Wine & Spirits: Steeplechase Sips

by WL Author

Bet on these wager-worthy libations created by local bar stars and inspired by upcoming horse races.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

The Black-Eyed Susan at Acadiana, the traditional drink of The Preakness Stakes. (Photo courtesy of Acadiana)

We’re smack in the middle of that elusive quest for the Triple Crown, as the 138th running of The Preakness Stakes takes place on May 18, 2013, followed by the 144th running of The Belmont Stakes on June 9, 2013. But even if you had no idea that Orb won the Derby a few weeks ago, and don’t know your Superfectas from your Exactas, anyone can partake in cocktails inspired by horseracing’s greatest series of competitions.

So what makes a great drink to sip while watching a race? Well, Triple Crown tippling is all about refreshment—spectators are out in the sun and heat, often adorned in retro attire. So anything over ice, with fruit juice and/or citrus, fits the bill. Drinks shouldn’t be too fussy or esoteric; after all, everyone’s eyes are on the prize more than on their glasses. But they should be made in the spirit of the event, ready to be raised and clinked in victory, and downed in defeat.

Mixtress Gina Chersevani of Hank’s Oyster Bar and Buffalo and Bergen tweaked Preakness’ official cocktail this year, named for Maryland’s state flower. She says Tommy Inzer, Director of Hospitality for Pimlico Racetrack, wanted her to give the traditional libation a fresh perspective. The pink color represents Black Eyed Susan Day, May 17, which is now held in conjunction with Susan G. Komen to help raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.

Chersevani’s version of the Black Eyed Susan is an aromatic update, with the smooth kick of Finlandia Vodka, the official vodka of this year’s running of the race. “The lemongrass gave the pop to the St. Germain to subtly accent the floral notes of elderflower.”

Black Eyed Susan
Courtesy of Gina Chersevani, Mixologist, Hank’s Oyster Bar / Buffalo & Bergen
1 ½ oz. Finlandia Vodka
½ oz. St. Germain Liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
½ oz. raspberry juice or strawberry juice (squeeze and strain yourself, or purchase at Whole Foods Markets)
½ oz. simple syrup
Half a stalk of lemongrass (reserve 1 layer for garnish
1 sage leaf

In a cocktail shaker, muddle half a stalk of lemongrass. Add the vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, raspberry juice and simple syrup. Add ice and shake until frothy. Double strain over fresh ice in a highball glass, and garnish with a lemon grass stalk and sage leaf.

Gina Chersevani’s updated take on the Black Eyed Susan adds lemongrass and berries. (Photo courtesy of Finlandia Vodka)

The Louisiana-focused Acadiana is offering up race-inspired cocktails with accompanying dishes with Chef Jeff Tunks. Passion Food Hospitality group wine and beverage director Scott Clime offers up his take on the traditional Black Eyed Susan, which guests can use to wash down crab cake sliders, Maryland fried chicken and strawberry shortcake during the Preakness:

Black Eyed Susan
Courtesy of Scott Clime, wine and beverage director, Passion Food Hospitality Group
1 oz. Jim Beam Bourbon
½ oz. Smirnoff Vodka
1 ounce fresh sour mix
¾ oz. fresh orange juice
Orange slice and cherry, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass, and garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.

For June 9’s Belmont Stakes, Acadiana is serving up short rib sliders, goat cheese winner purses and hazelnut macaroons, along with the Seagram’s 7- and cream sherry-based Belmont Breeze.

Belmont Breeze
Courtesy of Scott Clime, wine and beverage director, Passion Food Hospitality Group
1 oz. Seagram’s 7
½ oz. Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry
½ oz. fresh sour mix
½ fresh orange juice
½ oz. cranberry juice
Splash 7-Up
Lemon wedge, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Acadiana’s Belmont Breeze is an homage to the third leg of the Triple Crown. (Photo courtesy of Acadiana)

Kelly Magyarics is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached on her website,, or on Twitter @kmagyarics.

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