An event normally falling on the first Saturday of May, the world’s most legendary racetrack holds America’s greatest race: The Kentucky Derby. Historically, this event has brought a spotlight not only on horse racing, but also on fashion, community, and several American cultural phenomena.
In 2020, as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on social events and gatherings, the Kentucky Derby is another event that unfortunately could not be held as planned. As of late April, it has been rescheduled to take place during September. Luckily, this does not mean that May 2nd will have to be totally Derby-less! NBC will be broadcasting the historic 2015 Derby as well as Churchill Downs’ first ever virtually simulated horse race.
Even if your Kentucky Derby experience will be taking place at home this year due to social distancing, it doesn’t have to be without classic Kentucky Derby delights. What better way to keep that Kentucky Derby spirit alive than with some classic Kentucky spirits? Here are our picks for iconic cocktails for Kentucky Derby celebrations.
Is there any other drink that pairs so well with the Kentucky Derby? Probably not! The Mint Julep has been the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby for nearly 100 years, and for good reason. The bourbon brings you right to Kentucky, and all of that crushed ice keeps you comfortable despite that ever-present Derby sun.
To make your own Mint Julep, you’ll need:
- About 4 mint sprigs
- 2 sugar cubes (or substitute ½ ounce of simple syrup)
- 2 ½ ounces of bourbon
- Crushed ice
To put this iconic cocktail together:
- Rub your glass with your mint leaves to get the oils well expressed
- Place the sugar and mint leaves at the bottom of the glass
- Muddle these ingredients to dissolve the sugar and release the oils, adding a splash of water can be helpful
- Add the bourbon
- Top your glass with crushed ice and stir until cold
- Garnish with a mint sprig, serve with a straw
Spiked Sweet Tea
Sweet tea and southern culture have always gone hand-in-hand, and the drink you sip on while you enjoy the Kentucky Derby should be no different. Our spiked sweet tea recipe is crisp and refreshing. It’s also made with vodka, but swapping out the spirit for Kentucky bourbon works fine as well.
Here’s what you’ll need to make spiked sweet tea:
- 10 mint leaves and some sprigs
- 1 ½ ounces of sweet tea
- ½ of lime juice, better if fresh
- 1 ½ ounces of vodka
- 3 ounces of club soda
- Lime wedges, for garnishing
To assemble your spiked sweet tea:
- Muddle the mint leaves and the sweet tea together in a shaker
- Add both the vodka and the lime juice, then ice and shake until frosty
- Strain into your glass of choice already filled with ice
- Add the club soda and stir everything together
- Add the lime wedges and sprigs as a garnish
The Moscow Mule is a cocktail that is almost synonymous with “refreshing.” The mint and ginger beer makes it an incredibly crisp and enjoyable cocktail to sip when you’re running a little hot. The only thing missing to make it good company for the Derby is a bit of bourbon—and that’s where the Kentucky Mule comes in.
To make a Kentucky Mule, you’ll need:
- 1 ½ ounces of bourbon
- 3 ounces of ginger beer
- 2 lime wedges
To put this together:
- Take your ginger beer and bourbon into a glass filled with ice
- Squeeze in the juice of one lime wedge
- Stir until well chilled
- Garnish with your second lime wedge