Five festive Kentucky Derby drinks that aren't a mint julep

April 26th, 2021

Not everyone acquires the taste of the mint julep, the traditional Kentucky Derby libation made of one part water, one part sugar, bourbon, mint, and a heap of crushed ice.  

For those looking to indulge in a different cocktail option during the 147th Run for the Roses on Saturday, May 1, here are five other festive Kentucky Derby drinks you can whip up before the call to the post.  

1. Finlandia Oaks Lily

The official drink of the Kentucky Oaks — the Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbred fillies held the Friday before Derby — the Finlandia Oaks Lily made its debut at Churchill Downs Racetrack in 2006.

Based on a cosmopolitan, the hot pink color of this liquid refreshment pays homage to the stargazer lilies draped over the winning filly of the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks race.

Created by former Brown-Forman Chief Entertaining Officer Tim Laird, this time-honored tipple is also served at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, and has become hugely popular with the race-day crowd, as well as those hosting their own Derby-themed parties at home.


  • 1 part vodka                    
  • 1 part sweet and sour mix
  • 1/4 part triple sec
  • 3 parts cranberry juice


Fill a stemless wine glass with crushed ice, then add all ingredients and stir. Garnish with blackberries and a lemon wedge.

2. Old Fashioned

Is there any bourbon concoction more classic than an Old Fashioned? To embrace the spirit of Kentucky, the birthplace of bourbon, stir up this pleasantly smooth potation that is as easy to make as it is to sip.

In 2015, Louisville (home of the Kentucky Derby) declared the Old Fashioned the official cocktail of the city. The mayor also dubbed the period of June 1 through 14 an Old Fashioned Fortnight to celebrate the drink claimed to have been invented in 1881 by the Pendennis Club, a private social club in Louisville.


  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Orange peel
  • Cherry


Pour sugar and bitters into a glass, then add water and stir until sugar is nearly dissolved. Fill glass with large ice cubes and add in bourbon. Gently stir to combine all ingredients. For garnish, express the oil of an orange peel over the glass, then drop it in, along with a cherry for extra sweetness.

3. Woodford Reserve Spire

Another signature drink brought to you by the inventor of the Oaks Lily, the Woodford Reserve Spire is a more recent addition to Churchill Downs' race-day menu.

The bourbon-infused beverage takes the key ingredient of the Mint Julep and mixes it with the subtle tartness of cranberry juice found in the Oaks Lily.

With two ounces of lemonade padded to this drink, your lips will pucker at the taste of this spiked punch named after the iconic pair of steeples that sit atop the grandstand of Churchill Downs.


  • 1.5 ounces bourbon
  • 2 ounces lemonade
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • Lemon twist


Combine all ingredients in a glass over ice and garnish with a lemon twist. 

For a mocktail version of the Woodford Reserve Spire, replace 1.5 ounces bourbon with 1.5 ounces sweet tea.

4. Kentucky Mule

A spin on the famed Moscow Mule, which uses vodka instead of bourbon, the Kentucky Mule is a much more fitting potion for the Run for the Roses.

You can go with either version, depending on which type of liquor you prefer. Just be sure to use a copper mule mug if you want to feel extra fancy while sipping on this fizzy refreshment.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 4 to 6 ounces ginger beer
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • Ice


Fill a Moscow mule mug, or glass, with ice and add lime juice. Pour in bourbon, then top the glass with cold ginger beer, and stir.

5. Blue Moon Mist

If you're not a huge cocktail fan, you could simply pop off the cap of a Blue Moon, the official craft beer sponsor of the Kentucky Derby. 

For a more sophisticated take on the crisp and creamy brew, dress it up with Aperol, an Italian aperitif, and splash in some lemon juice for boosted citrus flavor.  


  • 1 ounce Aperol                      
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 10 ounces Blue Moon Belgian White ale
  • Ice
  • Orange garnish


Fill a glass with ice, then add Aperol and lemon juice, and stir. Top with Blue Moon Belgian White ale and stir gently. Garnish with an orange slice.