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Kentucky Derby Previews

The revelry that surrounds the Kentucky Derby is an annual spectacle of dazzling outfits, plenty of Mint Juleps, and of course, high-stakes horse racing. For those watching the Kentucky Derby at home, we’re featuring several cocktails that we believe will serve as a boost to your viewing.

The Kentucky Derby is the longest continually held sporting event in America and one of several premier horse racing events to take place globally. This year’s event marks the 150th anniversary of the Derby and is the first race of the coveted Triple Crown racing events.

We’ve got more on the history of the event from the Library of Congress:

Popular rider Oliver Lewis rode H. P. McGrath’s thoroughbred Aristides to victory in the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875, at the Louisville Jockey Club. Fourteen of the fifteen jockeys in the derby, including Lewis, were African Americans.

The Kentucky Derby was begun by Meriwether Lewis Clark, a prominent Louisville citizen who developed the Louisville Jockey Club. Clark began construction on the race course in 1874 on land leased from two relatives, John and Henry Churchill. He patterned the Kentucky Derby after the English Classic, the Epsom Derby. The Derby, now run annually the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, is the oldest consecutively held thoroughbred horse race in the United States. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes comprise the coveted Triple Crown of U.S. horse racing.

As you can see from the excerpt above, Black jockeys played a large role in the races and we have four cocktails below that honor those legends from Old Hillside. We had the pleasure of meeting the founders of the whiskey brand in 2023 and hope to do a longer feature with them this year.

We also have innovative twists on the Mint Julep and other refreshing sips that make sense for the season from brands we love and brands we’re hoping to get to know more about. As always, everything is in alphabetical order, not preference or rank.

Check out the cocktails below and enjoy your weekend!

Photo: Getty

1. Alonzo Clayton

Alonzo Clayton Source:Old Hillsdie

Alonzo Clayton, known to many as “Lonnie,” named after the Black jockey who [became] the youngest ever to win the Kentucky Derby.

Build this cocktail in a shaker tin without ice. Add together:

1.5 ounces Old Hillside Rye
1.5 ounces Apple Cider
0.5 ounces Lemon Juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Add ice and shake for 30 seconds. Pour liquid into rocks glass. Garnish with apple slices and grated nutmeg.

2. Berry Julep

Berry Julep Source:Jim Beam

1.5 Part Jim Beam Bourbon
0.5 Part Raspberry Syrup
0.5 Part Blueberry Syrup
0.5 Part Lemon Juice

Shake. Serve Over Ice and garnish with mint and berries.

3. Derby Delight

Derby Delight Source:Redemption

1 ½ parts Redemption Bourbon Whiskey
2 parts apple cider 
2 parts prosecco 
½ part lemon juice 
Barspoon cardamom honey *

*Cardamom-honey: Add 5-10 cardamom pods to a ratio of 1:1 honey and water. Heat on low until honey is dissolved in water and cardamom is fragrant. Let sit for a few hours to cool.  

Shake all ingredients, except prosecco, with ice  
Pour into a champagne flute  
Top with prosecco 

4. Hibiscus Mint Julep

Hibiscus Mint Julep Source:Four Roses

(created by Four Roses ambassador Abby Martinie)

2 fl oz Four Roses Small Batch
1/2 fl oz Hibiscus syrup
2-3 Mint Leaves
Garnish with Mint

Steep 1 part hibiscus tea to 1 part granulated sugar. Stir until dissolved. Muddle mint with hibiscus syrup in a Julep cup. Add Bourbon and crushed ice. Pack tight. Swizzle or stir until the cocktail is well chilled. Add more ice to create a dome. Garnish.

5. Isaac Murphy

Isaac Murphy Source:Old Hillside

Our go-to cocktail, the Isaac Murphy, named after one of the Best Jockeys of all time.

Build this cocktail in a shaker tin without ice. Add together:

1.5 ounces Old Hillside Rye
2 ounces Sweetened Iced Tea (or your preferred tea)
0.5 ounces Lemon Juice
2 dashes Orange Bitters

Add ice and shake for 30 seconds. Pour liquid into rocks glass. Garnish with lemon wedge.

6. James “Soup” Perkins

James "Soup" Perkins Source:Old Hillside

The Soup Perkins, named after the Black jockey who started racing at age 11.

Build this cocktail in a mixing glass without ice. Add together:

1.5 ounces Old Hillside Rye
0.75 ounces Sweet Vermouth
1 Orange Peel
5 dashes Peychaud Bitters

Add ice and stir continuously for 40 seconds. Strain the liquid into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist and a skewered brandied cherry.

7. Oliver Lewis

Oliver Lewis Source:Old Hillside

The Oliver Lewis, named after the Black jockey who, at the 1st Kentucky Derby in 1875, won the inaugural event riding atop Aristides.

Build this cocktail in a shaker tin without ice. Add together:

1.5 ounces Old Hillside Rye
1 ounce Dry Vermouth
0.75 ounces Grenadine Syrup
0.75 Lemon Juice

Add ice and shake for 30 seconds. Pour liquid into martini or coupe glass garnish with lemon twist.

8. Photo Finish

Photo Finish Source:Jephta Creed

2 oz Jeptha Creed 6 Year Wheated Bourbon
½ oz St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz Cointreau
2 oz Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
1oz Fresh Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients into shaker tin with ice. Shake thoroughly, and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange wheel. Enjoy!

9. Spire

Spire Source:Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve®, is the Presenting Sponsor of the Kentucky Derby®

1.5 oz. Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
2 oz. Lemonade
1 oz. Cranberry Juice

Directions: Add ingredients to mixing glass and stir. Pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

10. The Short King

The Short King Source:Gran Coramino

1.5 oz Gran Coramino Cristliano
1.5 oz bourbon
1.5 oz fresh lime juice
3 oz mint syrup

Create mint simple syrup using 1/2 sugar, 1 bunch mint and 2 cups water in a pot and bring to a simmer until sugar is dissolved. Combine all ingredients in a shaker and serve over crushed ice with mint garnish.