Orange isn’t the most common ingredient paired with bourbon. At most, the citrus is 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 the drink with ginger ale to bring spice and carbonation to 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’ legendary Mint Julep, the Keeneland Breeze is a pleasant and refreshing highball with room to accommodate personalized tweaks.
The most obvious of said adjustments is with the primary spirit. Keeneland uses Maker’s Mark, the famous bourbon which is made only an hour from the race tracks. It’s a reliable whiskey that works well in the recipe, but you can always swap it out for your preferred bourbon. High-rye bourbons, like Bulleit, Basil Hayden’s, or Four Roses Single Barrel or Small Batch Bourbon will amplify the spice from the ginger ale and help reduce the sweetness. Likewise, a higher-proof bourbon, like anything bonded or barrel-proof, will stand up to the ice, orange liqueur, and soda in the drink. Just be cautious, especially when serving guests, as the sweet-and-spicy soda can mask the high alcohol content, leading to potential over-indulgence.
Another spot for adjustment is with the orange liqueur. The recipe calls for DeKuyper orange curaçao liqueur, a famously affordable brand. While serviceable, switching it for a brand like Cointreau will give the drink even more nuance and richness, though with a commensurate rise in cost.
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 all out and make your own.
- 1 1/4 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
- 1/4 ounce DeKuyper orange curaçao
- Ginger ale or ginger beer, to top
- Garnish: Orange wedge
Fill a rocks glass with ice.
Add the bourbon, orange curaçao and a squeeze of fresh orange and stir.
Top with ginger ale.
Garnish with an orange wedge.