The Man o’ War cocktail is named for one of the greatest racehorses of all time, who won 20 of the 21 races in which he competed. While Man o’ War (the horse) didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby, he won the other two legs of the Triple Crown—the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes—in 1920, forever solidifying his place in racing’s history books. He was also the sire of Triple Crown winner War Admiral and the granddaddy of Seabiscuit, another famed thoroughbred, so his ties to the sport are immense. Naturally, someone made a drink in his honor.
It’s unclear who created the Man o’ War cocktail, but it’s believed to have been invented in the mid-20th century. It begins with a base of bourbon, perhaps in a nod to Kentucky and the most famous of all horse racing-related drinks, the Mint Julep. The bourbon is joined by orange liqueur (either orange curaçao or triple sec will do the trick), plus sweet vermouth and lemon juice. Be sure the latter is freshly squeezed—fresh juice brightens the drink and balances the liqueur’s sweetness.
This recipe comes from Allen Katz, the co-founder of New York Distilling Company and a leading expert on spirits and cocktails. It’s a shame the talented horse never got to sample this liquid homage, but you can make one for yourself during a race or anytime you want a well-made bourbon drink. When you do, give a toast to Man o’ War while hoisting a glass of his eponymous cocktail.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 ounce orange curaçao or triple sec
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: lemon peel
- Garnish: brandied cherry
Add bourbon, orange curaçao (or triple sec), sweet vermouth and lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a skewered lemon peel and brandied cherry.