Woodford Reserve Spire Cocktail

Get to know the Woodford Reserve Spire Cocktail, the newest drink in the Kentucky Derby lineup. This flavorful bourbon cocktail with cranberry and lemon is refreshing all year long.

Two glasses of red cocktail with ice and lemon twist garnishes, a cocktail shaker, and a jigger on a white background.

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Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored — I simply love Woodford Reserve whiskey and this cocktail, and wanted to share it with you!

Woodford Reserve Spire Cocktail recipe

Move over mint julep. There’s a new girl in town: The Woodford Reserve Spire is a whiskey cocktail invented for Kentucky Derby season.

Having debuted in 2018, the drink joins the mint julep and the Kentucky Oaks Lily drink in the Kentucky Derby’s cocktail lineup.

This pink-hued cranberry lemonade cocktail has a depth of flavor thanks to the oaky bourbon with a hint of smooth spice and sweet aromatics. Let’s get into what it is and how to make it.

More derby cocktail recipes: Basil JulepKentucky MuleWhiskey Smash

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Why you’ll love this recipe

If you’ve never tried the Spire cocktail, you are going to love it.

  • The Spire drink is another derby-season drink to enjoy, but it’s delicious for any spring or summertime celebration.
  • If you’re not a mint julep fan, the Spire drink is a great alternative.
  • With just four ingredients, this flavorful drink is as easy to make as it is to sip.
Two glasses of red cocktail with ice and lemon peel garnish, woodford reserve bourbon bottle in background, white surface.

What is the Woodford Reserve Spire cocktail?

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, the Woodford Spire is a cocktail introduced for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. Created by Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris, the drink features bourbon, lemonade, cranberry juice and a lemon twist for the garnish.

What’s in a name? Woodford Reserve is the brand of bourbon whiskey that debuted this drink. The “Spire” refers to the church-like Twin Spires of the Kentucky Derby’s iconic Churchill Downs, two towers built in 1895 as part of a new grandstand.

There are other drinks unique to other horse races. The Black-Eyed Susan Cocktail is served for the Preakness Stakes, while the Belmont Jewel is enjoyed for the Belmont Stakes.

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Tools & glassware

What do you need to make this bourbon cocktail? A basic bar set with a mixing glass, jigger and a bar spoon is all you need. (No mixing glass? Just stir it up in any large glass you have, or even a cocktail shaker. Just don’t shake it.)

The drink is usually served in short glasses called rocks glasses. But you could pour it into a mint julep cup, er, spire cup, if you wanted!

For the garnish, get out your vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to create the lemon twist garnish.

A bottle of woodford reserve kentucky straight bourbon whiskey against a white background.

Ingredients

This new Derby cocktail only features three ingredients. You’ll need:

Bourbon whiskey: Specifically, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Whiskey, as they’re the inventor of the Spire cocktail and the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. But you could use other brands of fine bourbon if you like — I won’t tell anyone!

Cranberry juice: Be careful of buying “cranberry juice cocktail,” which has added sugar and will make a sweeter cocktail. Look for 100% cranberry juice, which has a more natural sweetness.

Lemonade: If you want to step it up a notch, use homemade lemonade as it will have a stronger lemon flavor. No lemonade? You can substitute with lemon juice and simple syrup. A splash of sour mix would also work in a pinch.

A hand placing a lemon peel garnish into a glass of red cocktail with ice cubes on a white surface.

Variations and substitutions

Care to mix things up?

Low-sugar Spire cocktail: Use 100% cranberry juice with no added sugar and sugar-free lemonade for a lighter drink.

Non-alcoholic Spire cocktail: Substitute a whiskey alternative like Ritual whiskey alternative or unsweetened iced tea for the whiskey.

How to make a Spire cocktail

Making the Woodford Spire is super simple! Here’s what to do:

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A person pouring a clear liquid from a gold-colored ladle into a glass pitcher containing an amber-colored beverage.
A person pouring red liquid into a glass pitcher filled with a partially mixed orange beverage, against a white background.
A hand stirring a bright red liquid in a clear glass pitcher with a metal spoon.

In a mixing glass (or right in the rocks glass), add the bourbon, lemonade and cranberry juice.

Add a few ice cubes and stir together. Then, strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

make it a mocktail

Want to make it non-alcoholic? Here’s what to substitute:

  • Simply swap the whiskey 1:1 for a non-alcoholic spirit. I like Ritual whiskey alternative and Spiritless 74.
  • You could also use unsweetened or light-sweet iced tea for the whiskey instead.
A person putting a lemon peel on their finger.

Lemon twist garnish

A curl of lemon peel, known as a lemon twist, is the signature garnish of the Spire cocktail.

You can make your own easily. Here’s how:

  1. Use a sharp knife or mandoline slicer to cut thin, circular slices of lemon. Then make a single cut through the peel and carefully remove the fruit. Work your way around the lemon, freeing the peel from the fruit.
  2. Cut or peel off any remaining pith with a sharp knife.
  3. Wrap the peel around your finger, a pencil, a straw, chopstick or simply around the peel itself in a spiral shape. Hold it together with your fingers or use a small but gentle clamp.
  4. Hold the citrus twist tightly for about 30 seconds. If the shape doesn’t hold when you unfurl it, then wrap it up again and hold for longer until the shape holds.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making this recipe:

  • Make it as originally written, with Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey.
  • Try it with rye whiskey if you want to change up the flavors a little.
  • Use fresh lemonade for an out-of-this-world flavor.
A close-up of a cocktail with ice cubes and an orange peel garnish in a clear glass, set against a white background.

Food pairings

Serve the Spire drink with your favorite Southern foods, especially Derby foods, such as pimento cheese sandwiches, chicken salad cups or hot ham and cheese pinwheels.

For dessert, why not make Kentucky bourbon balls or mini derby pies. A citrusy Southern dessert like lemon bars would also pair well with the fruity flavors.

When to serve them

Of course, the Spire is the perfect cocktail for a Kentucky Derby party. But you can serve them all year long. They’d be great drinks for:

  • other horse-racing events
  • wedding showers
  • baby showers
  • bachelorette parties
  • luncheons, picnics and barbecues
  • spring and summer parties
A glass of red cocktail with ice and a lemon twist, with a bottle and another glass in the background.

FAQ

What can I use instead of lemonade?

If you’re out of lemonade or don’t feel like making a big batch, you can use equal parts lemon juice and simple syrup. You can also use a splash of sour mix.

Can I make a non-alcoholic version of the Spire cocktail?

Absolutely! You can substitute the whiskey with a clear zero-proof spirit that has a bourbon-like flavor.

More derby drink recipes

— Did you make this recipe? —

Please leave a ★★★★★ review or comment below.

Two glasses of red iced tea garnished with lemon slices on a white background.

Woodford Reserve Spire Cocktail

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Bright and fruity with smoky bourbon flavor, the Spire cocktail is a delicious addition to your Derby Day party or any spring or summer gathering.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounce bourbon whiskey such as Woodford Reserve
  • 2 ounces lemonade
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • lemon twist for garnish

instructions

Spire cocktail

  • In a mixing glass with a few ice cubes (or right in the rocks glass), stir together the bourbon, lemonade and cranberry juice.
  • Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Lemon twist

  • Cut thin circular slices of lemon. Make a single cut through the peel and carefully remove the fruit. Work your way around the lemon, freeing the peel from the inner fruit. Cut or peel off any remaining pith with a sharp knife.
  • Wrap the peel around your finger or a pencil, a straw, a chopstick or simply around the peel itself in a spiral shape. Hold it together with your fingers (or a small but gentle clamp), tightly for about 30 seconds. If the shape doesn’t hold when you unfurl it, then roll it up again and hold for longer until the shape holds.

notes

Low-sugar Spire cocktail: Use 100% cranberry juice with no added sugar and sugar-free lemonade for a lighter drink.
Non-alcoholic Spire cocktail: Substitute a whiskey alternative or unsweetened iced tea for the bourbon.

recommended products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

channel knife
channel knife designed for getting thin strips for cocktails

nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 4.5ounces Calories: 140kcal Carbohydrates: 11g Protein: 0.1g Fat: 0.04g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.02g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g Sodium: 5mg Potassium: 23mg Fiber: 0.03g Sugar: 10g Vitamin A: 13IU Vitamin C: 3mg Calcium: 2mg Iron: 0.1mg
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