By Lindsey McClave

Photos by Lindsey McClave

Let’s be honest: Mint juleps aren’t for everyone. We might feel obligated…

to partake in this official drink of the Derby when we gather together on the first Saturday in May, but this stout, labor-intensive cocktail is rarely at the top of the list of ways we enjoy our bourbon.

Being a good Kentucky girl, I have a great love for our state’s liquor and believe that there are few better ways to enjoy a good bourbon than when it is served neat. Bourbon does play well with others though and is especially good friends with mint and peach.

With that in mind, I’ve crafted two cocktails that celebrate bourbon while offering a more refreshing sipping experience. Both drinks are easy to execute, and the tea can be made in large batches for a crowd. The only thing left to do before the horses burst forth from the gate is to take bets on which cocktail runs out first!

The first cocktail is dressed up for the occasion with sparkling wine topping off a blend of bourbon, peach liqueur, lime, and bitters. Garnished with a fresh slice of peach and a sprig of mint, this drink is my way of adding a touch of Kentucky to a classic Italian bellini.

Bourbon Bellini
Makes one drink

1 shot bourbon
½ shot peach liqueur
spritz of fresh lime juice
2 dashes peach bitters
peach slice and mint to garnish

Fill a cup with ice and add the bourbon, peach liqueur, lime juice and bitters. Stir to combine well, about 20 seconds. Strain into a wine glass or champagne flute. Top with prosecco and garnish with peach slice and fresh mint.

The second cocktail is ideal for an all-day Derby affair: a spicy chai tea sweetened with mint-infused simple syrup pulling on our Southern, sweet-tea-loving heartstrings. Add a splash of bourbon and this tea is ready for the races.

Bourbon Mint Iced Chai Tea
Makes one drink

For simple syrup:
one cup water
two cups sugar
five sprigs fresh mint

For cocktail:
one chai tea bag
one shot bourbon

Make the simple syrup 12-24 hours in advance. Place water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir well and remove from the heat. Continue to stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add the mint and refrigerate, allowing the mint to infuse the syrup for 12-24 hours.

Bring one cup of water to a boil and pour into heat-proof serving glass with one chai tea bag (to batch this recipe, use one tea bag and one cup of water per person). Allow tea to steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bag and pour the hot tea into a large glass of ice to cool. Add one shot bourbon and ½ shot of the mint-infused simple syrup. Stir to combine, garnish with mint and serve.

Lindsey has more drink ideas you can try. You can find all of her recipes here.