Kentucky Derby Cocktails: More Than Just the Julep!

Oct 14, 2023 Danielle Rudy Davis


When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep is almost as iconic as Churchill Downs’ TwinSpires.

According to the Kentucky Derby Museum juleps have been served at the track since the first running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875, but they did not become the event’s official drink until 1939. The year earlier, racetrack managers noticed patrons were taking home the decorative water glasses in which the juleps were served. Rather than fight the trend, the track began selling them as souvenirs and has been doing so ever since.

And while the Old Forester Mint Julep – a sweet mix of bourbon, fresh mint, sugar, and crushed ice served in a collectible Kentucky Derby glass – is still the drink of the day, it’s been joined by three refreshing options for you to enjoy wherever you’re watching the races.

Tip: If you’re hosting a Derby-at-Home party, we recommend batching any of these cocktails alongside a serve yourself garnish bar. Guests can pour their favorite Kentucky Derby cocktail and garnish with the mint or fresh fruit of their choice.

First up is the official cocktail of the Kentucky Oaks, the Finlandia Oaks Lily. This bright and tart pink-hued cocktail is inspired by the colors in the Stargazer lily, the centerpiece of the flower garland presented to the winner of the Kentucky Oaks. The Oaks Lily is made with Finlandia vodka, sweet and sour mix, triple sec, and cranberry juice, served in a commemorative glass and garnished with a blackberry and lemon wedge.

Looking for some of the same refreshing spring flavors as the Lily but more of bourbon kick, try the Woodford Reserve Spire from the presenting sponsor of the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve. The Spire is made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, lemonade, and cranberry juice, and is served over crushed ice in a commemorative copper julep cup. You can also make this into a fun mocktail!

New to the line-up this year is the Herradura Horseshoe Margarita. It’s  a refreshing and tangy twist on the classic margarita. It's made with Herradura Silver tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, and a splash of orange juice. The drink is served in a glass rimmed with salt and garnished with a lime wedge. With Cinco de Mayo often falling during Derby celebrations, this is the perfect cocktail for tequila lovers at the track.

No matter which official Kentucky Derby cocktail you choose, one thing is for sure – it's going to be delicious.  Whether you're cheering on your favorite horse at Churchill Downs or enjoying the races from the comfort of your own home, these cocktails are the perfect way to celebrate “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” So gather your friends, don your best hats and fascinators, and let's raise a glass to the Kentucky Derby!

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