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The Ivy Hotel’s cocktail pays homage to the storied but vanishing contributions of Black jockeys in the Triple Crown

The “Laws and Lilies" cocktail at The Ivy Hotel honors the tradition of Black jockeys in horse racing and will be offered through the end of the Triple Crown.

Emmanuel S. West Jr. has created a cocktail that recognizes the Black contribution to horse racing’s Triple Crown. It arrives just in time for the Preakness Stakes.

West’s “Laws and Lilies,” which is being sold at The Ivy Hotel, where he works as its food and beverage director, honors the storied tradition of Black jockeys in horse racing while also teaching drinkers about Nathan “Nearest” Green, the late Black head distiller who is credited with teaching his techniques to Jack Daniel, the founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery.

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Green, who was enslaved before working with Daniel, is believed to be the world’s first Black master distiller. In 2017, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey debuted in his honor. The company is Black-owned and run by a Black woman, Fawn Weaver.

Emmanuel West Jr., director of food and beverage for The Ivy Hotel in Mount Vernon, with his cocktail, "Laws and Lilies."
Emmanuel West Jr., director of food and beverage for The Ivy Hotel in Mount Vernon, with his cocktail, "Laws and Lilies." (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

“We knew we wanted to explore bringing contributions [of Black people] into the forefront,” said West, who started discussing a partnership with the Uncle Nearest brand back in February. “We knew that Preakness was a significant event.”

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Early on, Black jockeys dominated the Kentucky Derby and other American Triple Crown races, winning 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. In fact, Black jockeys accounted for 13 of 15 jockeys for the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875. And Black jockeys Willie Simms, James Winkfield and Isaac Burns Murphy each won multiple Triple Crown races. No Black jockeys will compete in this year’s Preakness on Saturday.

The caramel-colored cocktail, which is a mix of whiskey, Earl Grey tea, syrup, mint tea, Ramazzotti Aperitivo Rosato, hibiscus flower and orange peel, will be sold at the hotel’s restaurant, Magdalena, through June 5, the end of the Triple Crown season with the running of the Belmont Stakes in New York.

“And then we will assess after that,” West said.

"Laws and Lilies" will be offered at the Ivy Hotel's Magdalena restaurant through the end of the Triple Crown season.
"Laws and Lilies" will be offered at the Ivy Hotel's Magdalena restaurant through the end of the Triple Crown season. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

At 4 p.m. Thursday, West will join Green’s great-great granddaughter and master blender for the Uncle Nearest brand, Victoria Butler, during an Instagram Live video on the restaurant’s account for a discussion about the new cocktail.

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Butler said she is excited to have the Nashville, Tennessee-based brand be a part of the cocktail. About 1.5 million bottles of the award-winning premium whiskey has been sold since its launch. It’s sold in more than 21,000 locations.

“I was thrilled when they said that they were going to be using our whiskey to pay homage to Black jockeys,” Butler said. “Our stories are so aligned as to who we are and what we represent and to what they are trying to represent as well — paying homage to African Americans who have not had the spotlight shined on them, like the Black jockeys.”

The process of developing the cocktail took about a month, West explained.

“The cocktail is an interesting way to start a conversation and to introduce people to a new expression. We think we opened the door to get people to try something and to get people to try whiskey in a new way,” West said.

The cocktail is ideal for consuming during a hot day and is a nod to a classic race day drink such as the Mint Julep, Black-Eyed Susan or South Side, according to West.

“It’s easy drinking,” he said. “It’s perfect for the Infield. It focuses on the lighter elements.”

The fact that the cocktail also features hibiscus, a flowering plant that is popular within the African diaspora, is a “happy little accident,” West said.

Although Butler has not yet tried the cocktail, she is excited to do so.

“I anticipate that it is absolutely delicious,” Butler said. “I am a fan of all the things that Emmanuel opted to use. I think they pair well with our whiskey.”

Cocktail expert Ashlee Tuck is intrigued by the cocktail and lauds its significance.

Tuck, who runs the Baltimore-based food and beverage website and Instagram account, @willdrinkfortravel, predicts that the cocktail will be a success — in large part due to the association with the Uncle Nearest brand.

“For The Ivy — a Black-owned hotel — to use Uncle Nearest whiskey — a whiskey that represents so many firsts in America — is so significant and impactful,” said Tuck, who has more than 10,000 followers. “Black people have been written out of the history books for generations, so for The Ivy to recognize this piece of history with a piece of history in the making, is tremendous and should be applauded.”

And what does Butler think Green would think of the collaboration?

“I would like to think that he is pleased with all things we have done, and definitely in support of us highlighting other Black people,” Butler said. “I think he would be pleased that we are now in position to shine a light on those who have not had the opportunity to be showcased. Uncle Nearest would be pleased. At least I hope he would be.”

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