Well it's been two weeks since since the Kentucky Derby which means only one thing - The Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is today. Plans fell through to have the first Derby Party here at La Cucina Castano two weeks ago - an all day middle school lacrosse tournament the same day put the kabosh on that idea - but a few friends did stop over to watch the race and yours truly certainly had quite a few mint juleps in honor of the race. Since a Derby party was not to be we decided on the next best thing - a Preakness party.
The Preakness, while not my favorite TC race (that would be the Belmont), it is the closest race to us here La Cucina. It is is run about an hour down interstate 83 in Baltimore at Pimlico Racecourse and lo and behold also has an official drink - The Black Eyed Susan. Guess I'll be whipping up some Black Susans then for the shindig today. Except there is one small issue. There doesn't seem to be any one single recipe for this drink. A quick search of the internet yields varying recipes with quite different ingredients. All seem to have vodka but then it diverges from there. Orange juice seems to be a common theme in almost all the recipes I've read, though it is not an ingredient in the recipe on the official Preakness website -
Some recipes have rum, some have whiskey, a few add triple sec or grand marnier. I've seen both pineapple juice and lemonade listed in some recipes. Limes, lemons, oranges, cherries, simple syrup, you name it it's probably been in a Black Susan recipe at some point. Google the drink recipe and you'll be amazed at how many versions you come up with.
This inconsistency of recipes and ingredients, I think, makes this drink a perfect fit here at La Cucina Castano. Cooking and mixology are all about the creative process. Take something standard or simple and then riff on it until you come up with something unique and fun .... and tasty. Kind of like jazz in the kitchen or behind the bar. So that's what I'll be doing today as friends gather here for our first Preakness Party. Taking what I think are the best elements of the various recipes I've found and getting into some serious mixology until I come up with my own best version of this drink, which will then become the standard bearer of Preakness parties to come. I'll let you know what I come up with.
Until next time .... Enjoy the weekend. Enjoy the race if you will be watching. If not enjoy whatever endeavors you set forth on. And as always - eat well, have fun and enjoy a tasty cocktail.