The state of Kentucky has a rich history in bourbon and distilleries, boasting the production of 95 percent of all the bourbon in the world. With over 11 million barrels of bourbon in the state (two barrels for every one Kentucky resident), it’s no wonder bourbon drinks and the Kentucky Derby go hand in hand.
The 2022 Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.
Related: How to watch the 2022 Kentucky Derby
Get ready for the 148th Kentucky Derby with these traditional (and less traditional) bourbon cocktails, mocktails and more.
Mint Julep ingredients, recipe
The Mint Julep is a Kentucky Derby staple. In a regular year when Churchill Downs hosts spectators at 100 percent capacity, over 100,000 Mint Julep drinks are sold on Kentucky Oaks Friday and Kentucky Derby Saturday. This requires around 10,000 bottles of Mint Julep mix, 1,000 pounds of fresh mint and 60,000 pounds of ice.
To make your own Mint Julep at home, you can either purchase premade Mint Julep syrup and add ice and mint to garnish or you can make it entirely from scratch with the bourbon of your choice, simple syrup and mint, like the Kentucky Derby’s own recipe, which uses Old Forester (a product of Louisville, Ky. that is made less than 5 miles from Churchill Downs).
Serve it up in an official Kentucky Derby 148 glass—or the Unofficial Kentucky Derby Losers cup, which honors the 147 horses that have finished in last place.
What's Derby Day without a classic mint julep?
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) April 27, 2021
Mint Julep variations
If you’re feeling posh and maybe a bit more adventurous, why not try replicating this year’s $1,000 Kentucky Derby Mint Julep, which is a nod to the connections between Kentucky and France (for example, both have towns named “Versailles,” but with completely different pronunciations).
The recipe, of course, contains mint and Kentucky bourbon, but also includes pomegranate, orange, lemon and a dash of honey from Versailles, France, if you happen to have some.
Mint Julep Mocktail
Mint Juleps aren’t just for grown ups. Keep the bourbon out and make it a mocktail, like in celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s kiddie Mint Juleps.
For those with access to Ale-8, a craft soda similar to ginger ale that is sold almost exclusively in Kentucky, make your mocktail even more intensely Bluegrass with Ale-8’s very own mock Mint Julep recipe.
The Oaks Lily isn’t a bourbon drink, but it does have Derby roots. The cocktail, which featured vodka, sweet and sour and cranberry juice, is the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, which is run the day before the Derby (Friday, May 6, 1-5 p.m. ET on Peacock and 5-6 p.m. ET on USA Network) for only the fiercest fillies in horse racing. The official Oaks Lily recipe suggests a stemless wine glass and blackberries and lemon to garnish.
If you’re looking for something a little cooler, try bourbon slush, a frozen, boozy concoction that puts all other slushies to shame. Besides bourbon, you’ll get tastes of tea, lemonade and orange juice.
Less adventurous bourbon fans can’t go wrong with a simple Old Fashioned, which is a combination of sugar, bitters and bourbon with orange for garnish.
Journey an hour and a half southeast from Churchill Downs and experience the Keeneland Breeze, named for Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. This light, citrus-infused drink features bourbon, triple sec and ginger ale. Revisit the Keeneland Breeze in the fall, as well, when the 2022 Breeders’ Cup heads back to Lexington on November 4 and 5.
Start prepping for the second leg of the Triple Crown (Saturday, May 21 on NBC) with the Black-Eyed Susan, the official drink of the Preakness Stakes. The Black-Eyed Susan is a sweet and fruity cocktail, and while there are many takes on the drink floating around, Pimlico’s official recipe includes vodka, bourbon and orange juice.
Finish out the Triple Crown with the Belmont Jewel, Belmont Park’s official drink of the final Triple Crown race (Saturday, June 11 on NBC). Less sweet than the Black-Eyed Susan but still citrusy for an early summer feel, the official Belmont Jewel recipe contains bourbon, lemonade, pomegranate juice and orange zest.