May 27: The Preakness

PreaknessRight now we’re all pretty excited about American Pharoah’s chances of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. American Pharoah’s much anticipated run for the Belmont Stakes isn’t for another week and a half, so in the meantime we’re going to flashback to 1873 because it was on May 27, 1873 that the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, was first raced.

The Preakness is held annually at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, but its name actually comes from New Jersey. The race’s name was chosen by Maryland Governor Oden Bowie in tribute to a horse named Preakness,  a colt from Preakness Stables in Preakness, Wayne Township, New Jersey. When Pimlico opened on October 25, 1870, the big race that day was the Dinner Party Stakes, and the winner of that race was Preakness. So, the Governor thought it was only appropriate that the track’s biggest race be named after the winner of the first major race to be held at Pimlico. Although the date of the race bounced around during the first 60 years of the Preakness, since 1932, the race has consistently been scheduled for the third Saturday in May.

The Preakness is known as “The Run For The Black-Eyed Susans”. The black-eyed Susan is the Maryland state flower and in 1940 it was first proposed that horses who won the Preakness be draped in a garland of black-eyed Susans. There was just one small problem with this idea, namely that black-eyed Susans don’t come into bloom until late June or early July. A solution was soon found to this problem and rather than being draped in black-eyed Susans, winners were covered in yellow viking daisies that had been painted to resemble the state flower. Since the early 21st century, viking poms, a flower that resembles the black-eyed Susan, have been used to make the winners’ garland. In short, at no point in the history of “The Run For The Black-Eyed Susans” has a winner received black-eyed Susans.

With all that said, the official cocktail of the Preakness is the Black-Eyed Susan. The Black-Eyed Susan cocktail was invented in 1973 when some marketing exec decided that the Preakness needed an official cocktail and tried to come up with something as respectable as the Kentucky Derby’s Mint Julep. Unfortunately, the original Black-Eyed Susan was something of a mess. In 2014, the Baltimore Sun described the original recipe as follows:

Take vodka, rum, whiskey, bourbon, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice, sour mix, orange-flavored liqueur, elderflower-flavored liqueur, shake, pour into a souvenir glass and garnish with an orange slice, cherry and mint sprig.

Then dump it on the infield grass and get a real drink.

The recipe for the Black-Eyed Susan is ever-evolving and has gone through several interpretations. Today we’ll mix the recipe that’s currently featured on the Preakness recipe. It’s a floral and citrusy cocktail that works quite nicely for a spring day at the races.

Black-Eyed Susan (circa 2014)

  • 1 1/2 ounce Vodka
  • 1/2 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 1/4 ounce lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice

Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass (or Preakness souvenir glass) and garnish with an orange slice.

Tomorrow: A time capsule.

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