Beyond The Mint Julep: Drinks That Will Make Your Derby Party Better Than Churchill Downs

The 143rd Kentucky Derby is set for today, and while the crowds at the track will be all big hats and a rainbow of pastel sun dresses, not everybody can make it to Churchill for the weekend to the first leg of the Triple Crown. Many who want to tune in to the race will find a nice outdoor bar with screens airing the heart-pounding event or a sports bar that has the odds tacked to the wall. While either of these places can be perfect to watch two minutes of greatness, they can also be crowded, expensive, and not worth your energy if you aren’t an ardent horse racing fan.

What is worth your energy, if your opinion of the big race is that it’s “just okay,” is to throw your own get together in the comfort of your own home with some creative cocktails and a few friends. That way you aren’t breaking the bank flying all the way to Kentucky or being smushed into a bar just for a stylish drink and a fun environment. Make that fun environment with your own bartender skills.

While you’re at it, break out of the traditional Mint Julep expectation with some fun alternatives to the Derby’s signature drink. You don’t have to go too far away from the Julep norm to have add a bit of uniqueness to the day.

The Drink: The Stoop Smash

A drink that takes some extra elbow grease to pull off but is worth it in the end. The addition of Pepsi’s new 1893 Black Currant Cola adds a flavorful twist to a drink that offers a both a surprising kick and a refreshing jolt.

The Ingredients:

2 oz Belle Meade Bourbon
4 Strawberries muddled
.5 oz Lemon juice
.25 oz Simple syrup
1.5 oz 1893 Black Currant Cola
Angostura bitters

The Directions: Muddle strawberries in simple syrup. Add lemon juice and Bourbon and shake with ice. Fine strain over crushed ice in a double old fashioned glass. Top with 1893 Black Currant Cola and heavy dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with strawberry.

The Drink: The Kola Julep


The Ingredients:

1.5 oz Gin
.5 oz Lime juice
.5 oz Pineapple juice
2 oz Ginger Cola

The Directions: Combine ingredients in a julep cup. Top with crushed ice and garnish with candied Ginger and lime wheel.

The Drink: Absolut Limelight

Made with Absolut’s first new flavored vodka in four years, the Limelight is a fun twist on a vodka soda that is perfect for the warmer weather creeping in.

The Ingredients:
2 parts Absolut Lime
2 parts soda
2 parts ginger ale
½ part fresh lime

The Directions: Build in a highball over ice. Garnish with lime stirrer skewered with accordion cucumber.

The Drink: Not Your Classic Julep

A Julep fan that can’t completely let go of tradition? Then this slightly tweaked take on an old standby is for you.

The Ingredients:

6-8 mint leaves
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1oz Cynar
.5 Grapefruit Juice
Topped with cola

The Directions: Press mint in a rocks or julep glass. Add all ingredients to a rocks glass, top with crushed ice and swizzle. Garnish with a mint sprig and a grapefruit peel.

The Drink: Grapefruit-Mint Bellini

For those who want to start the day’s celebrations a much earlier than the big race.


The Ingredients:
2 parts simple syrup
6-8 mint leaves muddled
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
Prosecco or Champagne

The Directions: Muddle mint leaves and simple syrup, strain into a highball glass. Pour in grapefruit juice, mix slightly, and top with champagne or prosecco.

Drink up, enjoy, and bet on the horses with fun names!