How to Make the Kentucky Oaks Lily

How to Make the Kentucky Oaks Lily

Everyone knows that the mint julep is the traditional drink of the Kentucky Derby, but those really in the know will tell you about the other Churchill Downs cocktail, the Oaks lily drink. Created for the Kentucky Oaks, the race typically held the Friday night before the Derby, the lily is a refreshing alternative to the mint julep. 

Want to know more about how the lily came to be and how you can make one of these delicious Kentucky Derby drinks at home? Read on for the basic recipe and some unique variations of Oaks Lily recipes and get your Oaks Lily supplies delivered in time for the Kentucky Derby from Cox’s Liquor through Drizly.

History of the Kentucky Oaks Lily Drink

The Kentucky Derby is traditionally held on the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Oaks is always the night before. The Oaks is a race for three-year-old thoroughbred fillies, which are female horses.

The track is decorated in shades of pink and the winner of the Oaks is adorned with a garland of pink stargazer lilies, called Lilies for the Fillies, which is where the drink got its name. The stargazer lily was picked as the official flower of the Oaks to represent femininity and strength.

Created in 2006 by Tim Laird, the chief entertaining officer for Brown-Forman, one of the largest American-owned wine and spirits company, the Lily is meant to be an alternative to the mint julep. Laird created it to give Oaks (and Derby) goers another option if they don’t like bourbon, which is the primary alcohol in a mint julep.

Since 2006, the Lily has become extremely popular at both the Oaks and the Derby. Light and refreshing, it’s perfect for a hot and sunny day and is an ideal cocktail to sip on all day. Based on the cosmopolitan, the drink is pink in color and matches the color of the stargazer lilies given to the race winner.

Want to make your own Lily at home? Here’s how. 

Oaks Lily Basic Recipe

It’s really quite simple to make an Oaks Lily cocktail. To make the basic drink, you need the following: 

  • 1.25 oz of your favorite vodka
  • 3 oz cranberry juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz sweet and sour mix
  • Splash of triple sec
  • Crushed ice 

To make the drink, add all of the ingredients (except for the garnishes) to a shaker with ice, shake until it is mixed well, strain, then serve in a glass over crushed ice. You can garnish with a lemon wedge and fresh blackberries. 

The official recipe calls for the drink to be served in an official Kentucky Oaks Lily glass, which is essentially a stemless wine glass, but if you don’t have those on hand, a Collins or highball glass will work too.

You can use whatever vodka you want, but if you really want the drink to be authentic, grab a bottle of Finlandia vodka, which is the official vodka of the 2020 Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. Since you’ll be watching the Derby from home this year, use these drink recipes to make yourself a Kentucky Derby specialty drink to feel like you’re at the track! 

If you want to really go all out, throw a Kentucky Derby viewing party (with proper social distancing, of course!) and wow your friends and family with the Lily. 

Variations to the Oaks Lily Recipe

While the basic recipe calls for vodka mixed with cranberry juice, lime juice, sweet and sour mix, and triple sec, there are some variations on the drink that are a little different. They all have a base of vodka, cranberry juice, and a splash of citrus, but some of the other ingredients vary a bit. 

One variation includes vodka and cranberry juice but replaces the sours mix, lime juice, and triple sec with orange liqueur, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup. You can change up the garnishes too, and opt for an orange wedge and a cherry instead of a lemon wedge and blackberries. 

If you want to get creative, try a citrus-flavored vodka for the drink. Orange or lemon would be delicious or you can even try white cranberry juice (although you’ll lose the lovely pink color of the drink if you opt for white juice). There’s even white cranberry vodka available if you really want to play up the cranberry flavor of the Lily. 

If you want to keep the pink color, but change the flavor, muddled raspberries or strawberries will give you the color but change up the flavor a bit. Replacing the cranberry juice with berries takes some of the tartness away, but the combination of the berries and the lemon or lime juice is still a winner. You can garnish with raspberries and strawberry slices as well.

The Oaks Lily Drink Gives Back

Because the Kentucky Oaks is a race for fillies, which are female horses, the race is used as a way to raise money and awareness for cancer research. $1 from every Oaks Lily drink is donated to an organization that focuses on cancer research. In addition, the Oaks also has a Survivor Parade

The Survivor Parade is made up of breast and ovarian cancer survivors who are nominated by their friends and family and voted on by the public. In 2020, 146 survivors will walk in the parade, to represent the 146th running of the Kentucky Oaks race. These women were selected to represent survivors 

Cheers, Y’all

Whether you’re heading to Churchill Downs this year or watching from home, an Oaks Lily drink should absolutely be on your agenda. Light and refreshing to sip on during the race and easy enough to make at home, the Lily is a cocktail you’ll enjoy all summer long. 

Swing by Cox’s Spirit Shoppe for all of the spirits and mixers you need to craft your own Lilies at home! We’ve got locations all over the greater Louisville area and have everything you need for cocktails in addition to craft beer, wine, and a smoke shop with fine cigars, tobacco, and vape supplies.