The black-eyed Susan has been the Preakness’s signature cocktail for 40 years now, but it has yet to get any real respect. It might have been that the focus on achieving a “pale yellow color” during its conception or that the drink “has no roots in classical mixology.” Whatever the reason, the drink has been under attack since it was first introduced, and its recipe has been accordingly tweaked and retooled.
Currently, the Preakness’s advertises the official black-eyed Susan as consisting of vodka, elderflower liqueur, pineapple juice, orange juice, and lime juice, but at various times in the drink’s history you might have found rum, whiskey, bourbon, peach schnapps, sour mix, and/or orange liqueur in there.
Several local purveyors of alcoholic beverages have taken the general lack of reverence surrounding the black-eyed Susan as a cue to reinvent the drink as they see fit. Cunningham’s in Towson, for example, will be serving its own version, which trades the vodka for bourbon and rum and includes a homemade orange liqueur, during the week leading up to the race. A couple places serve the cocktail over crushed ice, and post-race stronghold Mt. Washington Tavern throws ginger beer into the mix.
To see recipes for several Baltimore establishments’ variations on the drink, view the photo gallery at the Baltimore Sun.
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