High Spirits: Triple Crown Treats

Perfect drinks for a day at the races … or the bar

 

If you’re not one of the lucky people attending the 143rd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Raceway on May 19 in Baltimore, then perhaps you’ll be just as lucky if you’re perched on one of Jennifer Steven’s barstools at Theo’s Steaks, Sides and Spirits in St. Michaels.

 

It’s there you’ll be able to participate in the Stakes by watching it on one of the two televisions owner Chris Agharabi had installed for an occasion such as this. Stevens, a master mixologist, knows her stuff. She’ll be able to make you anything you ask for, but if you want to imbibe something with a history in horse racing (or at least the spectator part of its history), then ask her to make you a Mint Julep or a Black-Eyed Susan. 

 

If the summer warmth already has taken over the outdoors by then, ask her to make you her twist on a mojito, using refreshing Hendrick’s gin.

 

According to a May 2014 article in The Atlantic, and Cocktail Times’ website, Mint Juleps became the signature drink of the Churchill Downs in Lousville, Ky., in 1938. According to Business Insider’s website, more than 120,000 Mint Juleps are served during the Kentucky Derby — a two-day event that takes place during the first weekend in May. 

 

Cocktail Times says the drink popped up on the scene in 1803 in Virginia, and The Atlantic indicates the drink once was used for medicinal purposes, was a beverage similar in use to coffee for Virginia farmers (perhaps just a bit more boozy), and could include rum or brandy. It always, though, has included a combination of sugar and mint; different bedfellows, but always those to accompany. And they’re traditionally also supposed to be served in pewter cups, which allow for a nice frost because of the crushed ice inside, according to The Atlantic.

 

The Mint Julep is strong, but drinkable with its sugar and mint, and the mixture creates a beautiful freshness on the tongue. Although many people prefer their bourbon straight, on the rocks, or mixed with soda, the sugar and mint is a sweet spring/summer change-up to an otherwise business-as-usual liquor. Don’t drink too many, though. The effects of all that sugar definitely will be leaving you with feelings of regret the next day.

If you’re not one of the lucky people attending the 143rd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Raceway on May 19 in Baltimore, then perhaps you’ll be just as lucky if you’re perched on one of Jennifer Steven’s barstools at Theo’s Steaks, Sides and Spirits in St. Michaels.


Then there’s the Black-Eyed Susan, which may not be as popular or well-known as the Mint Julep, but is just as boozy and delicious, and just as tied to horse racing — it’s the official drink of the Preakness Stakes. It’s also the name of the Friday inclusion of the three-day Preakness event, which takes place May 17 to 19. The Friday event is touted as the “ultimate girls’ day out,” according to www.preakness.com. Black-Eyed Susan Day, an American thoroughbred horse race, began in 1919.

 

If you know anything about Jen, you know she does her own thing, so she’s created her own twist on the classic Black-Eyed Susan. 

 

Originally made with vodka, bourbon, orange juice, triple sec, and sour mix, Jen has left out the vodka in favor of white rum, is using a rye bourbon, and added a caramel rum floater. She’s also kept it local, using Lyon Distilling’s 100-proof Maryland Free State Rye Whiskey, Lyon’s White Rum and Lyon’s Caramel Rum.

 

The pineapple juice, white rum, orange juice, and caramel liqueur make this reminiscent of a beachside beverage, but the rye and orange liqueur bring me right back home. It’s got everything you want in a drink named Black-Eyed Susan; it’s sweet, it’s boozy, and it’s beautiful.

 

Here’s the real star of the show: Jen’s Gin Mojito is a game-changer. While I’m a huge fan of bourbon and rum, gin is kind of my low-key favorite liquor to mix with. It’s certainly not for everyone. There’s so much you can do with gin, especially the infused gins. It’s got a light taste that makes it perfect for experimenting. 

 

That’s what makes Jen’s Gin Mojito work, and work well. She uses Hendrick’s gin, a premium Scottish gin infused with rose and cucumber. That, mixed with the typical accompaniments like simple syrup, crushed ice, mint and a splash of soda makes this the perfect drink for the warmer months. It’s an instant cool-down and is the perfect refresher after a day in the sun, or during a day in the sun. Anytime, if you will. I hope she plans on making more of these for me this summer.

 

While it might have been nice to watch the races from the sidelines, spending an afternoon at Theo’s is definitely a worthy alternative.

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