If you’re a horse racing fan, you know that The Preakness Stakes is being run in Baltimore this Saturday. And while that’s a cause for a little celebration in its own right, Roomie is also coming into town — AND as Roomie lives in Maryland, we knew we really had to do race day right. Naturally, that means figuring out the right cocktail for the event.
Now, if we were watching The Kentucky Derby, that answer is easy: Mint Julep. Done. The Preakness though doesn’t have such a storied cocktail tradition. In many circles, the drink of the Preakness is supposed to be The Black-Eyed Susan — named for the blanket of flowers the winner of the race receives. The traditional recipe is:
- 1 oz. vodka
- 1 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum
- 3/4 oz. Cointreau
- 1 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
Build in a Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Add a maraschino cherry, an orange wheel, a pineapple cube, and a lime wedge for garnishes. Squeeze the juice from the lime wedge into the drink.
Now, I like Charm City well enough, but doesn’t that drink sound more like it should be served in a tiki bar than at a horse race in Maryland in May? Apparently, The Preakness itself thinks so, too, because their website shows this year’s “official” Black Eyed Susan that’s significantly different than the one above.
Lemongrass and blackberry? As you know, I’m all about craft cocktails, but again I think this drink misses the mark and was likely made up by some be-vested hipster bartender about a week ago.
This left me with somewhat of a conundrum. I wanted a real “Maryland” drink as well as one that was evocative of the Triple Crown. Stumped, I turned to my cocktail library. Yes, I have a cocktail library, and so should you.
I had the idea to look in The Happy Table of Eugene Walter — a collection of stories and recipes (all the recipes are either drinks or food made with booze) of the southern writer, gourmet, and general man-of-the-world rascal. And what did I find? A recipe from the 1790s for the Maryland Julep.
His recipe calls for a mixture of brandy, sugar, cognac and mint (with the dew still on it) and for making a sweet mint tea and using that as part of the eventual cocktail. I created an adaptation using a prep more similar to that of a traditional Mint Julep.
The Maryland Julep
- 3/4 oz. simple syrup
- 3/4 oz. brandy
- 3 oz. cognac
- Fresh mint
In a glass, muddle the simple syrup and brandy with 8-10 mint leaves. Let sit for a few minutes. Add cognac and stir. Fine strain over a julep cup filled with crushed ice. Stir until frosty and top with more ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
From the taste test that The Beloved and I had, I think we already have a winner for Saturday — the drink is similar enough to the Mint Julep (made with bourbon) that there’s a good connection, but different enough to have its own distinct flavor that distinguishes it from its more famous (for now) cousin. And having the recipe be more than two centuries old conveys that sense of tradition that I was looking for.
See you at post time!