To say that I’m excited about Saturday’s race at Belmont Park is kind of an understatement. For a girl who grew up in  Maryland’s prime horse country, the Triple Crown stakes (3 races composed of the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and the Belmont) were always a big deal for us. Sadly, in my 29 years here on Earth, there has not been a horse that has won all 3 races to become a Triple Crown champion. I’m hoping that this year, the flashy chestnut colt they call “I’ll Have Another” will remedy that situation by taking this last leg of the race by storm, as he has the others, and bring home the title!

I’ll be cheering him on with one of these in hand, a fruity yet deceivingly strong beverage that is the signature cocktail of the Belmont Stakes. I’m usually a tequila or vodka kind of girl, but a change of pace once in a while is nice. Bourbon is the go-to liquor of choice for most cocktails created around horse racing. I used store-bought lemonade (Simply Lemonade, y u so good?), but you could certainly use some sweetened lemon juice and sparking water.

So, let’s raise a glass and toast to I’ll Have Another – here’s hoping we have the first Triple Crown Winner in 34 years come Sunday morning! I’d be one very happy girl.

*Update: I’ll Have Another has been scratched due to a leg/tendonitis injury. A huge disappointment, yes. However, it shows that they really care about the horse’s welfare, and not just the race purse. Maybe next year, folks! Best of luck to all the other entrants tomorrow.

A few weeks ago we went strawberry picking, only to get home to find that I didn’t have an operational cooktop. Not wanting any of those glorious berries to go to waste, I made an interesting strawberry jam, a delicious strawberry pie and cake, and with what I had leftover – I steeped the berries in vodka for a week and made this beautiful strawberry infused vodka!

Isn’t the color just glorious? And the flavor? The flavor is all juicy, ripe berries. When I strained the berries out they were pure white. Alcohol is funny like that. You can extract flavor from anything with it! Last year my husband made a really different hot pepper IPA by soaking a few habeneros in vodka, then adding that pepper extract to the final product. We’re looking forward to another batch of that already! But I digress, that’s another post.

This strawberry vodka is mellow enough to be sipped over ice, or to-die-for mixed into an icy glass of lemonade. I’m hoping that the bottle makes it through to the winter. To enjoy the freshness and flavor of these berries in the cold winter months would be a treat for sure! Next year I’ll probably make 2 bottles. Good stuff, folks!

It’s no secret that I have a love for margaritas, in any incarnation. Here’s another one to add to the list! Watermelon margaritas. They’re a bit reminiscent of an agua fresca – the epitome of light, fruity freshness. But, you know, with tequila.

I added a splash of Triple Sec to the recipe, as I don’t feel right calling something a margarita without a) lime or b) Triple Sec. I loved the use of the orange simple syrup, it was delicious and added some complexity to the simple sweetness of the melon. With summer just around the corner, we’ll all have wedges of watermelon stashed away in our refrigerators and coolers. This is a fabulous and fun way to use it!

When you’re stuck with a bunch of brown bananas at the end of a long week, what’s a girl to do? Some might make banana bread or muffins, which is find and dandy. But, if you’re like me – by Friday you’re ready for a good cocktail. And there isn’t a better way to use up bananas than with a banana daiquiri.

I’m not one for fru-fru umbrella drinks, but I fell in love with the banana daiquiri on our honeymoon, where we were fortunate enough to visit the gorgeous island of St. Thomas. There we took a tour, with a wonderfully charismatic tour guide named Sunny Liston. If you’re ever in his neck of the woods, look him up. You’ll have a blast! One of the best views on the island is from the highest mountain top peak (naturally!) and they have a little shopping area/bar. “The Mountain Top” bar is actually home to the banana daiquiri, where it’s said they first concocted it back in the 40’s. The place burned down a few years ago, but it’s been rebuilt since. Thank God, I don’t think that gorgeous island would be the same without this gorgeous drink in hand.

I’ve thought about the drink from time to time since, and tried to recreate it to no avail. Until, I stumbled upon this recipe from Saveur. Nail on the head, people! Sweet, frothy, and strong. 6 ounces of rum may seem like a lot, but you wouldn’t know it’s there. The ripe bananas + banana liqueur gives it the perfect tropical kick. No fakey tasting banana – ugh, is there anything worse? Next time you have some bananas that are about to end up in the compost pile, make these daiquiris. It’s the next best thing to sitting on a tropical beach!