A dark-horse drink for the holidays
Ever heard of the Suburban Cocktail? We’ll wager you haven’t.
But it’s worth getting to know. The Suburban’s unusual blend of rye whiskey, dark rum, and port is warming and cheering – just like the holidays are supposed to be.
Plus, the Suburban is named after a horse race. You may find that fitting as you gallop down the final shopping stretch.
Recipe: The Suburban Cocktail
The Suburban looks holly-jolly festive. And its flavor is perfect for chilly weather. But this drink would make a good warm-weather sipper too, especially if you serve it on the rocks.
Speaking of rocks: Most bartenders serve the Suburban “up” in a cocktail glass. We think it’s better over ice in a rocks glass. Feel free to follow your fancy on this.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves one.
- 1½ ounces rye whiskey (see Notes)
- ½ ounce dark rum, preferably Jamaican (or substitute a deep-flavored amber rum if you prefer)
- ½ ounce ruby or tawny port (we prefer ruby; see Notes)
- 1 to 2 dashes orange bitters (we prefer 2; see Notes)
- 1 to 2 dashes Angostura bitters (we prefer 2; see Notes)
- orange twist or peel for garnish (very optional)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir briskly until the contents are well chilled – about 30 seconds.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s been chilled) or an ice-filled rocks (Old Fashioned) glass. Add garnish, if desired, and serve.
- Why stir rather than shake this cocktail? Because all the ingredients are clear. Shaking can incorporate oxygen bubbles into the drink (which may cloud it).
- That said, we often shake. It’s easier – and if you’re serving the drink over ice, you won’t see the bubbles anyway.
- A garnish isn’t traditional for this drink, but we think an orange twist or peel is nice, especially around the winter holidays. A brandied cherry would work well, too.
- You can substitute bourbon in this drink, but we think rye works much better. Bourbon is sweeter, so it gives the drink a different flavor profile (though one you may like).
- Rye was often the whiskey of choice for cocktails that originated in the northeastern United States – as this drink did (rye grows well in that part of the world).
- We think dark rum is perfect in this drink, but you may prefer amber. It’s worth experimenting.
- We prefer the flavor of ruby port in this drink (though it’s probably more common to use tawny). Ruby port combines better with dark rum. And the color is more festive – always a plus in December.
- Don’t use your most expensive port in this drink (save that for sipping). Instead, use something that sells for around $20 a bottle. Ask the friendly folks at your local liquor store for a recommendation if you’re not sure what to buy.
- Port is a fairly unusual ingredient in cocktails – although we also used it in the Betsy Ross Cocktail (another holiday-appropriate drink).
- Port is fortified wine, with an alcohol content of about 18%. It will oxidize after opening, causing the flavor to decline. We always store opened bottles of port in the refrigerator to extend their flavor curve.
- Most recipes for this drink call for 1 dash each of orange and Angostura bitters. We prefer 2 because we like bitters. But mix to your own taste.
- So what’s the history of the Suburban Cocktail? A recipe for it first appeared in print in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. And the drink likely originated at the Waldorf’s bar, probably during the 19th century. The cocktail was named after the Suburban Handicap, a thoroughbred race that was first run at the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn (today the race is run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York). The race was named after a British horse race called the City and Suburban Handicap.
- The drink may have been invented to celebrate the interests of wealthy sportsmen like James R. Keene, a 19th century investor and racehorse owner. Or Leonard Jerome, a financier and owner of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track (he also owned the Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx, where the first Belmont Stakes was run).
- Jerome was the maternal grandfather of Winston Churchill. Churchill loved horses (he supposedly once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”) and he actually rode in a race at least once. And of course he was known to enjoy a tipple from time to time.
Playing the Ponies
“Trifecta,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “You win across the board with this drink.”
“Makes me feel like a cocky young colt,” I said. “Ready for the fast track.”
“Don’t want to nag you,” said Mrs K R. “But my glass is empty.”
“Well, I’ll canter over to the bar and make us another,” I said.
“We’ll enjoy that daily double,” said Mrs K R.
“Stiff drink, though,” I said. “Two should be our limit – as I always say at the betting window.”
“Yeah, a third would put us off pace,” said Mrs K R. “We’d love it, but . . . .”
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Cranberry Shrub Cocktail with Bourbon
Brandy Alexander Cocktail
Milk Punch Cocktail
Hot Spiced Apple Cider with Rum
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