What Kinds of Drinks Are There At The Kentucky Derby?

What Kinds of Drinks Are There At The Kentucky Derby

Many fans of the Kentucky Derby have heard of the classic mint julep, a famed alcoholic beverage served at the race, but what other kinds of drinks are served at the Kentucky Derby? As it turns out, there are a wide variety of beverages offered at Churchill Downs for fans of the most famous horse race in America. Here, we will take a look at a few of them, from the famous mint julep itself to a variety of other options.

Mint Juleps

The most famous cocktail served at the Kentucky Derby is the mint julep. Known for its classic lime green color and commemorative glass, the mint julep is the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, an integral part of the culture of the race. The classic beverage is made with two ounces of Woodford Reserve Bourbon, the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, half an ounce of simple syrup, three fresh mint leaves, and crushed ice. In order to achieve the drink’s signature minty flavor, bartenders rub the mint leaves to make them exude their essential oils, which they then rub on the interior of the drinking glass. After this, the simple syrup, bourbon, and crushed ice are added, and the drink is stirred and garnished with more ice and fresh mint. The mint julep’s taste is often described as being slightly sweet, minty, and cooling with an undercurrent of bourbon, all of which combine to moderate the early May heat. For those who want a similar beverage without the alcohol, the Derby provides a “mocktail” recipe for the mint julep, which consists of topping five ounces of mint simple syrup with unsweetened tea and ice, stirred and garnished with mint.

Finlandia Vodka

The official vodka of the Kentucky Derby, Finlandia Vodka, is made from Finland’s finest six-row barley and purified by the Nordic country's brisk, cold winters before being nourished in the warm summer months. The vodka then goes through a 200-step distillation process, stripping it of any impurities. Finally, the resulting spirit is blended with water drawn from pure, glacial springs. At the Kentucky Derby, Finlandia Vodka is used to make six unique cocktails, the Finlandia Oaks Lily, the Finlandia Raspberry Lemonade, the Finlandia Herbarium Pitcher, the Finlandia Finnish Line, the Finlandia Apple Cider Mule, and the Finlandia Spicy Bloody Mary. 

The Oaks Lily combines one part vodka with one part sweet and sour mix, one-quarter part Triple Sec, and three parts cranberry juice. The Raspberry Lemonade consists of one part Finlandia Raspberry Vodka (a variation of the classic spirit), two parts cranberry juice, and two parts lemonade. Finally, the Herbarium Pitcher combines one part vodka, one part lime juice, one-half part simple syrup, three parts soda water, a pinch of salt, and herbs (typically a mix of mint, basil, sage, rosemary, coriander).

The Finnish Line combines one part Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, three parts sparkling water, and a grapefruit wedge. The Apple Cider Mule consists of one-and-a-half ounces of vodka, three ounces of apple cider, ginger beer, and a garnish of cinnamon sticks. Finally, the Spicy Bloody Mary combines a 46-ounce can of tomato juice with one cup of vodka, half a cup of lemon juice, four to six drops of Tabasco, one teaspoon of celery salt, and the option of one teaspoon of celery seeds, which combine to make a pitcher.

Old Forester Bourbon

Old Forester Bourbon is another signature alcohol served at the Kentucky Derby and has existed since 1870 when it became “America’s First Bottled Bourbon.” Old Forester is used to make a number of cocktails at the Derby, including its own variation of the mint julep, as well as the Old Forest Classic Old Fashioned, the Old Forester Horse’s Neck, the Old Forester Hibiscus Punch, and the Old Forester Perfect Old Fashioned. The Classic Old Fashioned consists of two ounces Old Forester 100-Proof Bourbon, five ounces of Demerara Syrup (2:1), and two dashes of Angostura Bitters. The Horse’s Neck combines two ounces of 86-Proof Bourbon with two dashes of Angostura Bitters, ginger ale, and a long lemon peel. The Hibiscus Punch consists of 1.5 ounces of 100-Proof Bourbon, 1.5 ounces of unsweetened Hibiscus Tea, 0.5 ounces Old Forester Oleo-Saccharum Syrup, 0.5 ounces of pineapple juice, and mint for garnish. Finally, the Perfect Old Fashioned combines two ounces of 100-Proof Bourbon, 0.5 ounces of Old Forester Perfect Old Fashioned Syrup, and an orange peel.

Other Drinks

In addition to these cocktails, there are a number of other cocktails offered at the Kentucky Derby, along with signature beer and non-alcoholic beverage options. Other cocktails made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon include the Woodford Reserve Whisky Sour, the Woodford Reserve Cherries and Cream Julep, the Woodford Reserve Spire, the Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned, and the Woodford Reserve Horse's Neck. For beer options, the Kentucky Derby is sponsored by Blue Moon Beer. Finally, for fans with non-alcoholic desires, the Derby recommends its sweet iced tea recipe, which is made with three quarts of water, two cups of sugar, and four quart-size tea bags.


The Kentucky Derby offers fans of horse racing a number of inventive and refreshing cocktails for their day at the races. In addition to the classic mint julep, the Derby provides fans with a number of alcoholic and non-alcoholic options for a soothing day beneath the spring sun, and any of these options, whether served at Churchill Downs or in one’s own home, is guaranteed to spruce up Derby Day and provide excellent accompaniment to the biggest horse race in America.