It’s Mixology Monday again, this time hosted by Rick at Kaiser Penguin. There’s much to explore in the world of mint-containing cocktails — I don’t regularly make anything with mint, though we’ve a nice bush of it growing in the Old Mews (now the kitchen garden) behind Slakethirst Manor. Time to put it to use.
Initially I thought to address the Mint Julep, and plunged into the deeper archives of the New York Times for a spot of historical research. Given that the term “mint julep” appears no less than 1,412 times in the paper of record between 1851 and 2003, there’s more to discover than I could find time to digest, much less synthesize and recount absent a book deal. Much can be gleaned from a cursory perusal, however.
The iconic Julep seems to have been a popular 19th century journalistic trope for summertime thirst-slaking — for both good and ill — as it frequently figures into articles documenting heat waves in the days before air conditioning. In what passed for Lifestyle reporting, every few years someone looking to fill a few extra column-inches managed to bang-out an apocryphal chestnut concerning the origin of the drink, or a hackneyed bit of dialect in which the “proper” method of constructing a julep was declared, or a pastoral scene in which an Old Colonel finds sweet succor in gazing off the porch, sniffing his julep and woolgathering over antebellum days. And, as might be expected, it turns up in association with Temperance Leagues as well.
The daily reports surrounding the Great Teddy Roosevelt Mint Julep Libel Trial of 1913, hinted at in the introductory Testimonial of Tom Bullock’s The Ideal Bartender, make for particularly fascinating reading, reminding us that politics are capable of elevating anything to the height of scandal. White House staff were actually interviewed as to the exact dimensions of the First Mint Patch (5′ x 15′ in 1913, but larger by an unknown degree when T.R. held office), and who was wont to harvest from it (the cook).
There’s also the curiosity of 3 stories concerning Jerry Thomas’ Gourd Club which bear further investigation (the first appearing May 10, 1878, NYT, for those inclined). Come to think of it, though, Wondrich is probably on the case.
But, to the matter at hand. In the Julep circuit, there’s all too much debate about whether to bruise the mint or leave it untouched, whether to include it in the mixing of the drink or merely festoon the surface with it, not to mention the issue of the proper vessel, the rôle of a straw (if any), the coarseness of the ice, and so many other intangibles sufficient to incite their adherents to jihad. Ultimately, I thought it best to leave the entire Julep-mixing and analysis business to others, feeling inadequate to the challenge of investigating its manifold permutations. Looking at the early-returns, however, there’s not yet a julep among our bunch — perhaps a future MxM is indicated — but I see a lot of interest in infusions. I’ve played with a mild infusion as well, in the Mint Cocktail, though to what end I’m uncertain. I’ve also shaken hands with Mr. Manhattan, and had the pleasure of a Southside Fizz.