10 February 2016
No Tonic for the Body Like Old Bourbon Whiskey
Long time readers will know that I enjoy the occasional cocktail, and a well-made bourbon drink remains my preferred tipple in all but the most rare occasions (e.g. sipping a Negroni while watching a sunset in Florence; enjoying beers in dive bars in Park City; etc.). Deliver unto me your best examples of your Old Fashioned, your Manhattan, your Mint Julep, your humble Bourbon and Soda, your Bourbon on the Rocks (ordered infrequently as the ice in most bars is shit), your straight Bourbon, and I will enjoy them all with great satisfaction. Bourbon is good, is what I mean.
This prose description of the Mint Julep is a bit purple, but it comes to life when recited from memory by the great Chris McMillian (while he prepares what looks to be a truly superb example). Fantastic delivery, outstanding presentation; it gets no better, and it makes a man thirsty for a delicious, refreshing drink.
Excuse me while I shop tickets to New Orleans...
The Mint Julep by Joshua Soule Smith
Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep – the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings.
The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips infant leaf into the same stream that makes The Bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, and the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. Like a woman’s heart it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside gurgling brooks that make music in the fields, it lives and thrives. When the bluegrass begins to shoot its gentle sprays towards the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to old Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, and that affinity which no one understands, demands the wedding.
How shall it be? Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar till it seems like oil. Then take a glass and crush your mint within it with a spoon – crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. Then throw the mint away – it is the sacrifice. Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to cool, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed; no stirring allowed- just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find the taste and odor at one draft.
Then when it is made, sip it slowly. August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant cold and sweet – it is seductive. No maidens kiss is tenderer or more refreshing, no maidens touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream-it is a dream itself. No other land can give you so much sweet solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey.