Saturday is the Belmont Stakes, the final race of the Triple Crown series. Most years, the Belmont is ho-hum after two different horses win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. This year, it looked like we were in for an exciting race as Derby long shot I'll Have Another had a shot at all the marbles. Then, earlier today, I'll Have Another was scratched from the race and retired.
Even though I'll Have Another won't have another, you still can (and should) this weekend. Like the previous two races, the Stakes has its own drink: the Belmont Breeze. Apparently, horses and booze go together quite well.
While spectators at the first two races have swigged their respective Mint Juleps and Black Eyed Susans for decades, the Belmont Stakes folks can't make up their minds on a drink.
For the longest time, New Yorkers drank Manhattans as they watched the race. Then, the Belmont folks decided to christen the White Carnation the official drink. With vodka, Peachtree schnapps, OJ, and a splash of cream, the drink has early 1980s written all over it. And, if it sits too long, the juice curdles the cream. I'll pass. They stuck with the White Carnation until the late 1990s.
The Belmont folks got tired of the White Carnation, and in 1998, they hired none other than Dale DeGroff, arguably the man who launched the modern cocktail age, to create a new drink.
He went with the Colonial-era punch mantra of "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak", and ended up with a drink that's a little reminiscent of a whiskey Madras, with extra dimensions of tangy lemon, lightness from bubbles, and a healthy splash of cream sherry.
This was the Belmont Breeze.
The Breeze's direction changed completely when Woodford Reserve came on as a Belmont Stakes sponsor. It's now little more than pomegranate lemonade spiked with Kentucky bourbon. I'll take DeGroff's version, thank you very much.
Belmont Breeze 1 ½ oz rye whiskey ¾ oz cream sherry ¾ oz simple syrup ½ oz lemon juice 1 ½ oz orange juice 1 oz cranberry juice 1 oz lemon-lime soda 1 oz club soda
DeGroff's method: Shake everything but sodas together with ice. Strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Top with sodas.
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My method: Build in a pint glass with ice cubes. Stir gently.
Either way: Garnish with a strawberry, a sprig of mint, and a lemon wedge.
That was Last Call, in which JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice. Have a question for JK? Leave it in the comments below.