Kentucky Derby Cocktails: Mint Juleps and More

pineapple mint julep

Pineapple-Ginger Mint Julep from the Kitchn

It’s almost Derby Day, and no Derby Party is complete without Mint Juleps. However, there are lots of fun ways to play with this classic recipe. So drink up and watch the horsies, y’all!

Traditional Mint Julep ~ The basic version is anything but boring. Put on your fancy hat and have one.

Peach Mint Julep ~ Refreshing and fun, this twist on the Mint Julep brings some Georgia into your Kentucky drink.

Strawberry Moonshine Julep ~ Moonshine is a bit of a misnomer. Let’s call it unaged whiskey. Either way, throw in some strawberries and you have one heck of a cocktail.

Pineapple-Ginger Mint Julep ~ Behold! The powerful combination of mint and pineapple. In Julep form. Yum.

Jalepeño-Spiked Julep ~ Infusing simple syrup with spicy jalapeño peppers and putting it with cooling mint mixes makes for an “icy-hot take on the Derby classic.”

Fancy Free

fancyfreeThis little-known classic cocktail is basically a gussied-up Old Fashioned. While the addition of maraschino liqueur makes it a little sweeter than an Old Fashioned, it also gives the drink a funky kick and subtle bitter almond flavor.

Some people like to strain the drink and serve it up (without ice). I don’t. Controversy! Or, you know, personal preference.

Fancy Free

2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
orange twist for garnish

Put several ice cubes (or one large ice cube) in an Old Fashioned glass. Add other ingredients and stir, then garnish with an orange twist.

If you want to learn how to make up your own cocktails based on the classics, buy the DIY Cocktails book. If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the Kindle version for free.

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

Honey Barbecue Plum Cocktail

bbqplumcocktailThe grill is already out for summer anyway, so why not grill your cocktail? (Or rather, grill the fruit that goes in the cocktail. No glasses or shakers on the grill!)

I got together with Savvy Housekeeping, and that’s exactly what we did. And it’s delicious … just not in the way that we expected. We thought it would just add a smoky flavor to our drink. But grilling did so much more.

Putting the plum on the grill for a bit deepened the plum’s flavor and brought out the sweetness and brightness of the fruit. We were using nice plums that were a little on the tart side, and the grilling brought out the natural sugars and helped the plum blend better with the other flavors in the cocktail.

So grilling is a nice way to improve slightly tart fruit (and let’s face it, supermarket stone fruits are usually too tart). Have some fruit that is a little disappointing? Get that grill out! It’ll make a great cocktail.

Honey Barbecue Plum Cocktail

1 plum
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce honey liqueur (you can make your own)
1/2 ounce agave nectar (sub simple syrup if needed)
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Cut the plum in half and remove the pit.Grill the plum on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to caramelize and you see grill marks. Turn over and let it cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes, until the plum is soft. Remove from the grill.

In a cocktail shaker, combine all the ingredients except the bitters. Muddle the plum thoroughly. Fill the cocktail shaker with ice. Put on the lid and shake for at least a solid minute, or until ice starts to form on the outside of the container. This is especially important if the plum is still hot. You don’t want a warm cocktail.

Strain the drink into a glass. Add a drop or two of Peychaud’s bitters.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Milk Punch

milkpunchAny New Orleans cocktail is going to be good. Milk Punch is great for brunch (very late brunches, since there’s a lot of booze in it!) or cozy evening parties. It’s lightly sweet and has the homey goodness of eggnog in a much lighter drink.

I like it best with bourbon, but brandy is also a traditional choice. It’s even good with blended scotch. For a lighter version, you can use whole milk instead of half and half. (It won’t be as creamy, of course, but the flavor will be just as good.)

Bourbon Milk Punch
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces half and half
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash vanilla extract
Nutmeg for garnish

Shake all ingredients well over ice, then strain into glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.

Blood Orange Old Fashioned

bloodorangeoldfashioned
Now is the time of the dramatic and beautiful blood orange! So Savvy Housekeeping and I concocted a simple and simply delicious drink for the occasion, a variation on the Old Fashioned made with blood orange and maple syrup.

Like the original Old Fashioned, this drink is a good way to enjoy bourbon without hiding it’s flavor. Maple syrup and blood orange are a surprisingly good pair, adding a bittersweet touch to the heat and sweet undertones of bourbon.

If you are one of those Super-Bowl-lovin’ types, maybe this could be your Super Bowl drink? Don’t one of the teams wear orange costumes? Theme drink!

Blood Orange Old Fashioned

2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce blood orange juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Twist of orange to garnish

In a glass, combine bourbon, juice, bitters, and maple syrup. Stir with ice. Garnish with orange twist.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping