Who’s your matchbook guy? Who’s your cocktail napkin guy?
These are probably not questions you put much thought into. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t either—that is until by wonderful wife, in one fell swoop, cherried out my man room and enlightened me to the joys of customized matches and cocktail napkins.
A little background: A couple of years ago we went through a house renovation that seemed to last longer than a drum solo, and even then it wasn’t quite complete. Phase Triple Z in the plan was to finish a room in a newly created basement that would be my bar and smoking room. The whole thing had gone on so long that I myself had forsaken the possibility of its happening and was wondering how the whole house had become so girlified.
Then the lovely Ellen suddenly sprung into action. She called back the contractor, had him trick the place out to a fare thee well with a built in wood bar, bottom-lit glasses shelves and—glory of all glories—an icemaker. (This is an appliance that all it ever does is think of me: “I wonder if Jack needs some ice. Oh, he does. I better make him some. I wonder if Jack needs some more ice. No. I’ll just wait here until he does.”) Then the centerpiece arrived: a billiards table. What a great man room.
But, now I was feeling a bit embarrassed—I’d been thinking all these sullen thoughts about how I never get what I want and then the wife comes through like this. What I didn’t know was she had one more trick up her sleeve: the crowning piece.
Last week, they arrived:customized matchbooks and cocktail napkins emblazoned with the words “Chez Buzzy,” a family nickname. What more could I ask for? Well, a well-made Manhattan and a Montecristo No. 2, but I can take care of that myself.
I just learned that when the Belmont Stakes is run for the 142nd time in New York on Saturday Woodford Reserve will be the official Bourbon of the race. This I applaud: it’s a good whiskey and I feel that not enough events these days have an official Bourbon. (My wife, however, would add that walking out to get the mail in the afternoon may not be an occurrence worthy of such a official distinction.)
Along with the official-Bourbon honor, Woodford will now be used to make the traditional cocktail of the Belmont Stakes, the Belmont Breeze.
Belmont Breeze 1 1/2 oz.Woodford Reserve
1 oz.Pomegranate Juice
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge or cherry.
I use the term “traditional” under advisement. If by traditional you mean that the Belmont Breeze has the same sort of longevity that, say, the Mint Julep has had with its unstinting relationship with the Kentucky Derby, well, not that traditional. But if by traditional you mean it’s been the drink associated with the Belmont Stakes for quite a long time, again no. But if by traditional you mean this is the first time it’s been served this way at the race, then, yes, it is traditional.
To be fair, some tradition exists here. The Belmont Breeze has been listed as the official cocktail since 1998 when the barmeister Dale DeGroff invented the drink to replace the former official Belmont cocktail, the White Carnation. The only thing is that when the King of Cocktails first created it, the Breeze was a galaxy more complex and had different base ingredients:
Ever since I discovered the Bourbon with the distinctive red-wax seal 20 odd years ago, I’ve heard rumors of some super duper Maker’s Mark that they were keeping for themselves or selling overseas. Whenever I explained that there wasn’t one, the response was a plaint that there should be because every other Bourbon has its "really good stuff.”
Well, I always thought that Maker’s Mark, which turned the Bourbon world on its ear in 1958 by breaking through the superpremium ceiling, was the really good stuff. But it’s human nature to want to move onto the next big thing and so the market clamored for a new release from the company that hadn’t changed what it does for a half century. (Yes, I know they flirted with the stuff that came in the gold seal bottle, but that was fleeting and it was essentially just a higher proof and not a different taste.)
Now the distiller introduces Maker’s 46, and I have to say it was worth the wait. The whiskey manages to embody the essential character of Maker’s Mark (smoothness matched with big flavors of vanilla, caramel and maple), while revealing a spicy side that it never showed before.
Bill Samuels Jr., president of Maker’s Mark and son of its founder, came by the office recently to introduce me to his new baby and explain its creation. Watch this video to learn about the nightmare that drove him to make it.