The Mint Julep Is Not The Only Horse Race Cocktail You Should Know

composite of julep Belmont Jewel Black-eyed Susan
composite of julep Belmont Jewel Black-eyed Susan

Spring is the season when lovers of horse racing gather to watch their favorite thoroughbreds fly around the track while sipping icy, bourbon-laced cocktails. If that brings to mind a silver julep cup brimming with muddled mint, crushed ice, and bourbon, you've only got a part of horse racing's Triple Crown in mind. The Kentucky Derby, with its traditions of fancy hats, Mint Juleps, and elaborate menus might steal the media spotlight, but the two other important races of the crown -- the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes -- each have their own traditions, including a cocktail to celebrate their events.

The Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, is the junior partner of the trio, founded in 1875, but it's the first of the three races held each year. The Derby selected the Mint Julep as its official cocktail back in 1938, although the refreshing drink had been enjoyed for decades at the track. The two other official racing drinks are relative newcomers. The recipe for Maryland's Preakness signature tipple, a Black-Eyed Susan, was developed in 1973, 100 years after the founding of the race. It's a sweet and boozy combination of bourbon, vodka, pineapple, and orange juice. The final contest each year and the oldest of these races is the Belmont Stakes, first run in 1867. The race is currently represented at the bar by the Belmont Jewel cocktail, featuring bourbon, lemonade, and a dash of pomegranate juice.

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The Black-Eyed Susan Cocktail Packs A Punch

Black-eyed Susan cocktail
Black-eyed Susan cocktail - Karenfoleyphotography/Getty Images

Two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, Baltimore, Maryland, hosts race two of the series, the Preakness Stakes. The winning horse receives a garland made of black-eyed Susans, the Maryland state flower (among other prizes, of course!). Long-time race caterer Harry Stevens concocted a drink to serve the crowds intended to match the yellow-orange petals of the state flower. His mixture of equal parts orange juice and sour mix with an ounce each of bourbon, vodka, and peach schnapps is reminiscent of many 70s-era sweet, fruity, and colorful drinks, and this one also packs in a whopping three shots of spirits. After a good shake to combine the ingredients, the drink is served over crushed ice, which helps a bit with diluting all that alcohol, and it's garnished with the old standard -- an orange slice and bright red cherry.

The recipe has been tweaked over the years, with some interpretations swapping sour mix for pineapple juice or substituting spirits to include tequila or rum (or both!), but what's stayed constant is the sunny flavor of the drink. The sweet acidity of orange is a great match for Maryland's other specialty, crab cakes, which are featured on Preakness menus, too.

The Belmont Jewel Is An Easy Sipper

Belmont Jewel cocktail
Belmont Jewel cocktail - Karenfoleyphotography/Getty Images

The Belmont Stakes caps the set of Triple Crown races several weeks after the Preakness, typically in Elmont, New York. Belmont has perhaps not yet settled on a cocktail tradition despite being the most historic of the horse races. Race promoters launched The Big Apple cocktail in 1975 -- that was replaced the very next year with The White Carnation. Winning horses receive, you guessed it, a blanket of the flowers. That sweet and creamy vodka drink lasted for 20 years when the Belmont Breeze took over. That drink is a somewhat complicated mixture of bourbon and sherry, with citrus and cranberry juice, mint, and finally, lemon-lime soda. Ultimately, in 2011, the current quaff, a simple mixture of bourbon, lemonade, and pomegranate took the official spot, known as the Belmont Jewel.

The race has been moved upstate for a few years to Saratoga, New York, due to race track construction, which adds the possibility of some new perspective on the Belmont Jewel. Just as there are many variations on the venerable Mint Julep, a tweak here or there to a base recipe can make an average cocktail special. Promising recipes proposed by Saratoga businesses substitute lemonade for fresh lemon and simple syrup, swap pomegranate juice for liquor, or add sunny, sweet limoncello. Who knows, maybe next year, we'll be adding to the list of horse race cocktails with a new, improved toast to Belmont!

Read the original article on Tasting Table