First, you have the infield (home of the bottomless beer mug, bikinis and bands). Don’t expect health food, but do expect variety. Infield eats include everything from crab cakes to funnel cakes to blooming onions to corn dogs. And of course, there’s Kegasus (half racehorse, half frat boy, all pitchman and mascot) whose appeal has been well-documented in these pages.
Those who prefer their experience a little more, well, upscale (or perhaps ‘grown-up’ would be a better term) can enjoy grandstand seating and may be able to make a reservation to eat in one of the dining rooms or other facilities. They can enjoy caprese, grilled chicken, filet and a lot more. For, coincidentally, a lot more than the infield costs. And that’s saying something.
And then there’s the rest of us poor slobs. We watch the race on TV, but we can still have the whole silly hat experience by making our own creative headgear (see the photo to the right for ideas). And we don’t need no steenkin’ centaur mascot either.
Now if you truly want the infield experience, you can get a keg and do the bottomless beer mug thing, but that leads to all kinds of behavior that can get you arrested, or at least unfriended.
Instead, try a more civilized tradition as part of your hosting capacity: serve a Black-Eyed Susan, the drink du jour of Preakness. The cocktail has been around for years, and is the racetrack equivalent of the lemon with a peppermint stick in it. It’s just as time-honored and just as totally Baltimore.
According to the Preakness website, the official recipe (including brand names) is:
3/4 oz. 42 Below vodka
1-1/4 oz. Early Times Kentucky Whiskey
3 oz. sweet and sour mix
2 oz. orange juice
Stir ingredients and garnish with an orange slice, maraschino cherry and stirrer (which in true Pimlico fashion, is topped with a plastic version of the signature flower).
That’s one version, of course, and if you turn to the Internet, you’ll find many more. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that they’re pretty potent, and can put you on the floor faster than you can say “Animal Kingdom.”
So for those who want to avoid alcohol, or even to just pace themselves, or if your party is a family-friendly event and you want to keep the underage crowd happy, it’s essential to offer an n/a version of the Black-Eyed Susan.
Bartenders around town came up short when asked to devise a breathalyzer-friendly version, but Google never fails. One site recommended a mix of orange juice and sweet and sour mix, perhaps with a splash of grenadine for color and flavor. Another had the idea of four parts of orange juice, four parts pineapple juice and one part grenadine, perhaps with some sparkling water for interest.
Your party menu may be as low-key as hamburgers and hot dogs, as traditionally Baltimore as a crab feast or as old-fashioned as a pot luck. Whatever it is, the drinks above will complement it.
Best of all, there won’t be any embarrassing photos on YouTube to provide a testament to the power of the bottomless beer cup.
By Mary Helen Sprecher