preakness

 Today is the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes, and Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming will be vying to log the second win in the Triple Crown. If you are gathering with a crowd to watch the race from Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore, one thing that will add to the festivities is the racing cocktails.

Each of the races in the Crown has its own signature cocktail — sort of. Even casual race fans are aware of the Kentucky Derby as the place for Mint Juleps. Lesser known but just as appropriate is the Preakness featuring The Black Eyed Susan. But while the first two races have long-established drinks The Belmont Stakes meanwhile has seen a rotation of its signature cocktail. Currently it sports The Belmont Jewel, aptly named but not steeped in tradition.

Allow me to be your dipsologist for today’s running and help you create potables for your guests.

Starting with today’s official drink is not so easy. Named after the state flower that comprises the bouquet draped over the winner, the Black Eyed Susan has been the official cocktail since the early 1970s. At issue is the recipe has frequently shifted, while maintaining a similar appearance. There have been adjustments for popular taste — and more likely for changing liquor sponsors. This year shows another recipe shift, and it is one I would not recommend: The equal parts bourbon, vodka, and peach schnapps with oj and sour mix is more designed for corporate synergy than drinkability. (Not coincidently Makers Mark, DeKuyper, and Effen Vodka are all sponsors.)

I’ll give you two variations that should deliver more pleasing effects. The original recipe:

(in Collins glass)

  • 1 shot (1.5oz) White Rum
  • 1 shot Vodka
  • Fill with equal parts Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice

(Shake,  garnish with one quarter orange slice and a cherry)

For a newer spin seen a few years ago there is this pleasing variation:

(in tumbler glass)

  • 1-½ shots Orange Vodka
  • ½ shot St Germain (or other elderflower liqueur)
  • Fill with equal parts OJ, Pineapple juice

(Shake, squeeze lime wedge, garnish with orange slice and a cherry)

 

Always appropriate for any race is the Derby favorite, the Mint Julep. With a small amount of prep work you can make these to-order with ease. Two weeks back they were such a hit I had to assembly-line them for half an hour before post time. The best is to make a batch of simple syrup ahead of time. It mixes easier and you can adjust to individual taste easier. Also make sure to have plenty of crushed ice.

Simple Syrup: 2 Parts sugar to 1 Part water, adjusted to how much is needed. Boil the water, add sugar until fully dissolved, turn down heat to low for 10 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool, pour into dispenser of choice.

(in metal mug, or rocks glass)

  • Splash bourbon, add 3-5 mint leaves, muddle to break the veins.
  • Fill with crushed ice
  • 1-11/2 shot bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup

(if a mug stir until frosted outside; if rocks shake — garnish with 1,2  mint leaves)

The Belmont Jewel is the latest in a long string of attempts at an iconic cocktail for the New York race. For a time they tried The White Carnation, named after the race bouquet, that was essentially a Hairy Navel, with cream. In the 1990s they tried The Belmont Breeze, a complex and convoluted affair that had bourbon, sherry, OJ, lemon juice, and pimento bitters, and mint. You can understand the desire to move away from that concoction.

(in 14 oz double rocks glass, over ice)

  • 1 shot bourbon
  • 4oz lemonade
  • 2oz Pomegranate juice

Check the liquor cabinet, take a poll of your guests, and get to work making up a batch of what will please your crowd for post time. Then take the Classic Empire / Always Dreaming quinella.