Juleps and beyond: Try these 5 bourbon cocktails for your Kentucky Derby party

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen
This cherry mint julep offers a twist on a classic.

The Kentucky Derby, this year on May 6, is serious business to many. And for some, it's an excuse to drink bourbon. Here are 5 recipes for the latter.

Cherries & Cream Julep

Try this sweet spring take on a classic cocktail, developed by Woodford Reserve Bourbon.


2 ounces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

1/2 ounce cherry juice

Half a vanilla bean pod, cut into small segments

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Mint sprig, cherry, and vanilla bean pod for garnish

Crushed ice

Makes: 1 cocktail


In the julep cup, add 1/2 ounce cherry juice. Add half a vanilla bean pod cut into small segments. Add a teaspoon of powdered sugar. Muddle or mix together. Add crushed ice to 2/3 of the cup. Add 2 ounces of Woodford Reserve. Top off the cup with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig, real cherry and vanilla bean pod. 

Bourbon Peach Cooler

Bourbon Peach Cooler

The flavors of peach, iced tea and bourbon come together in a drink that begs to be sipped on the front porch. This recipe, adapted from “The Bourbon Country Cookbook” by David Danielson and Tim Laird, is a fixture at Southern Kitchen. 

Makes: 1 cocktail


2 ounces peach nectar

1 ounce unsweetened iced tea

1 1/2 ounce bourbon

1/4 ounce peach schnapps

Dash of peach bitters 

Peach slice, for garnish


In a shaker filled with ice, combine the peach nectar, iced tea, bourbon, schnapps and bitters. Shake the mixture vigorously and strain it into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with the peach slice and serve.

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Grown Up Jack And Coke

Grown-up Jack and Coke

This flavorful highball cocktail is a grown-up version of the classic Southern drink, Jack and Coke. Molasses and angostura bitters hint at Coca-Cola, while your favorite Tennessee whiskey provides the oomph. Top it all off with club soda and a splash of lime.

Makes: 4 cocktails


8 ounces bourbon

1 1/2 ounce molasses

1 ounce fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges, for garnish

1/2 ounce Angostura bitters

Ice cubes

Club soda


In a mixing glass, combine the whiskey, molasses, lime juice and bitters. Stir to dissolve the molasses. Fill four highball or Collins glasses with ice. Divide the whiskey mixture between the glasses and top with the soda. Garnish with a lime wedge and serve immediately.

Classic Old Forester Mint Julep

Classic mint julep.

A Kentucky Derby classic. You can make this in a classic julep cup, or any tall glass will do. This recipe is courtesy of Woodford Reserve.

Makes: 1 cocktail


3 ounces Old Forester Mint Julep

3/4 ounce Simple Syrup

8-10 mint leaves

3 mint sprigs, for garnish


Pack mint julep cup with crushed ice. In a mixing glass, combine bourbon, syrup, and mint leaves.  Lightly bruise mint leaves with a muddler, strain contents into a julep cup.  Garnish with 3 generous sprigs of mint. 

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Bourbon prosecco spritzer

Bourbon Prosecco Spritzer

This subtly herby and citrusy punch, topped with effervescent prosecco, is perfect for a Derby day brunch.

Makes: 1 cocktail


Sage Simple Syrup

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

5 sprigs fresh sage


3 ounces fresh orange juice

1 1/2 ounces high-quality bourbon, such as Woodford Reserve

1/2 ounce Sage Simple Syrup (above)

Ice cubes

3 ounces prosecco, such as Luna Nuda

Sage leaves and edible flowers, for garnish


To make the sage simple syrup: In a small saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and add the sage. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer set over a storage container. Discard the sage leaves and store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To make the cocktail: In a cocktail shaker, combine the orange juice, bourbon and simple syrup. Fill with ice and shake until chilled. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass filled with three ice cubes. Top with prosecco and stir gently to combine. Garnish with sage leaves and edible flowers, and serve cold.

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com