This Saturday, the 141st Preakness Stakes will be run just about three miles from Words with Boards HQ. Around here, we’ll be pulling for Nyquist to take home the second win of the Triple Crown. But we’re not spending the days leading up to the race with our noses buried in racing magazines. No, we have bigger concerns – like what to eat and drink on Preakness day.

No matter what the occasion, planning a great menu is one of the most important steps of party planning. We, of course, like to start with a few wood cutting boards, re-purposed as cool serving platters. You know what looks nice on top of a wood cutting board? Stacks and stacks of crab cakes. And you know what looks nice next to that cutting board? The ingredients for a Preakness cocktail or two.

 

The Kentucky Derby has its mint julep – and Preakness has the Black-Eyed Susan cocktail, named for Maryland’s state flower. The official recipe of the drink has evolved over the years, but it’s always a boozy mix of liquors, with some sweet citrus. This year’s recipe includes orange juice, sour mix, bourbon and vodka:

Official Preakness Black-Eyed Susan

1 ½ ounces Effen vodka (but we used Tito’s)

1 ounce Makers Mark bourbon

2 ounces orange juice

2 ounces sour mix

Orange and cherry for garnish

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake to combine. Serve over ice, in a Collins glass.

This year, the Black-Eyed Susan has some cocktail competition, courtesy of Sagamore Spirit Rye, the just-released liquor made by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank’s new venture, which uses water from his home, Sagamore Farm, in the mix.

Sagamore Spirit’s Black-Eyed Rye combines sweet blackberry syrup with tart lime juice, mint, ginger beer and, of course, rye. It’s a great drink:

Sagamore Spirit’s Black-Eyed Rye

1 ½ ounces Sagamore Spirit Rye

½ ounce lime juice

¾ ounce blackberry syrup

8 to 10 mint leaves, plus more for garnish

3 ounces ginger beer

Blackberries for garnish

Place rye, lime juice, syrup and mint leaves in a shaker. Shake and double strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a mint sprig and three skewered blackberries.

Whichever cocktail you choose – or you could always make both! – you’ll need some snacks to round out the party menu. And as I mentioned earlier, stacks of crab cakes look fantastic on top of a cutting board.

Everyone in Maryland has their own favorite crab cake recipe, but the general rule is this: the simpler, the better. Buy the best freshly picked blue crab you can find, preferably from the Chesapeake Bay. it doesn’t all have to be lump. Backfin meat is great in crab cakes. And keep the filler – the other stuff added to the meat – straightforward. Do not – under any circumstances – add chopped red or green pepper to the mix.

McCormick is known as a big, international spice company – but it’s also a Baltimore hometown brand and it’s the company that makes Old Bay seasoning. It’s no surprise, then, that their crab cake recipe is a pretty good one. We avoid the parsley flakes and ramp up the Old Bay, and sometimes use panko or other breadcrumbs instead of tearing our own bread. But as a start, McCormick’s recipe is a good one.

For the party, make your crab cakes small and serve with crackers, lemon and cocktail sauce. Stack them high on a cutting board, mix up your drinks – and you’re ready for the race!

 

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