Happy Hour III: The Mint Julip
THE MINT JULEP
When one thinks of cocktails which capture the spirit of America—reflect a part of it’s character—one thinks of the Martini, the Screwdriver, the Cape Codder, etc. All grand drinks but, they use spirits not originally developed in America. The Mint Julep, however, is made with bourbon, a liquor that can only be made in the US of A. Being proud and true Americans down to our marrow, Mrs. Belvedere and I decided to have a go at the Julep. And what better day to do so then on the occasion of the most recent Kentucky Derby. From my mother’s side, I have roots there and the missus had been to one-long ago in her misty past before she met me and her life was made whole.
Most people drink this concoction only on Kentucky Derby Day. If you are one of those who likes to be separate from the mob, may I suggest 28 May as an alternative. According to Richard Barksdale Harwell, this day is celebrated by members of the General P.G.T. Beaurehard Marching And Burial Society as the start of the Julep season [Tip of the hat to Gary Regan].
Mrs. B. prefers Jim Beam for her bourbon, but I insisted that we must try it with Maker’s Mark, as I am an official ambassador for the concoction from Loretto and would be failing in my official duties if we did not use it. We consulted our main reference once again, Gary Regan’s The Joy Of Mixology, and did not horse-around with any other of the recipe books.
3 ounces bourbon
1 1/2 ounces minted simple syrup
Finely crushed ice
Straws sized to be 2” taller than the
4 stems of fresh mint
—Add the crushed ice to a julep cup or Collins glass [we used the latter] until it is 2/3’s full
—Add the bourbon and syrup
―Stir for 20 seconds and add more crushed ice to the rim
—Stir until a thin layer of ice mist forms on the outside of the glass and add more crushed ice to bring it back to rim height
—Garnish with the fresh mint, insert straws [sized to be 2” taller than the cup or glass], and serve on a cocktail napkin
The first attempt was not as sweet as we expected. Now…neither the missus nor I like those sickly sweet cocktails. We like a slightly sugary taste. Mrs. B. complained that the taste of bourbon was too strong. Maker’s Mark is a very smooth liquor, so it was obvious that the fault lied elsewhere. We decided to kick up the syrup content a bit. We should warn you about a mistake we made prior to our preparation: we had purchased the mint the day before and refrigerated it. DO NOT DO THIS! When you take it from the fridge, what you get are wilted stems and leaves.
THE MODIFIED PREPARATION:
—Add 2 ½ ounces of the syrup
Much better. Slightly sweet, but not so much that it made you think you were drinking a pastry or candy.
The Mint Julep was quite a refreshing and, at the same time, relaxing drink—perfectly suited to a lazy, hazy day. As to music that complements its imbibing: much like the Gimlet, it works with the swinging easy songs of Dino and Sinatra, but it seems to fit more so with songs in the vein of Blue Sky and Melissa by the Allman Brothers. Also it fits with Jazz music in the same flavor as the song mentioned below.
Note: I was able to find only one set of lyrics that specifically mention the Mint Julep [paging Mark Steyn again], but the song, Mame, was just too brassy, [You make the cotton easy to pick, Mame / You give my old mint julep a kick, Mame]. I decided to find one that complemented the sipping of this fine concoction. If you get to listen to this version, you may recognize it as the original theme to This Old House.
By Mitchell Parish, Haven Gillespie and Fred Coots
As recorded by Fats Waller (06 March 1935)
The dew is hanging diamonds on the clover
The moon is list’n’ing to the nightingale
And while we’re lost in dreams
The world around us seems like a Lou’siana Fairy Tale
The breeze is softly singing thru the willows
As hand in hand we stroll along the trail
And love is at its height, enchanting us tonight
Like a Lou’siana Fairy Tale.
Is it real, this fascination?
Are my arms holding you fast?
Are we here, on a plantation
Or can this be heaven at last?
Keep dreaming with your head upon my shoulder
And don’t awake until the stars grow pale.
The world is at our feet, the picture is complete
Like a Lou’siana Fairy Tale.
[Originally published at my original site in May of 2008]