Kentucky Derby cocktails that will win, place and show

(Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Garden & Gun)
(Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Garden & Gun) /

Although the event might be the fastest two minutes in sports, these Kentucky Derby cocktails may keep the excitement going all day long. With so many options to sip, it might be time rank the favorites in order of win, place and show. Which Kentucky Derby cocktails will be your winning trifecta?

While the Mint Julep is the iconic Kentucky Derby cocktail, it doesn’t have to be the only libation served on the first Saturday in May. Although there is always a spot for a glass of Woodford Reserve, simple syrup and mint, sometimes a little twist is in order. Just like the unlikely underdog winning by a nose, creative Kentucky Derby cocktails can sprint to the winner’s circle.

For this list of Kentucky Derby Cocktails, the choices are quite varied. From refreshing, fruit forward drinks to simple combinations that allow the few ingredients to shine, the reality is that people want options. With more people feeling confident behind the bar, that the cocktail shaker needs some excitement.

Which Kentucky Derby cocktails race to the win?

Penny Lane Mint Julep

Since strawberry season often coincides with the Run for the Roses, this cocktail blends the sweetness of the strawberries with the refreshing notes from the mint. For the non-bourbon drinker, this cocktail could be the entry way to a storied love affair.

Featuring the Penelope Bourbon, the flavors feel more like a rose wine. Delightful slightly chilled and served neat, this bourbon has broad appeal.

Serving it with Natalie’s Strawberry Lemonade is perfect for a spring day. The tart, bright flavors are delightful in the warm sun. Even though the race lasts just a few minutes, this cocktail might be a summer time favorite.


  • 1.5 oz Penelope Bourbon
  • 3 oz Natalie’s Strawberry Lemonade
  • .5 oz simple syrup
  • 1 strawberry
  • 3 chopped fresh mint leave
  • Lemon & Mint sprigs for garnish


  • Using your Penelope Bourbon Copper Mug, muddle the strawberry and mint leaves with simple syrup. Top with ice.
  • In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine strawberry lemonade and Penelope.
  • Shake until well chilled
  • Pour into a glass
  • Garnish with lemon slices and fresh sprigs of mint

Neigh Sayer

Spicy cocktails have been trending for a while. That kick of heat actually has a cooling effect. The Q Mixers Ginger Beer offers that touch of spice to round out the other flavors. As the temperature rise in anticipation of the big race, this cocktail could calm the nerves a little. Just maybe that underdog could pull off a big upset.


  • 5 oz Q Mixers Ginger Beer
  • 1.5 oz Bourbon
  • 0.5 oz Lemon Juice
  • 0.5 oz Honey
  • 2 Sprigs of Fresh Mint
  • 1 Lemon Wheel (garnish)
  • A Mint Sprig (garnish)


  • Dissolve honey, lemon juice and bourbon in the bottom of a large 12-14oz Collins glass.
  • Add to full sprigs of mint and top with crushed/cracked ice.
  • Top with Q Ginger Beer and stir to mix ingredients.
  • Garnish with another mint sprig and a lemon wheel.

Green Tea Mint Julep

Sometimes adding a favorite beverage to the mix can be comforting, especially when nerves are running high on race day. This twist on a mint julep features Pure Leaf Green Tea.

While the tea is unsweetened, a little sugar can liven up the cocktail. While this version uses a granulated sugar, it can be customized with other options. A local honey or even a touch of agave can be equally as enjoyable.


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 sprigs mint, plus more for muddling and garnish
  • 1.5 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea
  • Ice


  • To a small sauce pot add the water, sugar and mint. Bring up to a simmer over medium heat then remove from heat and let steep until cool, about 20 minutes. Strain into a glass jar or liquid measuring cup.
  • To a cocktail shaker add 1 ounce of mint simple syrup and 2 sprigs of mint, muddle for 10 seconds. Next add in the bourbon, Pure Leaf Unsweetened Green Tea and 1/4 cup ice. Shake for 20 seconds then strain into a short glass or mint julep glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Woodford Spire

As the signature spirit of the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve always deserves a special spot on race day. Instead of the traditional mint julep, consider this cocktail that might become a summertime favorite.

The simple cocktail is slightly tart and sweet. Similar to that last minute come from behind on the last turn, this cocktail will have you excited that you decided to switch from a mint julep.


  • 1.5 parts Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • 2 parts Lemonade
  • 1 part 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 liquid mixture into a copper cup, add crushed ice to the top of the glass & serve with a lemon twist.

D’USSE Ginger Julep

While the traditional mint julep is celebrated for its simplicity, this version proves that sometimes extravagance is worth the indulgence. Adding the D’USSE Cognac adds a robust note to the cocktail. While the mint refreshes and the ginger syrup heightens the sip, the cognac with the bitters makes for an amazing experience. Just don’t spill a drop when you jump up for that big winning moment.


  • 1 ½ oz D’USSÉ VSOP Cognac
  • ½ oz Ginger Syrup
  • 8 Mint Leaves
  • 4-5 dashes Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
  • Crushed ice
  • Club soda


  • Muddle mint with ginger simple syrup and bitters in a julep cup. Add D’USSE VSOP and crushed ice. Stir vigorously until cold and cup is frosted. Top with club soda and more crushed ice to form a dome. Add dashes of bitters on top. Garnish with mint.


If you aren’t a racing fan, the term superfecta might be a little muddled. A betting term where a person picks the first four finishers in order is a tricky task.

While Fernet-Branca is all about the multiple sips to reveal its layers of flavor, this option on the Kentucky Derby cocktails list might surprise you. Just like picking the superfecta pays big, this cocktail delivers big flavors.

Created by bartender Amy Fisher, this cocktail races to the win


  • .75 oz Fernet-Branca
  • .75 oz Carpano Bitter
  • .75 oz Carpano Classico
  • .75 oz Woodford Reserve
  • 3 drops of weatherby’s orange abs saffron bitters


  • Prepare your julep mug by first rubbing some oils from a few leaves around the bottom and side of the glass. Stirred all ingredients and serve over crushed ice in a julep mug with a KY colonel mint bouquet.

Lipton Orange Blossom Julep

Sometimes spring time is the perfect season to celebrate floral flavors. With this cocktail featuring the Lipton Herbal Orange Blossom Iced Tea, that touch of sweet is the perfect complement to the mint. Like the honey bee that is attracted to the sweet blossom, this cocktail will have you going back sip after sip.


  • 1.5oz bourbon
  • Honey
  • Lipton Herbal Orange Blossom Iced Tea
  • 2 orange slices
  • 6 mint leaves


  • In a julep tin add 1oz of Orange Blossom Lipton Iced Tea honey syrup (see instructions) and muddle two orange slices and 6-8 mint leaves for 15-20 seconds. Add bourbon, then add crushed ice. Garnish with a mint bouquet, a skewered cherry, and an orange rose if applicable.
  • To make tea honey syrup: combine equal parts honey and Orange Blossom Iced Tea. Stir until combined and smooth.

Southern Comfort Mint Julep Gelatin Shot

While it might have been a while since you’ve had a gelatin shot, the Kentucky Derby could be the perfect excuse to have one. Although you might want to provide everyone with a tooth pick for easy eating, this cocktail will have everyone remember why there is always room for gelatin.

Just be careful and remember to hydrate. These shots are a cocktail, not a dessert.


  • ½ cup Southern Comfort
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 packet unflavored Gelatin
  • (mix ingredients)
  • Add ½ cup cold water
  • Top with whipped cream
  • Garnish w/ mint leaves


  • Mix Southern Comfort, hot water, granulated sugar and unflavored Gelatin. Then add cold water. Let sit. Top with whipped cream and garnish with mint leaves.

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These Kentucky Derby cocktails are just a small example of the many options that can be served for the annual Run for the Roses. Whether the favorite horse finishes win, place or show, these cocktails are always a top finisher.