.5 oz. tequila
  • .5 oz. grenadine.
  • Garnish with cherry and orange slice

Is there a more aptly named cocktail for the morning of Cinco de Derby?  I think not.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

5 Comments for Derby 101: Cocktails

  1. unbridled
    7:20 am April 27, 2018 Permalink

    If you drink a “tequlia sunrise” during the derby….you are doing it wrong.

  2. RackEmWillie
    8:51 am April 27, 2018 Permalink

    That’s not exactly the recipe I would use for Purple Drank.

  3. UKFanSC
    1:53 pm May 2, 2020 Permalink

    The Mint Julep, aside from any decorative glass you might receive, is an undrinkable concoction …. better employed as a paint thinner or a rat poison. A nose-holding, vomit-inducing grog that no human pallet should be forced to endure.
    At least in my humble opinion……..

  4. zooboy7323
    4:47 am May 3, 2020 Permalink

    UKFanSC you obviously don’t like bourbon! A well-made mint julep is smooth and sweet to the pallet and goes down way to easy. Part of the problem is many of the commercially made mint juleps use rot-gut bourbon they try to disguise with sugar and mint. Use a high-quality smooth bourbon and you will appreciate this refreshing beverage on a Derby afternoon!

    • UKFanSC
      10:50 am May 3, 2020 Permalink

      Yeah…..I hear ya, but I’ve tried the drink 4-5 separate times and have had the same disappointing result. I would very much like to taste a “well-made” Julep, and would readily change my opinion if you’re right. I do enjoy a bourbon and water on occasion, and enjoy it. I normally buy Bullett or Blantons when I can find it.