I'm not even going to pretend like I've ever watched the derby. Baseball games are more my sport of choice, and I find horse racing to be a strange concept. There is never an intelligible postgame interview with the champion. You never gain insight on race strategy. And not to beat a dead horse (sorry), but the winner never says it's going to Disney World.
Instead of putting efforts toward betting on large four-legged mammals, I set my sights on other ways I can honor their feats. It's still an impressive event, one I could never do (and not just because I have a mere two legs), so it's worth celebrating somehow: like by Churchill downing a horse-themed cocktail.
These cocktails are fast, easy and just a little weird. Because if you wanted a fancier cocktail, you'd be sipping a julep by now.
① American Pharaoh Pie: The reigning Triple Crown winner, and arguably as household a name as a horse can get, is now in retirement. Which for dark-tall-handsome horses apparently means getting sent to a farm for the sole purpose of breeding future champions. What's more patriotic than a horse who's name is literally American? Hot dogs. But also apple pie, which arguably fares better in a cocktail. Combine Applejack brandy and sparkling apple cider (hard or soft, up to you) in a one-to-two ratio, and finish it with a dash of nutmeg.
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② Sea to Shining Seabiscuit: While everyone was busy pointing and laughing at him for being the small stallion in the stable, the underdog became a champion, Cool Runnings-style. He also got a book and a movie that starred Tobey Maguire, aka Spider-Man, so he was basically ridden and loved by a superhero. But I guess that's what happens when you're awarded the high honor of American Horse of the Year in 1937. I firmly believe that sometimes it's OK to drink a cocktail that tastes like a cookie, especially to pay dues to such a fine horse. Like a White Russian but with a coconut twist, this drink combines one part coffee liqueur, two parts coconut milk and two parts coconut rum. Crumble up explicitly appropriate Chessmen cookies and sprinkle them on top.
③ The Smarties Jones: Smarty Jones was a horse who apparently got his name from being a smart aleck, or whatever the horse equivalent of that is. So we're using Smarties in this drink, because if conversation hearts are fair cocktail game, these sugary disks are, too. Put them in a glass with a pour of vodka and a sweet liqueur like crème de cassis, plus lemon-lime soda if you really like sugar (or lemon juice and club soda if you don't). The sugary bits take a surprisingly long time to dissolve, so your drink might evaporate before they do—in which case you'll have a boozy candy treat left as a parting gift.
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