Black-Eyed Susan: A Quandry

(I’m cross-posting this both as an Article and a Recipe, due to the consternation this drink causes.)

Black_Eyed_SusanThe Black-Eyed Susan is the “official” drink of the Preakness Stakes. And it is a drink that has truly lost its way. When it was first introduced during the 1973 Preakness, the Baltimore Sun called it “a mixture concocted more by Madison Avenue than a bartender” and they’re right. Whoever came up with this drink knew NOTHING about bartending, and even less about drinking.

It’s been classified as both a single drink, and as a punch. The ingredients list changes like a “complex” drink, but is overwhelming at worst, and simply undrinkable at best. The most common version of the recipe has 10 ingredients, and the (current) “official” version has 5 (still too many).

Here’s the (current) “official” version:

  • 1 1/2 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 oz St. Germain
  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/4 oz lime juice
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • Mix them all together and garnish with an orange slice.

    Interestingly enough, two of the largest sponsors of the Preakness are Finlandia Vodka, and St. Germain. Hmm… I wonder if that explains anything.

    So, at the request of a dear friend, I’ve come up with a simpler, and (in my humble opinion) tastier version:

  • 1 1/2 oz Whiskey
  • 1 oz Dark Rum
  • 3 oz Pineapple juice
  • 1/4 oz Lime juice
  • Shake, strain over ice, garnish with a cherry and orange wheel.

    Why change the base spirit from Vodka to Whiskey? For the flavor, of course! That way you still get the high proof as with the Vodka, but without the burn. Remember: when using a plain vodka, there is NO flavor!

    As for the Rum, I suggest a dark rum for an added sweetness that needs to be in there for a “race day” drink, without adding any extra burn.

    Likewise, drop the orange juice in favor of just pineapple juice to cut the acidity. Pineapple juice will give the drink a much brighter clarity, while retaining the signature yellow color.

    The lime juice can stay, as there’s nothing offensive about it at all.

    As for the garnish, well, you know I’m not a big fan of garnish in general, but the orange wheel/cherry combination DOES look nice.

    And while we’re changing things, I’d do away with the “souveneir cup” too. At least the silver mug for a real mint julep has a reason for existing (electrolysis). But that’s one of the rare cases.