Triple Crown Mixology: The Belmont Jewel

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For those who don’t follow horse racing as closely as I do, the Belmont Stakes is this weekend! Continuing my series on drinks specific to the three Triple Crown races, today I’m sharing with you the “Belmont Jewel” –  the official drink of the Belmont Stakes (recipe below). The name is a reference to Belmont being the 3rd jewel in the Triple crown.

The Belmont Jewel is made with Woodford Reserve, the official bourbon of Belmont Park. Belmont has changed their drink over the years. In 1975 it was “The Big Apple” which was made with rum, apple liquor, and some sort of fruit juice. It only lasted a year or two then it was changed to “The White Carnation” which was a combination of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, soda water, and cream. It was created with the thought of the blanket of white carnations put on the winner. It was not well received by the patrons. How long it lasted seems to be lost in history. In 1997, then head bartender of the Rainbow Room, Dale DeGroff invented the “Belmont Breeze.” Believing that a track drink should be whiskey-based, he made what he called “an old-fashioned whiskey punch, which has mint as a garnish.” It was made from Bourbon or Rye, sherry, orange juice, pimento bitters, fresh mint, and orange zest.

That brings us to 2015 and the Belmont Jewel. As part of a modernizing effort they wanted to have a drink that was bourbon based, easy to make at home, and in large quantity at the track. They needed a drink that was more “fan friendly” and this was it.

Having been to the Belmont to see American Pharoah win the Triple Crown, I can attest to the fact the crowd was lined up to buy the Belmont Jewel and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I will only admit to having more than one.

Here’s the recipe:

1.4 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
2 oz. Lemonade
1 oz. Pomegranate Juice
Orange zest

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice. Serve in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with an lemon twist.

Let’s all toast the last Jewel in the Triple Crown and the start of summer with a Belmont Jewel!

Drink Recipe: The Southside

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I am a huge fan of Garden & Gun Magazine. Our daughter introduced me to it when she moved to Richmond. They called themselves, “The Soul of the South” and have wonderful articles about all things southern. I got an email from them yesterday and one of the articles was about a drink called a “Southside.”

As anyone who reads this blog or watches the Kentucky Derby knows, the Mint Julep is the official Kentucky Derby drink. Other racing and sporting events have their own individual drinks. In Maryland, steeplechase fans have their mint garnished sipper made from rum – the Southside. I tested the drink last night!

According to the article by CJ Lotz, the Southside was popularized by Baltimore’s Elkridge Club. She interviewed Doug Artwell, the bartender at Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey in Baltimore, who said, “I discovered that the local variation is predominantly rum in place of gin in most Maryland circles, and then sometimes lemon and lime juice.”

I made our drinks with rum and shared with Lynn and our friend Bob. We found the drink very refreshing. With 2 ounces of white rum in it, if you don’t sip it the rum will sneak up on you. It is very refreshing, very light, and citrusy. Try one on a hot Saturday afternoon. In fact, try one this Saturday afternoon as you watch the Preakness!

Recipe

2 oz. white Rum
1 oz. fresh lemon juice (I used a Meyer lemon from our tree)
¾ oz. simple syrup
1 mint sprig

To make a Southside mix the liquid ingredients together with a few mint leaves.   Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker. Double strain the liquid into a chilled cocktail glass. I used antique champagne glasses which looked very festive. To finish, garnish with a mint sprig.

 

 

The Mint Julep’s Origins

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Photo from Saveur

The Mint Julep has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for nearly a century. It is made from a mixture of bourbon, water, powdered sugar, and mint. According to Churchill Downs, they serve over 120,000 for the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, which requires 10,000 bottles of bourbon, 1,000 pounds of mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice!

Chris Morris from Woodford Reserve Bourbon says “Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab, made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance the quality of their lives.” When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area. The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe.”

Why the Mint Julep? The drink’s ties to the Kentucky Derby can be traced back to a struggling bourbon industry during the 1930’s, but it did not start out as a festive drink. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the drink was originally given to prevent diseases and provide pain relief from body aches. Other stories I have read said they were served for breakfast. It was the spirited equivalent of coffee. What a way to start the day!

The Julep is said to have its origins in Virginia. Much of Kentucky’s heritage and traditions began when it was still part of Virginia. They would have been made with rum or brandy and served in a silver cup. Having sterling silver cups, ice, and the servants to make the drink, was a sign of wealth. As the drink moved to Kentucky they started using bourbon.

Henry Clay, the famous Kentucky United States Congressman, Senator, and Secretary of State in the early 1800’s introduced the drink in Washington, D.C. at the famous Willard Hotel.

In 1938, it was named the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. According to Cocktail Times, Churchill Downs served the drink in a souvenir cup and charged 75 cents per drink. The Derby glasses went through several phases of glass, aluminum, Bakelite, and back to glass in the late 40’s. A complete collection of the glasses is quite valuable.

Since the 1940’s the track has commissioned a new design for the Mint Julep Glass every year. The popularity of the Mint Julep, synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, encouraged the other Triple Crown races to create their own drinks. Today, many sporting and special events have their own special cocktail or drink. We have all heard the term “The official drink of….” To think it all started very innocently with Kentuckians enjoying their favorite beverage on the first Saturday in May in the early 1900’s.

You can check out my Mint Julep recipe here!

 

 

 

 

We made it through Whole30!

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As many who read the blog, or follow me on Facebook, know our whole family was doing Whole30.  I can’t say enough good things about Whole30.  I want to thank my niece and her husband for introducing it to all of us.  I was a 63 year old junk food junkie.  I loved my Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew.  I also have a sweet tooth that goes all the way to my Big toe.  No more. I learned a lot and lost a lot of weight.  I will now work hard to keep it off!

I am back to eating and drinking some of the things I enjoy and working hard to staying on the straight and narrow to be healthy (everything in moderation). I AM NOT giving up my bourbon and will continue to enjoy it.

Last week, on Day 31, I sat down after dinner in my favorite chair with a rocks glass and a little Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.  Wow, it felt so good to relax with a wonderful bourbon after a day of work.  One of the simple pleasures in life.

As I sat there I thought of the cowboys depicted in the movies riding into town after a long day on the trail.  They would belly up to the bar and ask for, “A whiskey or a bourbon, bar keep.”  When you don’t do something every day it makes it special.  My first bourbon drink post-Whole30 was special.  Reflecting back on many life, family, friends, and experiences.

We spent the weekend on a short vacation in Virginia and I’ve returned with more exciting and fun places to recommend to all of you my faithful readers.

Here’s to all of you.  Cheers!

How do you like your bourbon?

These days there are a lot of options when it comes to chilling your bourbon (and drinks in general). Today we’ll walk you through some of the different options like how to order your bourbon and the many different styles of ice cubes.

Neat, straight up, and on the rocks are still the standards. Neat means without ice. Typically a bartender would serve it in an old fashioned glass. Neat is also how most distilleries on the Bourbon Trail serve their bourbon for tasting. It definitely takes some getting used to if you’re like me and like your bourbon chilled.

Straight up means chilled but without ice in it. This is similar to how a martini is served. This is becoming trendier for drinks beyond martinis as bartenders get increasingly creative with their drink list. It’s also a very classic way of serving drinks.

And then there is on the rocks, which is what we are all most used to when it comes to sipping bourbon. Just some ice with bourbon poured over it.

Now, these days there are a ton of ice options. There’s your old standby of standard ice out of the refrigerator or ice maker. I tend to prefer this if I’m mixing my bourbon. The ice melts quickly, especially on a hot day, which waters down the bourbon.

So when I’m sipping bourbon I generally use a large ice cube from molds that I’ve purchased from Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. There are a ton of ice mold options out there. These are very common in restaurants now too. Some restaurants I’ve visited have even installed ice makers that make larger ice cubes (there’s a Japanese ice maker that makes ice cubes that are larger than the normal squares an ice machine makes but smaller than the large square mold ice cubes).

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You can purchase ice molds in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I have a bunch of large square molds, and some round ice molds made by Tovolo – they seem to make the best ones (found in stores all over the place). I even have a tray to make Purdue P ice cubes!

For those who want chilled bourbon with no added water whatsoever there are whiskey stones. Whiskey stones are just that, small pieces of stone made in all sorts of shapes, but usually small squares. Most of them are made from Granite. Granite is very hard and dense. It doesn’t absorb liquid and also retains temperature very well. There are also metal stones with a coolant inside which freezes. This is a way to chill your bourbon without watering it down at all. Admittedly I don’t use my whiskey stones very often. I prefer the large ice cube option – chills the bourbon and dilutes just a bit as you get to the end of the glass.

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If you read the tasting notes of many of the bourbons being released today they suggest you serve the bourbon slightly chilled. How you achieve that is really up to personal preference! Right now, I think by a fire is the best way!

Bourbon Recipe: Bourbon Slush for a Bourbon Blast

Another favorite drink at our annual Kentucky Derby party, besides mint juleps, is Bourbon Slush. It’s great for a large gathering when you need to make drinks for a crowd and this recipe is a real crowd pleaser. Lynn got the recipe out of Porch Parties, a really great book full of cocktail recipes to be enjoyed outdoors by Denise Gee (she also has a Southern Cocktails book that I want to check out).

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The beauty of this recipe is that it can be made a day, a week, or a month in advance. Once made you thaw it in a punch bowl and it makes slush on its own. You can add crushed ice if you wish to keep it slushy.

Lynn made it for our Derby Party a few years ago. She had some left in the freezer that we thawed later for another party in the summer and it was wonderful and refreshing. It very simple!

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Bourbon Slush Recipe

Ingredients:
6 Cups of water
2 Cups Bourbon
One 6-Ounce Container Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate, Thawed
One 12-Ounce Container Frozen Lemon Juice Concentrate, Thawed
Strong Tea (Recipe below)
Garnish with Mint Sprigs or Lemon Slices (Optional)

Directions:
Combine the water, tea, bourbon, sugar, orange, and lemon juice concentrate in a large container or bowl and mix until sugar dissolves. Pour into two gallon-size freezer bags. Freeze until an hour before serving, Place the frozen punch in a large bowl and let thaw breaking up every 15 minutes, When punch is melted, add more ice or water as desired. Serve in punch cups. Garnish, if desired.

Strong Tea:
2 Cups of water
1 family-size or 4 regular tea bags

Boil the water. Add the tea bag(s) and let steep until cool. Discard the tea bags and set aside.

This “Slush” will have everyone talking and enjoying their day at the races, or a summer afternoon on your porch. It’s an easy way to serve many while enjoying your party.

Bourbon Drink: Bourbon Bill’s Mint Julep Recipe

Naturally, Mint Juleps are a huge hit at our annual Kentucky Derby party. With the derby just a little over a week away, I thought it was the perfect time to share my mint julep recipe with you. There are many variations on the mint julep recipe. Traditionalists generally vary between using simple syrup, powdered sugar, or even granulated sugar. And lately restaurants have been mixing it up even more adding things like peach puree. I’ve tried all sorts of variations and have found simple syrup to be the best.

To start, you need to start with a good bourbon. Because the main and essential ingredient in a mint julep is the bourbon you want to use a bourbon with a taste you really like. Last weekend we made ours with Woodford Reserve. I have to be honest, at our Derby party we use Evan Williams – when you’re serving so many people it just makes the most sense.

To get ready for the party, and the onslaught of thirsty attendees, we make a huge batch of simple syrup a couple days before. To make simple syrup you just boil equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. [TIP: Because the bar gets busy at our party and to save time, I infuse the simple syrup with mint rather than having to muddle mind in every single mint julep made at the party. Simply add a healthy dose of mint leaves to our warm simple syrup mixture and let steep until the syrup has cooled, then discard the mint leaves.] Then let the simple syrup cool on the kitchen counter and then transfer it to a container to refrigerate until party day.

The julep glass is another important component! That could be a Kentucky Derby glass like the one pictured below  (this year’s glasses arrived a couple days ago to our house), or you could use a traditional silver Julep Cup.

Bourbon Bill’s Mint Julep Recipe

  1. Fill a glass full with crushed ice (If you haven’t infused your simple syrup with mint you need to muddle mint in your glass before putting ice in the glass)
  2. Pour in 1 ounce of simple syrup
  3. Pour in 2 ounces of bourbon
  4. Add a splash of good water & mix
  5. Garnish with a mint sprig
  6. Add 2 tall thin straws and enjoy!

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Make yourself a Mint Julep and remember to bet the gray!