Horse racing and whiskey cocktails go hand-in-hand and every race has their own official cocktail.
For all of you horse racing fans looking for a great drink, these drinks are worthy of the status associated with the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.These cocktails are top shelf classics along with the Mint Julep and the Black-Eyed Susan. Among the three horse races, the Kentucky Derby is the only race that has stuck with a single drink over the years and though the bourbon of choice has changed based on sponsorship, the Mint Julep has remained the drink to have while watching the Derby.
This is not the case for the other two races. The ‘official’ cocktails change regularly and, oddly enough, they often keep the same name. We have seen it with the Black-Eyed Susan and the Preakness Stakes and the same can be said of the Belmont.
The Belmont Stakes has had a number of ‘official’ drinks.
It all began with a little-known cocktail called the “Belmont Park” (Bacardi rum, port, one egg and a teaspoonful of powdered sugar) apparently existed in the 1920s and might have been the first cocktail of the Belmont racetrack.The Belmont Park was followed by a drink called “Big Apple”, which briefly preceded “White Carnation” as the official drink in 1976. “The Belmont Breeze” , the White Carnation’s successor in 1997, was replaced as the official drink in 2011 by the “Woodford Reserve Belmont Jewel”.
The Belmont Park Cocktail may have appeared in various social circles of the upper class as early as 1890. And then there is “Belmont Cocktail” with gin, raspberry syrup and cream from 1916. However, the Belmont Park Cocktail was first published 1925 in a book entitled – Americana: Eight Cocktail Napkins, Hand Blocked, with Recipes and the Histories of Eight Famous Drinks ,whose publishers found a way around the Volstead Act of 1920. They added a shot of humor to the drink recipes. And what can be found in prohibition era book is that the authors poked fun at the Eighteenth Amendment. Non-alcoholic liquors and ‘flavorings’ were used as ingredients in the eight cocktails which included the Alabama, Barbary Coast, Belmont Park, Blue Blazer, Deadwood Dick, Manhattan, New Orleans Drip and the Rip Van Winkle Sleeper.
Frank Tynan, general manager of Belmont Park concessions for the Harry M. Stevens Company, told the New York (NY) Times June 8, 1975 Edition that the Belmont was working on an official drink to be called the “Big Apple.” And in 2015 Tynan told Newsday, that, “fruit juice, an apple liqueur and rum, I think,” may have been the ingredients found in the original “Big Apple” cocktail.
There is an interesting side note about The White Carnation, once a rather popular mixed drink, simple and tasty the cocktail has the flavor of an orange cream soda. The ingredients are all pretty standard in the average bar. It was the official drink of the Belmont Stakes from the 1970s until it was replaced in 1997 by Dale DeGroff’s variation of it, The Belmont Breeze. Although the White Carnation has lost some of its notoriety in recent years, it still remains a fun drink to revisit.
In 1997, according to DeGroff, he set out to invent a great whiskey punch and wanted a spirit that had significance to New Yorkers, so he chose rye whiskey, since New York has always been a big rye town. Rye was one of the first spirits to be distilled in quantity in America and by none other than George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He also wanted a drink that would appeal to a wide audience, so he introduced the sherry to temper the Rye: he finished with a combo that forms the base of the most popular drinks in the last ten years, cranberry and citrus. He also chose seasonal strawberry and mint as garnish, with a squeeze of lemon to cut the sweet. The New York Racing Authority loved the idea of a special whiskey cocktail for the Belmont that would appeal to a wider and younger audience. The Belmont Breeze was thus born, and has been ‘official’ drink at the Triple Crown Race every year since with great success!
The Belmont Breeze is very similar with the exception of the whiskey, sherry, and cranberry, which contribute a note of sophistication to this newer drink.
Recently, DeGroff updated the Belmont Breeze recipe and it is fantastic as well. The recipe is also tells given below.
Another ‘official’ drink served at the Belmont Stakes is the Woodford Reserve Belmont Jewel that was published in 2011. It features the smooth flavor of Woodford Reserve. The drink is simple and delicious. It is a mix of bourbon whiskey with lemonade and pomegranate juice and it is perfect for any occasion with uses far beyond the June race. It is also an easy recipe to transform into a punch and serve by the pitcher-full to a thirsty crowd.
Original Belmont Park Cocktail (1925)
Makes 1 Drink
½ Bacardi (non-alcoholic)
1 Teaspoonful Powdered Sugar
2/3 Port (non-alcoholic)
Directions: Add ice, shake well and strain into cocktail glasses.
Big Apple Modern Cocktail
Makes 1 Drink
1½ ounces Blade and Bow Bourbon
¾ ounce Berentzen Apple Liquor
pinch of ground cinnamon
sparkling or hard cider for topping
apples for garnish
Directions: Slice the top third of an apple off and set aside for garnish.In a wide low-ball glass, add in the bourbon, apple liquor and cinnamon then stir.Top with sparkling cider and apple for garnish.
The White Carnation Cocktail (1976)
Refreshing and an creamy color to match the white carnations of the winner’s white carnation blanket.
Makes 1 Drink
2 ounces Vodka
1/2 ounces Peach Schnapps
2 ounces Orange Juice
1/2 ounces Soda or Club Soda (more if you prefer)
Splash of Cream
Directions: Stir liquors, orange juice and soda together and pour over ice in a highball glass. Splash cream over top. Garnish with an orange slice.
The Original Belmont Breeze (1997)
Recipe created by Dale DeGroff, head bartender at Manhattan’s Rainbow Room/Windows on the World
Makes 1 Drink
1 1/2 ounces Seagram’s 7 whiskey
3/4 ounces Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry
1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice
1 ounce Simple Syrup*
1 1/2 ounces Fresh orange juice
1 1/2 ounces Cranberry juice
Shake first six ingredients with ice, then top with half 7-Up and half club soda. Garnish with fresh strawberry, a mint sprig and a lemon wedge.
*For the Simple Syrup: Dissolve two cups sugar in one cup water, and boil. The longer water boils, the stronger the syrup.
The Belmont Breeze* #2
Here is Dale DeGroff’s 2013 update on the original he created in 1997.
Makes 1 Drink
1.5 ounces Rye Whiskey
0.5 ounces Pedro Ximenez Sherry
0.5 ounces Fresh lemon juice
1 ounce Fresh orange juice
1 dash Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters (click here )
4 Mint leaves
1 Mint sprig
1 Orange slice
Directions: Assemble the first six ingredients in a goblet filled with ice.
Garnish with a mint sprig and an orange slice.
Optional: top with Soda and / or 7UP.
The Woodford Reserve Belmont Jewel (2011)
Makes 1 Drink
1 1/2 ounces Woodford Reserve Bourbon Whiskey
2 ounces Lemonade
1 ounce Pomegranate juice
Lemon wedge or cherry for garnish
Directions: Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice.Shake vigorously.Strain over ice into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge or cherry.
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