One of the best parts about this time of year in Louisville, AKA Derby Season, happens to be all the parties that lead up to the most exciting two minutes in sports. So today I’m sharing Kentucky Derby Party Cocktail Ideas to let y’all join in on the fun no matter where you are.
I’ve teamed up with Ghirardelli to host a Derby party with a few other bloggers using some of their classic chocolates, as well as their latest addition Dark Chocolate Bourbon Caramel Squares. Because what better time to celebrate that launch than the Derby? Especially since they’re an official sponsor of the Derby this year. Chocolate, bourbon, and horse racing? Sign me up. Especially since those are a few of my favorite things.
I took a few of my favorite classic bourbon cocktails and then put a twist on them inspired by Ghirardelli chocolate squares. First up; a Salted Caramel Old Fashioned that pairs perfectly with their new Dark Chocolate Bourbon Caramel Squares. I whipped up salted caramel syrup to use in lieu of sugar cubes, and the taste is out of this world. After all, there are plenty of caramel notes in bourbon to begin with, and this syrup brings them out in full force.
Salted Caramel Old Fashioned
- 1 ½ oz. of Bourbon
- ½ oz. of Salted Caramel Syrup
- 3–4 Dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Lemon peel
- Pour bourbon and caramel syrup over ice, add bitters, and stir for 30 seconds to combine flavors and chill ingredients.
- Squeeze lemon peel, skin side facing the cocktail, then add to cocktail, and enjoy!
- To make caramel syrup: Add 1 cup of white sugar and a pinch of sea salt to large saucepan and heat over medium heat until edges begin to crystalize. Using a plastic spatula gradually fold sugar into center until all sugar is melted and caramel in color. Remove from heat. Slowly, splash at a time, add 1 cup of water to melted sugar whisking vigorously. Take care to SLOWLY add the water, otherwise it will seize and not thin into syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.
The Chocolate Manhattan is perfect for those folks out there that don’t like a cocktail that’s too sweet but love the taste of chocolate. Thanks to the use of chocolate bitters. It expertly pairs with Ghirardelli’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Squares. The slightly salty filling accentuates the rich notes in the bourbon while the dark chocolate rounds out the sweetness of the Cynar. In other words, this cocktail is the best of both worlds.
- 2 oz. Bourbon
- ½ oz. Cynar
- 3–4 Dashes of Chocolate Bitters
- Lemon twist
- Combine bourbon, cynar, bitters, and ice in cocktail shaker.
- Stir to combine, and then strain over prepared glass.
- Top with lemon twist before serving.
And no Kentucky Derby party would be complete without a Mint Julep. Before I jump in on this one I’ll be the first to say that I wasn’t always the biggest fan of these guys. Up until a bartender friend converted me. There are a few things that I’ve learned over the years to set your Mint Juleps apart. Make your own simple syrup at home. Because it’s really easy. And this should go without saying but always use a good bourbon. I like mine on the bourbon heavy side, while others may like theirs a little sweeter. When you’re making them at home it’s easy to make them to your guest’s taste! I also like to top mine with a Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Square. Because mint and chocolate are a match made in heaven, and who doesn’t love a good snack with their cocktail?
Ghirardelli Mint Julep
- 3–4 Mint leaves
- ½ oz. Simple Syrup
- 2 oz. Bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Square
- Sprig of mint
- Combine mint leaves and syrup into the bottom of a glass and use a muddler to crush together slightly.
- Pack glass with crushed ice.
- Pour bourbon over the ice, and top with Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Square and a sprig of mint.
- To make simple syrup: Combine equal parts sugar and water in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.
Photos Taken and Edited by Josh Johnson
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Ghirardelli, a brand I love and trust, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for continuing to support brands that keep The Kentucky Gent afloat!