The Best Derby Cocktail Recipe with Bourbon and Lime

While this recipe is for a drink one might imbibe during the Kentucky Derby (like the famous Mint Julep), it is also confusingly called a “Derby.”  In this case, the Derby is a specific cocktail that is less popular due to some bad recipes for it out there. After some tweaking, this recipe might just make the drink worthy to represent its namesake event.

A while back, a friend of mine took up an interest in mixology. I’ve heard many people jokingly ask, “How hard is it to just mix up a drink?” Turns out, it’s pretty hard if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s even harder when many of the recipes for certain cocktails are unbalanced resulting in too much sweetness, bitterness, or not enough flavor to balance the alcohol.

That was the case for the Derby cocktail, which is often too sweet and unbalanced according to many of the conventional recipes. As one of his earlier and most successful cocktails in my opinion, my friend attempted to fix the Derby. On its face the original cocktail seemed like it had all of the right ingredients, but the proportions were off. He added a bit more bourbon, which allows the star of the drink to shine instead of get overshadowed and he also backed down slightly on the lime juice to make it less sour, but still retain the bright citrus notes. That experiment resulted in one of my favorite warm weather bourbon cocktails.

Makes 1 drink at 154 calories.

The Only Derby Cocktail You'll Ever Need

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Derby Cocktail with Lime Garnish


  • 1.5 oz. quality bourbon (95 calories)
  • 0.5 oz. sweet vermouth (20 calories)
  • 0.5 oz. Dry Curaçao orange liqueur (making sure it’s “dry” is important so that it isn’t too sweet) (35 calories)
  • 0.5 oz. fresh lime juice (4 calories)
  • Curled lime peel or mint leaves for garnish
  • Ice for shaking


  • Cocktail shaker
  • Jigger/ounce measurement
  • Rocks glass or coupe glass


  1. Fill the cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Combine the bourbon, sweet vermouth, dry curaçao, and lime juice in the cocktail shaker with the ice.
  3. Cover and shake the ingredients well.
  4. Strain the liquid without the ice into a rocks or coup glass.
  5. Use a vegetable peeler to peel a piece of the lime skin into a curl. Twist the peel to extrude some of the natural oils and rub it around the rim of the glass. This gives the drinker a wonderful citrus aroma with every sip.
  6. Garnish by dropping the curled lime peel into the drink (my preference) or use a mint leaf as a garnish. Enjoy!

Man Fuel Food Blog - Derby Cocktail Recipe


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