On June 7, the final leg of the American thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown will take the track at Belmont Park for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes. These are exciting times for thoroughbred race fans, with everyone’s favorite colt, California Chrome sitting in the driver seat for a Triple Crown bid. Impressive wins at both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes have setup a race with destiny this Saturday. Does Chrome have what it takes? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: NBC’s live coverage of the race, 4:30-7 p.m., will be must-see TV. But before we get to the sips, a little background on the race is in order.
The most demanding race of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes is a marathon of a run at 1.5 miles dubbed as the “Test of Champions.” For many of the horses in the running, this length is new territory, with most lacking experience at this distance, making a successful bid for the Triple Crown one of the most difficult feats in American sport.
Although the Belmont Stakes is the longest running race of the three, with quite a few traditions of its own—such as the massive blanket of white carnations draped over the winning horse (more than 700 select carnations used in each) and the winner's prize, the August Belmont Trophy, a Tiffany & Co. creation—it has also seen the most change in tradition. From swapping the post-parade song from “Sidewalks of New York” to “New York, New York,” to the change in the official cocktail, the Belmont Stakes is a constantly evolving event spectacle.
Now about those cocktails. Unlike the Kentucky Derby with its mint julep and the Preakness’ Black-Eyed Susan (name only), Belmont has never held onto an official cocktail for long. It started with the White Carnation, which relinquished its duties to the Belmont Breeze, and now, the Belmont Jewel. We aim to give you all of the recipes, along with an additional New York staple, the Manhattan, for good measure.
Let's start with the newest “official cocktail” of the Belmont Stakes, the Belmont Jewel. It comes by way of the event’s official bourbon, Knob Creek, a small batch distillery that harkens back to pre-Prohibition practices and standards. The Belmont Jewel is not overly complicated—simply bourbon, lemonade and pomegranate juice, eschewing the complicated concoction that was the previous punch, while keeping a light, summery flavor perfect for early June in the Empire State.
- 1 1/2 oz. Knob Creek bourbon
- 2 oz. lemonade
- 1 oz. pomegranate juice
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge or cherry.
The latest Belmont bevvy to fall to the wayside, the Belmont Breeze, first came into vogue in 1998, when it officially supplanted the White Carnation, a cocktail that held considerable Belmont sway for a time. The Breeze is somewhat complex, with quite a few ingredients, which is probably why its tenuous reign came to an end (imagine trying to mix 100,000 of these in an afternoon). Brainchild of Dale DeGroff, Rainbow Room bartender, the Breeze is a bourbon, sherry and fruity punch that goes down pretty easy and packs considerable, ahem, punch. Below is DeGroff’s official recipe; enjoy!
- 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
- 1/2 oz. sherry
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- Splash fresh orange juice
- Splash cranberry juice
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 mint sprig
- 1 orange zest
Assemble the first six ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel and mint sprig.
*Recipe courtesy of Dale DeGroff
Let's take a walk down Belmont memory lane. We’re resurrecting the original Belmont Stakes “official cocktail,” the White Carnation, a creamy vodka-infused, Fuzzy Navel-type cocktail. The name is a nod to the blanket of white carnations that is draped on the Belmont Stakes winning horse in the victory circle, and is definitely an acquired taste, which is probably why the bourbon-heavy Breeze took its place.
- 2 oz. vodka
- 1/2 oz. peach schnapps
- 2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
- Soda water
- Splash of cream
Pour vodka, schnapps and orange juice into a mixing tin with ice. Stir well, strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with soda water and a splash of cream for color, and garnish with an orange slice.
For those who are lactose-intolerant, we’ve included the classic New York cocktail, the Manhattan, for good measure. An International Bartenders Association Official Cocktail, one recipe comes directly from the IBA source (it's in metric folks), while the other is more America-friendly, measured in standard units.
- 5 cl rye whiskey
- 2 cl red vermouth
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cocktail cherry.
Manhattan (USA version)
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- 1 oz. Italian vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Pour rye, vermouth and bitters in a shaker over ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry and twist of orange if you’re feeling froggy.