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Southern Signature Cocktails

The world’s first modern cocktail — a drink made with spirits, bitters and sugar — was born in the South, so it is fair to say that mixology is a longtime Southern tradition. Each state boasts its own classic concoctions, from the Sazerac in New Orleans to the Alabama Slammer in Tuscaloosa, and many of these drinks are tied to fascinating stories about the regions. For any travel group that enjoys cocktail tours or mixology classes, here are five signature cocktails to sample next time they journey south.


Mint Julep

Louisville, Kentucky

The mint julep may not have originated in Kentucky, but it has found its home in the Bluegrass State, where it presides as the official drink of the world-renowned Kentucky Derby. Over the course of Derby weekend in May, more than 120,000 mint juleps are served at the historic Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville.

The cool concoction consists of bourbon whiskey, fresh mint and sugar, and is typically served in a chilled silver cup and garnished with a sprig of mint leaves.

“It has the perfect amount of sweet and refreshing mint to complement the bourbon,” said Jessica Dillree, marketing communications manager at the Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great daytime cocktail.”

Each year in April, Louisville leads up to Derby Day festivities with the celebration of Mint Julep Month, and many venues along the city’s Urban Bourbon Trail feature specialty mint julep products during these weeks. 

Of course, there is no better place to sample a mint julep than Churchill Downs, which partners with a local mint farmer to produce the cocktail by the gallons. Though not everyone can snag a ticket to the Kentucky Derby, there are many other events and races to attend throughout the year, such as Dawn at the Downs in early May and Downs after Dark during the summer.