Monday, April 25, 2016

Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby

The drink of the Kentucky Derby is the sweet refreshing Mint Julep.  If you go to Churchill Downs, the Mint Juleps are served in yearly glass glasses.  More Derby dishes HERE. A British visitor in 1839 described the drink. 

An early reference to juleps in 1798:
An old slave recounted that years prior, he prepared juleps made with mint for his master's son on a plantation in Virginia on the Rappahannock River. "Squire Sutherland had a son who… The first thing he did on getting out of bed was to call for a Julep …*” “A dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” [Davis, John. Travels of Four Years and a Half in the United States of America; During 1798... London: 1803]

As for the glasses... glass or metal.  The official glasses have different images each year, but always on the back is the winners list.

The silver julep cup is from the Kentucky Colonels - and yes it's not just Col. Sanders who started Kentucky Fried Chicken - but an association where two members have to sign the application then it has to be accepted by the Governor.

"The julep is peculiarly an American beverage, and in the Southern states is more popular than any other. It was introduced into England by Captain Marryatt, where it is now quite a favorite. The gallant captain seems to have had a penchant for the nectareous drink, and published the recipe in his work on America. We give it in his own words: [Marryatt, Frederick. A Diary in America, 1839]

 “I must descant a little upon the mint julep, as it is, with the thermometer at 100, one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that ever was invented, and may be drunk with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70. There are many varieties, such as those composed of claret, Madeira, &c.; but the ingredients of the real mint julep are as follows. I learned how to make them, and succeeded pretty well.

Put into a tumbler about a dozen sprigs of the tender shoots of mint, upon them put a spoonful of white sugar, and equal proportions of peach and common brandy, so as to fill it up one-third, or perhaps a little less. Then take rasped or pounded ice, and fill up the tumbler. Epicures rub the lips of the tumbler with a piece of fresh pineapple, and the tumbler itself is very often incrusted outside with stalactites of ice. As the ice melts, you drink. I once overheard two ladies talking in the next room to me, and one of them said, ‘Well, if I have a weakness for any on thing, it is for a mint julep!’ - a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and good taste. They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.
Thomas, Jerry. How to Mix Drinks: or, The Bon-vivant's Companion . NY: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1862

In his book, A Diary in America. 1839, Marryat claimed that the Virginians did not invent the drink, but "In the times of Charles I. and II. it must have been known, for Milton expressly refers to it in his Comus: -
'Behold this cordial julep here ...'
If that don't mean mint-julep, I don't know the English language."

"Ice is everywhere. The first thing in the summer morning in Virginia is an immense mint julep sparkling with ice. It is passed from hand to hand, and lip to lip. I remember well the first time I was offered this social glass. It was by President Tyler [1841-45]. It had been brought to him early in the morning. He drank a little, smacked his lips, and handed it to me. I had never been initiated into the Virginia custom. I had no objection to a mint-julep,—rather the contrary—but had been accustomed to have a moderately sized tumbler all to myself, and never to share in one of whatever Brobdignagian proportions. So I politely declined; but the handsome daughter of one of the cabinet ministers, coming in at that moment, took the glass, drank the president's good health, and passed it on, until it made the round of the presidential party."

Nichols, Thomas.  Forty years of American life.   London: 1864   v.1

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
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