Mint juleps
Mint juleps packed with ice are seen during the 2011 Kentucky Derby at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. Al Bello/Getty Images

Whether you’re betting it all down on Nyquist or just enjoying the year’s most famous horse race, it’s practically required to do so with a drink in hand. Mint juleps are the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, which is set for Saturday at the Churchill Downs Racetrack. But there are other drinks that also pair well with the Louisville spectacle, like the lesser-known Oaks Lilly. Here are some recipes, both traditional and new, to try on Race Day.

Mint Julep

The Old Forester Mint Julep has been the traditional cocktail of choice at the Kentucky Derby for almost a century, according to its website. Spectators drink about 120,000 mint juleps each year over the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at the famous horse-racing center.


  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of water
  • Fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Bourbon whisky

Directions: Make simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon of the mint syrup and two ounces of the bourbon whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Oaks Lily

The Grey Goose Oaks Lily is the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks, the premier race for 3-year-old female horses that’s been held each year on the day before the Kentucky Derby since 1875. The cocktail itself, however, wasn’t concocted until 2006.


  • 1 ¼ ounces of vodka
  • 1 ounce of sweet and sour mix (lemonade works, too)
  • ¼ ounce of triple sec
  • 3 ounces of cranberry juice
  • Ice
  • Blackberry and lemon wedge

Directions: The Oaks Lily’s inventor, Tim Laird, once told the Courier-Journal to combine all the ingredients in a shaker along with ice. Shake and strain the mixture into a stemless wine glass over crushed ice. Add a straw and garnish with a blackberry and lemon wedge.

Horse’s Neck

The name of this drink alone makes it a perfect cocktail for the Kentucky Derby. Plus, it’s easy to make per this Drinks Mixer recipe.


  • 2 ounces of brandy
  • 5 ounces of ginger ale
  • 2 dashes of bitters
  • 1 lemon peel spiral

Directions: Place the lemon peel in tall glass, draping one end over the rim of the glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes and pour in the brandy, ginger ale and bitters. Stir well. This cocktail can also be made with bourbon or whisky, so switch it up on your second round.


This delicious beverage is named for the second leg of the Triple Crown, which started two years before the Kentucky Derby, according to Bar None Drinks.


  • 1 ½ ounces of blended scotch whiskey
  • ¾ ounces of sweet vermouth
  • ½ ounce of Benedictine
  • A dash or two of bitters

Directions: Stir all the ingredients together with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel twist.

Spiked Sweet Tea

You can make this drink with and without alcohol to accommodate all your guests. But really, what’s better than drinking spiked iced tea on a Saturday afternoon?


  • 7 cups of water
  • 6 orange pekoe tea bags
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cups of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of rum
  • Ice
  • Fresh mint

Directions: This recipe from Martha Stewart calls for brewing the tea bags in 4 cups of water and then boiling the tea with sugar on a stovetop to make simple syrup. Pour in the rest of the water, stir and add the lemon juice and rum. Let the mixture cool completely and serve in a tall glass with ice and sprigs of fresh mint.