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How to Make the Brown Derby Cocktail

The Brown Derby cocktail is a classic bourbon cocktail made with the addition of fresh grapefruit juice and honey syrup. It’s the unknown, but super delicious, brunch cocktail for every bourbon fan.

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This cocktail’s origin is about as shifty as some of the gangsters who hung out at the Brown Derby restaurant in old Hollywood.

Dale DeGroff claimed in his classic cocktail tome, The Craft of the Cocktail, that it was invented at Los Angeles’s Vendôme Club on Sunset Boulevard in the early 1930’s. It has also appeared in print as The Brown Derby recipe, in Hollywood Cocktails by George Buzza, Jr., also published in the 1930’s

However, a cocktail with same ingredients popped up in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book. This one had a different name, the De Rigueur cocktail. Who knows exactly when the cocktail was invented, we do know that it tastes great!

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What goes into a Brown Derby

The Brown Derby cocktail recipe is made using only three simple ingredients which act as a perfect balance to each other!

  • Bourbon: Bourbon is the base spirit of this whiskey cocktail. You can choose any premium brand.
  • Fresh Grapefruit juice: The flavor combination of tanginess, sweetness, and bitterness works so well with bourbon and balances out its sweetness. I suggest using only freshly squeezed sweet grapefruit juice for this recipe.
  • Honey syrup: As the name indicates, the honey syrup is made from two simple ingredients, honey and water. It adds the sweetness to your cocktail and is so easy to make. You can always use simple syrup as well.
  • Grapefruit twist: It is a perfect garnish for this recipe. The oils from the grapefruit skin add so much flavor to this cocktail.

What tools you need to make Brown Derby

You’ll need a cocktail shaker for this one! Grab a jigger, a barspoon, a strainer, and a martini glass or coupe glass for this Brown Derby recipe.

With only three ingredients, it’s super very easy to make. You will have to follow these simple steps to enjoy this refreshing cocktail recipe. You can make the honey syrup beforehand by adding equal parts honey to hot water and stir until you have a syrup.

  • Step 1: Fill a shaker with ice cubes and pour bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup into it.
  • Step 2: Seal the shaker and start shaking for a few seconds or until the drink is chilled.
  • Step 3: Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass.
  • Step 4: Garnish the drink by dropping a grapefruit twist in it. Bottom’s up!
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  • 🍸Top Tip(le):
    • Irish whiskey: If you don’t want to add bourbon to this recipe, use Irish whiskey instead. It has a fruitier and smoother flavor than bourbon and therefore works well with grapefruit juice.
    • Rye whiskey: Rye whiskey is very similar to bourbon. The only difference is that where bourbon uses corn, rye whisky uses rye. Rye whiskey will add spicy and peppery notes to it.
    • Sweeteners: You can use maple syrup or simple syrup as well, if you want a change from the honey.
    • Juices: You can always try playing around with some fresh lemon juice or lime juice. Even orange juice or orange bitters, can give you a different flavor that you might love.
    • Rocks Glass: You can always serve this on ice in a rocks glass to make more of a long drink.

Where to find more bourbon cocktail recipes

Here are a few of my favorites:

 Plus more grapefruit cocktails here

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Where to find ingredients for Brown Derby cocktails

You can find all the ingredients at Spirits Kiosk (10% off the entire site by quoting this code: ALushLife10SK.) in the UK; or in the USA!

Here is the recipe!

Brown Derby Cocktail

Brown Derby

The Brown Derby cocktail is a classic bourbon cocktail made with grapefruit juice and honey syrup. A perfect brunch cocktail for every bourbon fan.
No ratings yet
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes
Course Cocktails
Cuisine American
Servings 1
Calories 192 kcal


  • 1 1/2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce honey syrup make this with 1:1 water & honey
  • Grapefruit peel


  • Add the bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey syrup to a shaker
  • Add ice.
  • Shake, shake, shake
  • Fine-strain into a coupe glass
  • Take a grapefruit peel and squeeze it over the cocktail.
  • Add it to the drink!


Serving: 1gCalories: 192kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 1gSodium: 1mgFiber: 2gSugar: 17g
Keyword Brown Derby cocktail
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