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!

Bourbon AND Bourbon Bar Review: Bourbon House and Pinhook Bourbon

When you are Bourbon Bill, and in New Orleans, you end up in a bourbon bar on Bourbon Street (Note: I did not go at night time!).

If you have been reading my blog you know that some historians give New Orleans credit for coining the term “bourbon.” When they would ship their whiskey down the Ohio River from Kentucky, specifically much of it from Bourbon County, the barrels were marked bourbon. New Orleans residents starting asking for that “bourbon” whiskey. They liked it better than other whiskey they were importing.

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Wee walked from our hotel in the French Quarter to 144 Bourbon Street and Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. The food looks outstanding and it has gotten great reviews. But we didn’t go there to eat.

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We went there for the incredible bourbon selection. As you can see by the picture of the list on the wall, it is quite extensive.

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Lynn immediately ordered a Manhattan. Her Manhattan made with Blanton’s was excellent. I tried a sip but I had to spend some time looking at the list. I looked and looked for something I had not tired. Then I spotted 2 bottles on one of the back bar shelves. They had racehorses with jockeys on them on the labels. I had to find out what bourbon was in those bottles. It turned out to be Pinhook Bourbon.

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First think to note about Pinhook Bourbon is the name. A “Pinhooker” is an individual who buys a young racehorse with the express purpose of reselling the horse for profit. They do this through some training, fixing some flaw to enhance its value. The term is also used for speculators in tobacco, produce, or today even yard sales. Derived from the Spanish verb “pintar,” to paint or ripen.

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Now back to the bourbon. Pinhook is crafted from a mash of 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. It has been aged at least 6 years in American oak and bottled at 90 proof. The 20% rye helps make it very smooth. It has hints of vanilla, salted caramel, and finishes with the warm taste of toasted nuts. If you can find it, buy a bottle. They only produce about 5,000 bottles each year. The bottles labels showcase a horse owned with by Bourbon Lane Stable LLC.

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Having enjoyed sitting at the bar at Bourbon House and talking with other bourbon lovers was a kick. What a great atmosphere, wonderful selection, and, as I said before the food looks amazing. Plan to spend more time than we did and enjoy a Pinhook bourbon with some of their authentic southern seafood.

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Bourbon Review: Black Saddle 12 Yr Old Straight Kentucky Bourbon

I first read about Black Saddle on Caskers’s website. Aged for 12 years, this bourbon was named the “Best Small Batch Bourbon” at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition winning a Double Gold Medal. It’s spring horse racing season. And, even though it has a western saddle on the label, I felt it follows my spring racing theme.

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I love Black Saddle’s label and bottle graphics. The seal over the cork is also very well done with an embossed saddle on it. Open the bottle and you immediately smell the spice. – it’s a wonderful aroma. Upon tasting it, I immediately got vanilla and a lot of other spices. The distiller’s notes say crème brulee, pepper, and toasted cinnamon. You can taste and sense all of those.

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At 90 proof it grabs your attention in a good way. It definitely says I am going to impress you and hold my intensity and your attention. You get a lot of flavors for the whole experience from first taste to finish. For dinner tonight we had kielbasa simmered in onions and beer served over extra wide egg noodles. I tasted the bourbon prior to dinner, during dinner, and after dinner. It was a “trifecta” and worked all evening.

This is definitely a bourbon I would suggest giving a try. It is a very good bourbon worth you attention and the $50 price tag.

BTW – If you aren’t subscribed to Caskers, you should (you can register here).  They get some very good, unique, hard to find bourbons.

Aged: 12 years
Proof: 90
Color: Dark Amber
Aroma: SPICES, lots of spices!
Taste: Vanilla
Price: $55.99 at BevMo

Bourbon Review: Lexington Finest Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

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For horse racing enthusiasts like myself, spring when a man’s thoughts (fancy?) turns to horse racing and Bourbon. Kentucky has a lot of horses and even more barrels of bourbon. According to the article in the Men’s Journal about the “Pappy Heist” some 5.7 million barrels currently reside in the state, and, yes, they pay taxes every year for sleeping in those warehouses. But that is off the subject. Spring is when the 3-year-olds who are eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby begin their campaign for the Triple Crown. It is also the time of year that part of the country talks bourbon, Mint Juleps and thoroughbred racing.

Lexington Bourbon was inspired by one of horse racing’s most successful thoroughbred sires. It was first launched by Western Spirits (Wyoming) in 2012. So we have a Wyoming bourbon with a Kentucky Thoroughbred on the label. Makes you think it’s made in Kentucky. Thus, the issue with many of these new bourbons you see on the market. You don’t know where they are made or anything about their age or heritage. They have tried to give it heritage with the “Lexington” name and the bottle has a very Woodford Reserve look to its contour.

The bourbon runs about $25.99 at Total Wine. Being my first review of the Racing Season I want to be positive. But unlike some of my other reviews, it’s not a new favorite. It is a lighter, less complex bourbon. It’s a good bourbon for your Whiskey Sours, and other cocktails. It is rather short on finish but has a vanilla, spicy, sweet, and some say woody taste to it.

They have done a wonderful job of packaging this bourbon to have that old Kentucky look. It would look good on your bar on Derby Day. But I would stick to Woodford Reserve, Blanton’s, or some of the other Thoroughbred inspired Bourbon’s for those dressed-up mint Juleps you want to make to impress your friends this Spring.

Age: Unknown
Proof: 86
Color: Golden Brown
Aroma: Vanilla, Woody, Spicy
Taste: Woody, Vanilla, Sweet
Price: $25.99 at Total Wine

New Year’s Resolutions and Bourbon

As I started this blog with the encouragement of our friends Ray & Jeannine, the support of my wife and best friend Lynn, and the writing and internet expertise of our daughter Taylor, I debated what would I write as my first post. Then it hit me while we were on a family vacation over Christmas and New Years: resolutions and bourbon.

What is your New Years Bourbon Resolution? It could be as simple as starting a collection of some of good bourbons, or finally getting that long sought after bottle of Pappy.

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With my latest Pappy acquisition.  Fun story coming later this week on how I got it.

Maybe it’s time to start planning a trip to the Kentucky Derby this spring and see the “Most exciting two minutes in sports” while drinking a Mint Julep. Or spend the spring on the Bourbon Trail (if you want the full fall in Kentucky experience attend a day of fall racing at Keeneland Racetrack, or a college football game, then do a few days on the Bourbon Trail).  Or, to find a new favorite local restaurant/bar with a great bourbon selection.

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Outside Buffalo Trace during our visit to the Bourbon Trail in 2013.

Loving bourbon creates endless possibilities for special occasions, a celebration, or a regular weekend enjoying your favorite distilled spirit. Whether you are just sipping bourbon or enjoying it as part of a special sports or arts event. The possibilities are endless.

Now is the time to make your “Bourbon Resolution.” Plan your year and combine your love of good bourbon with good friends. The possibilities are endless. Over the next few weeks I will be giving you more ideas on how to make that resolution a reality.