Win, place or show: 5 Kentucky Derby cocktails are a must for any watching party


Looking for some Kentucky Derby cocktails? From mint juleps to colorful creations, these cocktails will impress more than your best Derby hat.

Throwing a Derby watching party? Kentucky Derby cocktails are a must for the occasion. While the classic, official Mint Julep is a timeless choice, it isn’t the only cocktail that can be served. From a colorful julep to a modern twist on the classic, these cocktails will definitely have everyone cheering, regardless if their horse won, placed or showed.

The Mint Julep has been the official Kentucky Derby cocktail since 1938. This “American” cocktail has four classic ingredients, mint, sugar, bourbon and ice. While each version is slightly different, the basic idea of a julep is the same.

Looking back at cocktail history, some Southern mint juleps were made with cognac. The French spirit offers a slightly different flavor to the classic cocktail.

In honor of that Southern and French inspiration, Hennessy recommends this French Julep. There is a smoothness to the cocktail’s finish. In this particular cocktail, the ginger/green tea syrup adds a new flavor combination to the classic cocktail.

Here’s how to make a French Julep.

French Julep, photo provided by Hennessy

"French JulepCreated by Juan Arboleda and available at Shoo Shoo in NYCIngredients:•2 oz. Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège Cognac•1 oz. ginger/green tea syrup*•¾ oz. fresh squeeze lemon juice•Pinch of mint•Garnish: Mint sprig, Peychaud’s bitters•Glassware: Chilled Rocks GlassDirections: Add all ingredients to a small tin, add ice – shake – strain. Garnish with 3-4 dashes of bitters and mint sprig.*Ginger/ Green Tea Syrup•4 cup chopped ginger root•4 green tea bags•3 cups water•3 cups sugarDirections: Add water and sugar into a medium sized pot on med – high heat. Once sugar is dissolved, add ginger (stir occasionally). As the simple base begins to turn color and ginger becomes soft, remove from heat add green tea bags and cover. When mixture cools strain through a tea strainer.Yield: (approx.) 1qt"

Since Rosé has taken over so many wine glasses, why shouldn’t it be part included in a Kentucky Derby cocktail? This cocktail uses Angry Orchard Rosé Cider. The bright, apple flavors in this fruit forward cider plays off the freshness of the mint.

Additionally, the crème de cassis is a different twist to a classic mint julep. The balance of flavors makes this cocktail approachable to a person who isn’t a traditional bourbon drinker. It is a cocktail definitely worth exploring.

Here’s how to make a Rosé Cider Julep by Angry Orchard mixologist partner Jeremy Oertel.

Rosé Cider Julep, photo provided by Angry Orchard

"Rosé Cider JulepIngredients:• 4-5 oz Angry Orchard Rosé Cider• 0.5 oz Bourbon• 0.5 oz Creme de Cassis• 0.5 oz Simple Syrup• 6-8 Mint LeavesMethod:Muddle mint in the bottom of a Julep Tin. Add the rest of the ingredients and then fill the Julep Tin with crushed ice. Garnish with a lavish mint bouquet."

While the traditional mint julep verges on the sweet side, some people would prefer a bold, even spicier, kick to their Kentucky Derby cocktails. In this cocktail, a jalapeno infused simple syrup adds a new layer of flavor to the traditional cocktail.

While the name conveys the burst of flavor, a few sips wouldn’t leave you feeling the sting from that kick. Here’s how to make The Horse That Kicked Back.

The Horse That Kicked Back, photo provided by Uncle Nearest

"The Horse That Kicked BackCreated by Louisville mixologist Shelby HigginbothamIngredients:• 2 oz Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey• 8 mint leaves• 1 oz jalapeño simple syrup• 1 mint sprig• 2 slices of jalapeño• Crushed iceIn a pewter Julep cup, muddle mint leaves with jalapeño simple syrup. Half fill the cup with crushed ice and add Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. Stir the cocktail until the ice begins to dilute. Add more crushed ie until the cup is heaping. Garnish with a mint sprig and 2 slices of jalapeño."

Since mint is a popular flavor for Kentucky Derby cocktails, this particular cocktail adds a brightness and herbaceous note from combining mint and cucumber. Adding spicy ginger and lime, the layers of flavors build and flow with each sip.

The refreshing nature of this cocktail could have you mixing up another one. Here’s how to make the Cucumber-Mint Cooler.

Cucumber-Mint Cooler, photo provided by Ketel One

"Cucumber-Mint CoolerSERVES 1Ingredients:• 1 small cucumber, cut into thin rounds• 1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices• 4 sprigs mint• 2 lime wedges• 2 ounces Ketel One Botanical Cucumber & Mint vodka• 6 ounces of sparkling waterMethod1. In a large glass, add the cucumber, ginger, 2 mint sprigs, lime, and vodka and muddle together until all the essential oils are released. Then strain into a new glass filled with ice.2. Finish with sparkling water and garnish with the remaining sprigs of mint and additional lime wedges or cucumber slices, if desired."

When the horse crosses the finish line, there is a moment of elation. Shouldn’t a Kentucky Derby cocktail express that moment of finish line happiness?

This cocktail from Finlandia is tart, bright and refreshing. The grapefruit cocktail might not be as red as the winning roses but it is as aromatic.

Here’s how to make The Finnish Line.

"The Finnish Line1 ¼ oz. Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka4 oz. Sparkling Grapefruit WaterGrapefruit SliceCombine ingredients over crushed ice. Garnish with a grapefruit slice."

Related Story. The secret to the best mint julep might surprise you. light

Are you throwing a Derby watching party? What Kentucky Derby cocktails will you be serving?