Monday, April 30, 2007

The Kentucky Derby & the Mint Julep




It is that time of year again when we can all get together and celebrate the event that is The Kentucky derby. We have done a Derby Party every year since 1986 and I'm getting ready early. This means that it's time to make the "Julep" ( this word has no pleural, you don't have "juleps" ).
Here is a great snipet from "A Small Boy's Heroes", Lanterns on the Levee, the autobiography of William Alexander Percy (Louisiana State University Press, 1988).

Father and General Catchins and Captain McNeilly and Captain Wat Stone and Mr. Everman would forgather every so often on our front gallery. These meeting must habitually have taken place in summer, because I remember Mother would be in white, looking very pretty, and would immediately set about making a mint julep for the gentlemen - no hors d'oeuvres, no sandwiches, no cocktails, just a mint julep. After the first long swallow - really a slow and noiseless suck, because the thick crushed ice comes against your teeth and the ice must be kept out and the liquor let in - Cap Mac would say: "Very fine, Camille, you make the best julep in the world." She probably did. Certainly her juleps had nothing in common with those hybrid concoctions one buys in bars the world over under that name. It would have been sacrilege to add lemon, or a slice of orange or of pineapple, or one of these wretched maraschino cherries.

First you needed excellent bourbon whisky; rye or Scotch would not do at all. Then you put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampened it with water. Next, very quickly - and here is the trick in the procedure - you crushed your ice, actually powdered it, preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet, so quickly that it remained dry, and slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, you crammed the ice in right to the brim, packing it with your hand. Last you filled the glass, which apparently had no room left for anything else, with bourbon, the older the better, and grated a bit of nutmeg on the top.

The glass immediately frosted and you settled back in your chair for a half an hour of sedate cumulative bliss. Although you stirred the sugar at the bottom, it never all melted, therefore at the end of the half hour there was left a delicious mess of ice and mint and whisky which a small boy was allowed to consume with calm rapture. Probably the anticipation of this phase of a julep was what held me on the outskirts of these meetings rather than the excitement of the discussion, which often I did not understand.

At last years...and I think they will do it again this year, you can purchase a $1000 julep. This includes Woodford Reserve Bourbon, a gold plated cup, Ice flown in from a Glacier in the Arctic circle, Fresh Mint flown in from Morroco and sugar from the South Pacific. The proceeds go to the retired Throughbred Foundation. Mine are good and I serve them for free.....maybe I should start charging.

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