Brown Derby Cocktail Recipe

The refreshing Brown Derby cocktail recipe features bourbon whiskey, grapefruit juice and honey syrup. This citrusy drink is perfect for a warm summer day.

Brown Derby cocktail with grapefruit twist in coupe glass

This timeless classic is easy to make at home. It makes great use of bourbon with a smooth, refined flavor. 

Most everyone will love the perfect balance of sweet and sour notes will, so keep this recipe around when you want to impress friends or guests.

History of This Simple Bourbon Cocktail

The Brown Derby is a classic cocktail that traces its roots back to the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood. Named after the famous Brown Derby diner in Los Angeles, which was built to resemble a brown derby hat, this cocktail is as rich in history as it is in flavor.

The cocktail itself is believed to have been created at the Vendôme Club on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles during the 1930s. Why the drink was named after a different restaurant is unknown.

Its recipe was first published in 1933 in a book titled “Hollywood Cocktails” by Buzza-Cardozo. From then on, this bourbon-based drink has become a symbol of Hollywood’s golden age.

The original Brown Derby recipe called for bourbon, fresh grapefruit juice, and honey syrup, and the recipe hasn’t changed over the years. That’s because it’s beyond improvement.

The tartness of the grapefruit perfectly balances out the sweetness from the honey while complementing the full-bodied richness of the bourbon.

It’s said that celebrities used to sip on this refreshing cocktail during leisurely lunches or glamorous parties, contributing to its legendary status. Despite changes and trends in mixology over time, The Brown Derby remains a timeless classic savored by many around the world today.

The Ingredients You Need for the Brown Derby Cocktail

For a Brown Derby Cocktail, you will need three main components: bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup.


When choosing your bourbon, look for high-quality options like Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve. The rich flavor of bourbon adds depth to this cocktail and serves as a perfect complement to the tangy grapefruit juice and sweet honey syrup.

Fresh Grapefruit Juice

The grapefruit juice should be freshly squeezed for the best taste and quality. Look for pink or ruby red grapefruits, which have a sweeter flavor compared to their yellow counterparts.

How to Make Honey Syrup

Honey syrup is simply made by mixing equal parts honey and hot water until fully dissolved. This natural sweetener adds a unique depth of flavor compared to traditional sugar syrups.

To make the honey syrup, mix equal parts honey and hot water together. Stir until fully combined and allow it to cool in the fridge before using in your cocktail.

How to Make a Brown Derby Cocktail

This is a simple drink to make. You put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake them well.

Then you strain it into a chilled coupe glass. The hardest part comes next, and it’s easy: use a paring knife to cut a twist of grapefruit rind, hold it over the glass, and twist and squeeze it to release some of the natural fruit oil.

That gives it a little added zing of citrusy flavor.

Garnish with a Grapefruit Twist

Take that twist of grapefruit peel and drape it over the rim for a beautiful garnish. Alternately you can use a partial slice of grapefruit juice.

The Art of Presenting the Brown Derby Cocktail

The classic way to serve this cocktail is in a chilled coupe glass, which gives it an elegant and sophisticated look.

It adds a nice touch if you twist the grapefruit peel in front of someone you’re serving. That’s not something people see every day.

Hosting a Perfect Brown Derby Themed Cocktail Party

This is a standout drink that’s sure to impress guests, and that makes it a great choice for a dinner or cocktail party.

Pairing It with Delicious Snacks

This drink pairs wonderfully with a number of foods. The sweet and sour notes of this cocktail blend well with many flavors.

If you want something quick and easy, you can never go wrong with a cheese board. The rich flavors of aged cheddar or Parmesan cheese pair beautifully with the bold flavors of this cocktail.

For something more substantial, try preparing some spicy chicken wings or shrimp skewers, as the spiciness will help to balance out the sweetness.

A Timeless Classic

The Brown Derby Cocktail has stood the test of time and remains a classic cocktail that is enjoyed by many. It’s been around since the 1930s and still continues to be one of the most popular cocktails in bars across the world. The combination of sweet honey syrup, tart grapefruit juice, and bourbon whiskey creates a unique flavor that can be appreciated by both novice and experienced drinkers.

What makes it so timeless is its versatility. It can be served on any occasion, from an elegant dinner party to a casual get-together with friends.

Its smooth taste and subtle sweetness make it an excellent choice for those who are looking for a sophisticated cocktail that is easy to drink. Whether you’re sipping it at home or ordering it at your favorite bar, this classic cocktail will never go out of style.

Brown Derby cocktail with grapefruit twist in coupe glass
Yield: 1 drink

Brown Derby Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes

The refreshing Brown Derby cocktail recipe features bourbon whiskey,
grapefruit juice and honey syrup. This citrusy drink is perfect for a
warm summer day.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce honey syrup
  • Garnish with a grapefruit twist


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour all ingredients into the shaker.
  3. Shake vigorously until well-chilled.
  4. Hold a grapefruit twist over top of the glass. Pinch and twist it to release oils into the drink.
  5. Garnish with the twist.

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