8 ‘Other’ Bourbon Drinks for the Kentucky Derby
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8 ‘Other’ Bourbon Drinks for the Kentucky Derby

© John Gress / Reuters

Mint juleps have been synonymous with the Kentucky Derby since the inaugural event in 1875. But if you’re one of those poor souls who doesn’t like the Derby’s traditional cocktail, there are plenty of other options to wet your whistle.

Since bourbon is America’s only native spirit and the Derby is an American institution, the two go together like fireworks on the Fourth of July. But that’s not saying you must enjoy your bourbon with sugar and mint. There are many other ways to guzzle your libation.

Related: Kentucky Derby: The Value of a 2-Minute Horserace

Check out the eight cocktail recipes below and use the Derby to experiment with one, two or all of them. They’re simple to make and will allow you to revel in Kentucky Derby fun long after the two-minute horserace.

Bourbon Manhattan

An easy-to-make cocktail, you don’t need to be in the big apple to enjoy this smooth drink.


2 ounces of bourbon
1 ounce of Italian sweet vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 cherry


1. Stir all of the ingredients and ice in a mixing glass
2. Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass
3. Garnish with a cherry


I’m willing to place a large bet that you’ll like this sweet and rich libation.


8 to 10 mint leaves, and one large mint sprig
1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar (a brown sugar syrup)
¼ ounce of chilled club soda
2 ½ ounces of bourbon
2 teaspoons of Frangelico
1 ½ ounces of pineapple juice
2 teaspoons of pure maple syrup


1. Mix the mint leaves, turbinado sugar and club soda in a cocktail shaker
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well
3. Strain the mixture twice into an ice-filled tumbler
4. Adorn with a mint sprig

The French Embassy

Sometimes it’s the little things. A few dashes of Angostura bitters transforms this drink into a truly savory cocktail.


½ ounce of fresh lemon juice
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 ounces of bourbon
½ ounce of elderflower liqueur (ex. St. Germain)
A splash of club soda

1. Put the lemon juice in a collins glass
2. Top the lemon juice with the Angostura bitters
3. Stir in the bourbon and elderflower liqueur
4. Add ice and top it off with club soda


A perfect drink to enjoy if you’re forced to watch the Derby on the television from a cold northern state.


1 ounce of maple syrup
1 ounce of lime juice
4 ounces of bourbon
2 ounces of cold ginger beer
1 slice of a lime


1. Mix the syrup, lime juice and bourbon in a small pitcher
2. Chill the concoction in the refrigerator or freezer until very cold
3. Pour the mixture into a lowball glass with ice and top with the ginger beer
4. Garnish with a lime slice

Smashing Leaves

Take care not to consume too many of these tart cocktails, or you might end up smashed yourself.


3 kumquats
2 ounces of bourbon
¾ ounce of fresh lemon juice
3 shisho leaves (or substitute mint or basil)
¾ ounces of simple syrup


1. Mix the simple syrup and the kumquats together in a shaker tin
2. Add the bourbon, lemon and 2 shisho leaves
3. Shake the mixture with ice to chill
4. Strain the drink over ice into a rocks glass
5. Garnish with a shisho leaf

The Southern Belle

Living up to its name, the Southern Belle is both sweet and sassy.


2 ½ ounces of bourbon
¾ ounce of pomegranate liqueur
½ ounce of simple syrup
4 dashes of Angostura bitters
3 ounces of club soda or seltzer


1. Muddle all of the ingredients together in a mixer glass or shaker
2. Pour the mixture into a cocktail glass over ice

Break Maiden

A “break maiden” is a term that means a rider or a horse that wins its first race and you’ll certainly be one if you indulge in this crisp cocktail.


2 ounces of bourbon
¾ ounce of fresh lemon juice
½ ounce of ginger liqueur


1. Stir the ingredients together in a mixer glass
2. Pour the mixture into a cocktail glass over ice

Touch of Evil

With a dash of absinthe, this drink certainly has an evil side. But the mix of other delicious ingredients will make sure it goes down smoothly.


1 ½ ounces of bourbon
1 ounce of rhubarb syrup
¾ ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 dash of absinthe verté
1 lemon slice
1 crushed mint leaf


1. Mix the bourbon, syrup, lemon juice and absinthe in a shaker filled with ice
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
3. Adorn with the lemon and crushed mint leaf