The Preakness Cocktail

In my rush of enthusiasm for all things post-vernal equinox, the Triple Crown is of course on my mind. I have a love/huh? relationship with horse racing which is also not a very deep relationship, but it's also a fun relationship. What I mean is, I really really don't understand horse racing, but when I lived in St. Louis I enjoyed playing "horse hooky" on summer afternoons, sneaking off with my friend Mike to the track, and of course there are all the cocktail traditions that go along with the sport.

The Preakness Cocktail actually bears a closer resemblance to a Manhattan than a mint julep, and it's not even the most "official" cocktail of the Preakness Stakes. That would be the Black-Eyed Susan, so named because the winning horse is ceremonially sheathed in a coverlet of Maryland's state flower. The Black-Eyed Susan, in turn, is like a first cousin to a Hurricane or some such monstrosity: it's made of vodka, cheap whiskey, sour mix and orange juice, garnished with an orange slice and a Maraschino cherry (skewered together on a cellophane-frilled toothpick, I'm sure). I believe it's what they serve to the muddied masses who buy the cheap tickets that allow them standing-room admission to the infield, which this May includes a Maroon 5 concert! Sounds about right.

Blech to all that! The Preakness Cocktail, I feel confident telling you even though I've never tasted a Black-Eyed Susan, is much better. It's a medicinal-tasting Manhattan, thanks to the Benedictine. (Yes, I know I've been big on Benedictine this winter. (Although actually not really, according to the archive.) Yay, winter's over! You probably won't see Benedictine here for a while.) A good five o'clock cocktail, this one, as it's all-alcohol, easy to whip up, quaffable but worth your contemplation on the way down.

The Preakness Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Buffalo Trace bourbon

1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth

1/2 ounces Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Lemon twist, to garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass or tin shaker and stir thoroughly. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Tasting Notes

The traditional recipe, as you'll find it from many sources online, calls for blended whiskey instead of bourbon. But you all know that Rosie don't play that.

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The Martinez

Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.

I'm afraid that one of my oldest friends doesn't like me much anymore. We used to be thick as thieves. We could really count on each other, you know? I'd sing his praises to anyone who would listen and in turn he'd lift my spirits, get me through tough times... hell, he even helped me meet my wife. But lately, things just haven't been the same. Why, bourbon? Why have you turned on me?

See, used to be that I could drink bourbon all night and never have a problem. But lately, just a glass or two leaves me worse for wear the next day. This newfound shortcoming has left me in a predicament and wary of ordering my go-to drink, the Manhattan. Thankfully, I have a fallback... enter the Martinez!

The Martinez, ostensibly the precursor of both the Manhattan AND the Martini, has a long, illustrious and much debated history. I won't bore you with the details, much less a historiographic critique of  said details. (Did I mention that I'm working on my Ph.D.?) Point is that it's old-school, classic and fantastic. I had my first Martinez at the Flatiron Lounge a few years ago, just as I was discovering the world of the craft cocktail. It's been a favorite ever since, though it has only been in the last year, after finally investing in a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, that I started making them at home. In recent months I've started to see a real resurgence of the Martinez on drink lists. Viva la Martinez renaissance!

The Martinez

2 ounces gin

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

3 dashes bitters (Angostura or Peychaud's)

Orange peel, to garnish

Combine the gin, vermouth, Luxardo and bitters in a tumbler filled with ice. Stir vigorously and strain into your favorite old-time cocktail class. Garnish with orange peel, flamed if you can, "to add flavour and aroma to the surface of the cocktail."

Tasting Notes

You'll note that I don't specify any particular gin or vermouth (or bitters for that matter). The key to a good Martinez is the proportions. Stick to these and you'll end up happy with your drink. You may also note that the 1887 recipe calls for Old Tom gin. If you got some or can get some, give it a whirl. If not, good ole London dry will do just fine.

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