A classic bourbon cocktail made with grapefruit and honey called a Brown Derby.
It all started back in early December; the bartender handed me a pretty, light pink drink that all the ladies were having that night. I asked him what it was and he firmly insisted I try it before he would tell me.
I cautiously took a sip afraid of the mysterious concoction I had just been handed while simultaneously determining whether I was willing to trust his recommendation.
I felt the tart hit of grapefruit hit my tongue and gently give way to a smooth honeyed heat that lingered long after. It was good, very good. I asked again what it was I was drinking and he replied “a Brown Derby.”
It’s interesting how some drinks become so entrenched in cocktail history. Bartenders everywhere are mixing, shaking and stirring up living history every night, many from decades passed. The Brown Derby is one of those cocktails.
A combination of bourbon, grapefruit and honey; history has it that this particular cocktail was invented at the Vendome Club in Hollywood in the early 1930’s and was named after the famous hat-shaped restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. called the Brown Derby a popular celebrity hangout at the time, the place to be and be seen.
Regardless of the cocktail’s origins it’s a classic worth re-visiting. The bourbon merges nicely with the honeyed grapefruit base giving the drink depth and structure; it’s a result that’s much greater than the sum of its parts. The beauty of this drink is in its simplicity, no liqueurs or hard-to-find ingredients, just pure clean flavors.
I mixed up another Brown Derby the other night which only makes me wonder why it took me so long…
(This post originally appeared in 2013, original content and recipe have been updated.)