Preakness Prep

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:

Black-Eyed Susan 

  • 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.

This was clearly made up by a hipster last week

This was clearly made up by a hipster last week

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.

images (3)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.

Reporting For Duty

Reporting For Duty

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. 

Maryland, My Maryland

Maryland, My Maryland

See you at post time!

17 thoughts on “Preakness Prep

  1. I have the exact same cup shown in your Maryland Julep picture. They use them at my favorite Himalayan restaurant and I liked the cups so much that I had to get one for myself.

    (No, I didn’t steal it from the restaurant.)

    • M—I, no one accused you of anything here. You know, UNLESS YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE!

      I love those cups because they get so frosty. I actually cracked a thick glass tumbler making a julep once because it got too cold and just broke. That was a sad, sad day.

  2. Ooops. I just laughed at your sad sad day. So sorry. ;)
    The Maryland Julep sounds awesome! And what fun experimenting! (Experiminting?)

  3. The original sounds better-tasting — perhaps if I hadn’t seen the pink color? Hrm. I’m willing to try their new official (as long as it’s gluten free, gotta watch those stinking syrups & colors–even bitters may very well have it).

    Whatever you drink and however much you drink, you’ll be with an old friend, so it’s GOT to be a good time!

    • I’ve made the original before and it’s a good drink. A little similar to a mai-tai. We made both the original and the MD Julep yesterday and both were hits.

  4. My husband brought home some silver mint julep cups when he went to Kentucky for an art directors’ conference. I hope I didn’t give them away when I moved. We never tried making mint julep at home, since my husband didn’t like bourbon. I’ve never met a cocktail I didn’t like however, so maybe I’ll give it a try now.

    Lemongrass is overrated. It tastes fine in Southeast Asian cuisine, where it blends in harmoniously with curry, spring onions and fish oil. Anywhere else and it turns the food bitter.

    • I hope you didn’t give them away, either! The julep becomes super easy when you have your own fresh mint. When you have to get it from the store — especially if you pay $4 for one of those little plastic bits — it’s a lot less fun.

      There’s a few things we make that have lemongrass and it imparts a good flavor, but like I said to Lurker, a little goes a long way!

  5. Just yesterday, i was telling my husband about the amazing cocktails you write about, when we were bemoaning the lack of good alcoholic beverages to buy in the state we live in. And I see this post. Sigh. Some day, I will visit you, even if uninvited, and you must make me every single cocktail you write about. Yeah, I’ll be zonked out..and I promise to sleep it off in your garage, but I will drink every drop of them.

  6. Not being the google+ guy (or social media for that matter), took me a while to read this. The Maryland Julep was much better than the black-eyed-susan (traditional crafting). – Roomie

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