The Mint Julep

hand-mixed by the author, using Old Grand-Dad 86 proof bourbon

I typically drink my booze neat but there are three cocktails I greatly enjoy, all bourbon based: Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, and Mint Juleps*. The uninformed amateur will see me drinking (respectively) a bright red drink, a drink filled with fruit at the bottom like a Yoplait, and a drink laced with mint sprigs and immediately think I’m drinking something sissy. Little do they know. These potent potables are essentially 99% liquor, accented with just the slightest hints of added flavors.

My friend and his wife threw an afternoon grill party on Saturday and I was quickly enlisted as the ad hoc mixologist. With fresh mint aplenty, the favorite drink of Churchill Downs and Dr. Leonard McCoy would definitely be on the day’s drinking agenda.

There’s a modest debate about how to “correctly” prepare a julep. Many think the mint is only to serve as an aromatic garnish. As with all my vices, however, I think more is better. I rip a huge handful of mint sprigs from a bushel, carefully remove the stems as if preparing to roll a joint, and manhandle the mint, using my thumb and forefinger to press out and release the fragrant juices. I toss the pressed mint into a metal shaker along with two teaspoons of sugar, just enough water to dissolve the sugar (simple syrup is, in fact, a better ingredient to use if one is not as lazy as I am), a fist full of crushed ice, and three solid jiggers of bourbon.

We opted for Old Grand-Dad, the inexpensive but delicious bourbon favored by both bourbon connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike. Since women and Blue Moon drinkers were around, we had to select the 86-proof bottling, but were I drinking solo I would have probably chosen the 100-proof “bonded” or even the 114-proof barrel strength, assuming I wanted to be passed out before nightfall.

I shook up the first batch and poured the concoctions into rocks glasses. Most unfortunately, there were no silver or pewter glasses on hand as tradition calls for.

My first whiff absolutely floored me. It was like a stick of Trident spearmint mixed with pure bourbon. Delightful. And the taste was even more sublime. A perfect mix of tasty fresh mint and potent bourbon. I should have won an award for these beauties. Colonel Harland David Sanders would have surely given me a fist pound.

But did the other guests fete me and my delicious cocktails? Nope. In fact, the other guests (sans my hard-drinkin’ host) did not enjoy my drinks at all. I saw lots of grimacing faces upon first sips and lots of discarded three-fourths-full glasses within five minutes as people went back to their weak macrobeers. This always happens when I play bartender. I think I’m whipping up drinks perfectly palatable to the masses but I’m actually only making them ideal to my drunkard tastes. I wanted to yell at the other guests, “Do you want an adult cocktail or do you want a fucking glass of sweet tea?!”

Fuck ’em, more juleps for me.

Yes, you better believe I walked through the apartment gathering and finishing off the untouched cocktails. The fresh mint was running low and though I’m not exactly Al Gore, I ain’t into waste. I downed several of the delicious mint juleps and soon made a fool of myself around the uptight company. What a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

THE VICE BLOG’S RECIPE

Throw into a metal shaker:

*2 tablespoons of sugar (branched with a drop of water)

*a half-dozen or so fresh mint sprigs (slightly hand pressed)

*3 jiggers of bourbon

*a fistful of ice

Shake so vigorously that 007 would be impressed and…serve.

*To a lesser extent and only on special occasions I will also drink margaritas, daiquiris, mojitos, gin & tonics, and Churchill martinis**, if we want to consider all of those to be cocktails.

**from wikipedia: “It is said that a ‘Churchill martini’ contains no vermouth, just British gin. The legend holds that Churchill would get as close to the vermouth bottle as to ‘look at it from across the room.’ This would make it very dry or a so-called ‘Churchill martini.’ On the other hand, some experts strongly object to this practice, arguing that a cocktail with one predominant ingredient is no cocktail at all, and furthermore, that the term ‘dry’ has nothing to do with the gin-to-vermouth ratio, but with the use of dry, white, French vermouth instead of sweet, red, Italian vermouth.”

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