Orange isn’t the most common ingredient to be paired with bourbon; usually, it’s relegated to a slice dropped into an Old Fashioned, and even that is somewhat out of vogue, more often replaced by a thinly sliced orange peel, its oils expressed over the drink. However, the Keeneland Breeze adds a splash of orange liqueur to bourbon and then tops it off with ginger ale to bring some spice and carbonation and help balance the sweetness in this take on the Ginger Ale Highball.
The drink is a signature cocktail of Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington, Kentucky. A historic racetrack and horse auction site, Keeneland competes with Churchill Downs for the most famous of horse racing locales. And while its signature drink in no way competes with Churchill Downs’, the legendary Mint Julep, it is a pleasant and refreshing highball, with enough room to make some tweaks for personal preference.
The most obvious of said adjustments is with the primary spirit. Keeneland uses Maker’s Mark, the famous bourbon which is made just an hour away from the race tracks. While it’s a perfectly serviceable bourbon and makes for a faithful recreation of the original recipe, it can be easily replaced with a bourbon of your preference. High rye bourbons, like Bulleit, Basil Hayden’s, or Four Roses Single Barrel or Small Batch Bourbon will all amplify the spice from the ginger ale and help to cut the sweetness a bit. Likewise, a higher proof bourbon, like anything bonded or barrel proof, will easily stand up to the ice, orange liqueur, and soda in the drink. Just be cautious, especially when making it for guests, as the sweet and spicy soda can mask the high alcohol content, potentially leading to over-indulgence.
Another room for adjustment is in the orange liqueur. The recipe calls for DeKuyper orange curaçao liqueur, a famously affordable brand. While serviceable, switching it for something like Cointreau will give the drink even more nuance and richness, though with a commensurate rise in price tag.
Finally, the ginger ale can be substituted with ginger beer. Unlike ginger ale, ginger beer is naturally fermented, with more ginger bite and natural carbonation. There are plenty of good ginger beers (and ginger ales) on the market these days, or you can go really all out and make your own.
- 1 1/4 ounce Maker’s Mark bourbon
- 1/4 ounce DeKuyper orange curaçao liqueur
- Ginger ale or ginger beer, to top
- Garnish: Orange wedge
Fill rocks glass with ice.
Add the bourbon, orange curaçao liqueur and a squeeze of fresh orange and stir.
Top off with ginger ale, and garnish with an orange wedge.