Like the Derby and the Preakness, the Belmont has its own signature drink: the Belmont Jewel, which in its official version calls for bourbon, lemonade, pomegranate juice and orange zest. But the Belmont Jewel doesn’t really have the same cachet as the Mint Julep or Black-Eyed Susan, mainly because it’s been the Belmont’s official cocktail only since 2011. Before that, as Newsday noted last year, it was the Belmont Breeze (a labor-intensive mix of bourbon or rye whiskey, sherry, lemon juice, orange juice, pimento bitters, fresh mint and orange zest). Before that, it was the White Carnation (vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, soda water and cream). Before that, briefly in the 1970s, it was something called the Big Apple (fruit juice, apple liqueur and rum, according to those who remember its short, unloved run).
The Belmont Jewel is a respectable cocktail, for the most part, but it can be improved. For that, we once again turned to Lesley and David Solmonson, proprietors of the 12 Bottle Bar cocktail blog and authors of the excellent book of the same name. They helped us with our Mint Juleps and Black-Eyed Susans, and they’ve kindly shared their re-imagined version of the Belmont Jewel, which they are calling the Crown Jewel.
“There’s not much that needs fixing in the official Belmont cocktail, the Belmont Jewel. The ingredients are honest — the drink is a whiskey sour at heart — and work well together. For our variation, we simply played with the delivery format, choosing to serve the drink ‘up,’ and tweaked how the lemon, sugar, and pomegranate are added,” the Solmonsons tell me. “As ‘lemonade’ is a vague and varied term, we opted for straight freshly-squeezed lemon juice and then combined the sugar and pomegranate into a homemade grenadine, which retains much more pomegranate pucker than most store-bought varieties. As a nod to New York, home to Belmont Park, we topped the drink with a float of jammy red wine — a ‘claret snap’ in vintage bartender speak — which is the hallmark of a New York-style sour and which adds greater depth to the drink. Bourbon works well here, but a pot-still Irish whiskey would be really lovely.”
The 12-Bottle Bar Crown Jewel
2 ounces whiskey (four tablespoons or 1/4 cup)
1 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice (two tablespoons)
3/4 ounce grenadine (preferably homemade)
1/2 ounce jammy red wine (such as a shiraz)
Add whiskey, lemon juice, and grenadine to a mixing glass filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds, then double strain (through a cocktail strainer and a fine-mesh sieve) into a coupe or martini glass. Float red wine on top.
1 part pomegranate juice
2 parts white sugar
Approximately 1 tsp orange flower water (optional)
Approximately 1/2 tsp rose flower water (optional)
Dissolve the sugar in the pomegranate juice over low heat. When cool, add just enough orange flower water and rose water to be minimally perceptible when tasting.