I was first introduced to the Brown Derby cocktail over a decade ago at an amazing little secret speakeasy called Prohibition.
Hidden behind a red London-style phone booth, I was transported to a time of jazz, silent movies, and delicious boozy drinks. I’d never really been around cocktails, but I was a convert.
Last weekend (for work reasons) I had Derby on the mind. The Kentucky Derby, that is. It’s the time of year when all of Louisville would have normally horse fever. Except it isn’t.
The horses won’t run on the first Saturday in May for the first time since World War II, and a lot of folks here are feeling the void of that spring rite. So the other night I decided to try whipping up a Brown Derby cocktail in honor of the Derby.
No, they’re not technically related, but that’s how my brain works 🙂
What is a Brown Derby?
Described as a “brunch cocktail” (HA! sign me up…), it’s a tart, sweet, boozy treat. It combines bourbon whiskey with freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice and a honey simple syrup that marries the two perfectly.
The drink supposedly originated in a famous Los Angeles club around 1930, and has stood the test of time—probably because it’s not only delicious but also super easy to make.
Squeeze the grapefruit juice (for me this was half of a grapefruit). This juice squeezer is my new favorite thing.
Put a handful of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, then pour in the bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup (see below). Shake vigorously for at least eight seconds.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass or rocks glass and garnish with the grapefruit slice. I’m still loving the coupe glasses I got a few months ago, all sorts of fun to be had!
Don’t be intimidated by the honey syrup. You can whip this up in less than 5 minutes, just stirring together roughly equal parts honey and water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until it simmers and just starts to boil, then remove it from the heat.
Once it cools, it’s ready to use! Keep in the fridge if you make a bigger batch.
I’m in love with these adorable coupe glasses, which I (finally) got a few months ago, and they perfectly reflect the vintage vibe of this classic cocktail!
Other simple cocktails you’ll love:
- French Gimlet with Gin
- A Classic “Army and Navy” Gin Cocktail
- “River Boyne Fizz”, An Irish Whiskey Cocktail
- Rye Port Manhattan Cocktail
- Bourbon Milk Punch Cocktail
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