You can never go wrong with a Manhattan, but why not expand your cocktail repertoire with these exciting bourbon beverages?

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Thomas J. Story

Your Kentucky Derby hat has been chosen, your wagers are in (you chose the horse with the punniest name, obviously), and you’re ready to watch the fastest two minutes in sports. But what about the most important part of the Derby tradition? You need some bourbon.

Sipping on a mint julep, a Manhattan, a Kentucky mule, an Old Fashioned or even a hot toddy, depending on where you’re watching the event, is a big part of Derby Day. It’s also a great opportunity to get inspired at your home bar and whip up some batch cocktails for a big group, or individualized cocktails for a small one. If you want to stick with a classic, try out this perfect three-ingredient Manhattan recipe from Trey Zoeller, founder of Jefferson’s Bourbon.

Or lean into the the theme of the day with these impressive-and-drinkable sidecars. If the temperature is rising, try out a spiked shandy. For an umami take on the classic bourbon cocktail, try out this shiitake-based beverage. Alice Waters’ new restaurant Lulu at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum serves a cocktail made with rye called Unbridled, inspired by the Derby winner in 1990, the year the museum was built. Of course, you could always try out your own take on one of the recipes below and name it according to the winner of your birth year.

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No matter how you celebrate (or if you even watch the sporting event), have a happy Derby Day with these bourbon cocktails.


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