Derby Bourbon Drinks!


It’s post time at Churchill Downs! Celebrate the racing season with a few of my favorite bourbon cocktails and a nice seasonal salad to go with them. Bourbon and Thoroughbred horses go together and share something in common, the water. Kentucky’s limestone rich water helps make the best bourbon in America and also is said to help strengthen the bones in Thoroughbred horses.

When we talk about cocktails at Derby time, a must make for the season in a mint julep. The Friday before Kentucky Derby Saturday is known as Oaks day and it’s when the fillies run in the Oaks race for the lilies. The lilies are a blanket of stargazer lilies that is draped over the winner of the race.

The Derby is, of course, the run for the roses. I created an Oaks Lily cocktail 11 years ago for Churchill Downs and now you can make it at home with my original recipe. The Strawberry Caprese Salad recipe I’ve included is one that will be served on Millionaires Row at Churchill Downs this year. It’s a perfect mixture of fresh ingredients and is easy to prepare.

Finally, try my Easy Breeze, a light and refreshing cocktail loved by bourbon and non-bourbon drinkers alike. Enjoy and here’s to picking the winning horses!

Photo credit: Dan Dry

THE Best Mint Julep
In a tall glass with ice, add:
2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon (official bourbon of Churchill Downs)
1 ounce Mint Simple Syrup
Crushed ice
Add a sipping straw and garnish with a large mint sprig.

To make the mint simple syrup:
1 part water
1 part sugar
1 part loosely-packed fresh mint leaves

In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  When the water is clear and the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the mint leaves.  Let steep for 20 minutes.  Strain into a glass container and store in the refrigerator.

Note: You can adjust the sweetness of the drink by adding more or less of the Mint Simple Syrup. The Mint Simple Syrup is also a great addition to iced tea.


Photo credit: Dan Dry

The Oaks Lily

1 ounces Finlandia Vodka
1 ounce sweet and sour mix or lemonade
3 ounces cranberry juice
½ ounce triple sec
3 blackberries

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake until cold, strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with blackberries on a skewers. Add sipping straw and enjoy.

Strawberry Caprese Salad
2 pints cherry tomatoes (any variety), halved
1 pint strawberries, quartered
1 cup small mozzarella balls
¼ cup basil syrup (recipe below)
Basil leaves for garnish

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, strawberries and mozzarella. Drizzle desired amount of basil syrup then toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with torn basil leaves.

Basil Syrup
¼ cup firmly pack fresh basil leaves
1 cup light corn syrup
In a blender, combine corn syrup and basil, blend until smooth.

Serves 6

Photo credit: Dan Dry

Easy Breeze
In a rocks glass with ice, add:
1 ½ ounces Woodford Reserve
2 ounces lemonade
1 ounce cranberry juice
Stir and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Note: You can use light lemonade and diet cranberry juice for a lower calorie cocktail.