By Richard Thomas
My visit to My Old Kentucky Home this October saw me there at just the right time to catch the races at Keeneland for the first time in almost 20 years. I wasn’t there for just any race, either, as Saturday the 13th was the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, with a purse of $400,000.
A race day at Keeneland is synonymous with many Kentucky institutions. Some, like a steaming bowl of burgoo, are innocent enough. Others, like gambling and drinking, not so much. One of the changes about Keeneland since the last time I was present for a big race is that the former attracts a horde of young women in hooker heels and scanty clubbing-wear, while the latter ensures said women are all falling-down drunk before lunchtime. That’s not surprising, since by drinking I mean drinking bourbon and bourbon-spiked cocktails.
Two distilleries are sponsors at Keeneland: Maker’s Mark and Buffalo Trace. Now, one thing being a writer does to you is that you are always looking for story material, and as a writer, my relationship with my whiskey is no different from anything else. Add to that some management responsibility, and one sometimes makes odd choices. So it was at Keeneland when I passed on a neat Maker’s 46 for the Keeneland Breeze, for no other reason than The Whiskey Reviewer needed more mixology material.
Maker’s Mark bourbon
Fresh orange juice
This is a recipe straight from Loretto and Maker’s Mark, so that’s what Keeneland uses for the one I had. Fill a highball glass about 2/3s of the way with ice, and pour in one part of Maker’s. Then add a splash of orange liqueur, a dash of fresh orange juice, and top off with ginger ale. Use an orange slice to garnish this very orangey drink.
Formerly known as Spring Meet, the Keeneland Breeze is a sweet, citrusy and light cocktail, and it is served in all the racetrack’s bars and dining rooms. If you were thinking of making this at home, its main virtue is that the cocktail is simple to make, but is one full step beyond the old bourbon and Coke. The only thing on the list of ingredients that will probably require a trip to the liquor store for the average bourbon drinker is the orange liqueur, since the rest might already be lying around on the liquor shelf or in the kitchen pantry.
As for the drink’s quality, I’d have preferred the Maker’s 46. Or a mint julep, which was strangely absent from the Keeneland drinks menu.