Boozy Refreshing Brown Derby Cocktail with Bourbon and Grapefruit
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Brown Derby

Sometimes the most delicious cocktails come from the simplest ingredients, combined in a new way. The traditional recipe for the Brown Derby is just like this. It takes just three ingredients, but still creates a complex drink with layers of flavor. Bourbon, honey syrup, and grapefruit juice come together in a whirlwind of tart, spicy, aromatic, and sweet.

Brown Derby

History of the Drink

This drink, combining whiskey with honey, and grapefruit, is believed to have first been invented in the 1930s. It was named after an unusual diner, shaped like a hat, that was in the neighborhood of the Los Angeles Vendôme Club where the cocktail was created.

Beyond that, we don’t know much more about the history. The bartender that created the classic beverage is not named.

The recipe was featured in the 1933 book Hollywood Cocktails. It was also featured in a British book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, in 1930, under the name of the De Rigueur Cocktail.

This makes us wonder if Hollywood Cocktails might have borrowed the recipe from English bartender Harry Craddock at The Savoy. Or perhaps the two recipes sprung up independently, using the same ingredients but in two different parts of the world.

What Is in It? 

The true origins of this drink will remain one of the great mysteries of the cocktail world. Happily, we have the recipe to enjoy. It is so easy to make, all you have to do is shake the three ingredients together with ice. As with any simple recipe, using top-quality ingredients is paramount to getting a final result that tastes phenomenal.

It is really important to make sure that your honey is a syrup – thinned down with water. This makes the sticky honey easier to mix with the rest of the ingredients to create a more harmonious drink. Once you make a honey syrup it will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator, so you will be able to make this drink up at the drop of a derby hat!

Ingredient List

To make this refreshing drink, you will need:

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 oz honey syrup
  • A twist of grapefruit peel to garnish

Directions To Make

  1. Make your honey syrup by mixing 2 parts honey to 1 part warm water
  2. Shake thoroughly until completely combined and leave to cool
  3. Put bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice
  4. Shake well until completely combined and chilled
  5. Strain into a Martini style glass
  6. Use a vegetable peeler to take a strip of grapefruit peel from a fruit
  7. Twist it firmly over the drink to release the oils and use as a garnish on the glass

This is a thirst-quenching drink with a rainbow of complex aromas and flavors. Try using different types of honey and different bourbons to mix up the flavor. We love making this cocktail with acacia honey and bourbon that has spent a good amount of time aging in barrels for an extra spicy flavor.

My Bartender

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