Take in the Kentucky Derby With a Pair of Cocktails That Celebrate Kentucky’s Famous Bourbon

Celebrate the Kentucky Derby with cocktails that celebrate the state's leading bourbon whisky. Photo: bhofack2/GettyImages

It’s Derby Day! The Kentucky Derby is a great reason to throw a party, but this year, we’ll be watching the race from the storied track at Churchill Downs in Louisville virtually. A little trivia: The first Kentucky Derby race, part of the Triple Crown of horse racing — the others being Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes — first ran in 1875, uninterrupted every year until the pandemic hit. 

The ‘run for the roses,’ named for the wreath draped over the winning horse, is going live again this weekend. Jockeys will mount up at 6:30 p.m. EST, and start is set for just before 7:00 p.m. 

So tune in and get in the spirit. Why not mix up the classic mint julep or try this twist, made exclusively for the race day by our Kentucky bourbon friends at Woodford Reserve, at home in Versaille, Ky., via their Canadian brand ambassador, Michael Fortier. Another bit of trivia: Although you can find bourbon distillers all over the U.S., only bourbon made in the state of Kentucky can be called Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. And, they’re off!


Bourbon Mint Julep


bourbon mint julep
Photo: Courtesy of Woodford Reserve


The traditional Derby Day Cocktail, and a southern ritual crafted from bourbon, simple syrup and mint.

2 oz Kentucky bourbon, such as Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
½ oz simple syrup
3 fresh mint leaves
Crushed ice


Express the essential oils in the mint by clapping them together in your hands and rub the inside of the glass with the leaves. To the same glass, add simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice. Stir. Garnish with more ice, fresh mint leaves and powdered sugar (optional)


Woodford Spire


Bourbine Spire
Photo: Courtesy of Woodford Reserve


Woodford’s official cocktail for the Kentucky Derby or any summertime celebration.

1 ½ oz Kentucky bourbon, such as Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
2 oz Lemonade
1 oz Cranberry Juice


Add ingredients to mixing glass and stir. Pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.