Tipple through the juleps with me
A cocktail is to a regular alcoholic beverage what a top notch stripper stripping is to your Dad getting undressed. At the end of the day they are doing the same thing, but Christ what a difference.
Everyone needs something to believe in. I believe in cocktails. They are creative, attractive, potent, and they have a clear sense of purpose. Cocktails are about the details, and delight dwells in details.
A cocktail takes the familiar, say a lemon and some spirit, and turns it into something high impact, just like the stripper. An exotic name, a dash of bright colour and a well-thought out garnish are all part of the package, in both cases.
It is fair to say that feudalism is out of fashion, and slavery is very nineteenth century. This doesn’t mean you have to feel bad about those dreams, though. You know, the ones where you’re a pre-revolutionary Virginian plantation owner, or where your surname is Julius and there are all those grapes.
But it does mean that, as a matter of practical reality, the opportunities to have someone working like a navvy for your pleasure and before your very eyes have been severely reduced over time.
Ordering a cocktail is a way to bring a little of that feudal style glamour back. All you need do is sit back and watch the bartender frosting, chopping, muddling, squeezing, dusting, blending and shaking until they sweat – all for your delight. Observing someone open a stubby for you just isn’t the same.
We’ve got a few herbs outside the kitchen window. This year the mint has been best on ground. Spilling profusely over its boundaries, defiantly thriving in spite of our neglect. The parsley and basil have their designated and traditional uses, but this luscious patch of mint has been crying out for constructive deployment. A minute’s deep analysis of the situation last Saturday produced an answer - mint juleps.
If you want to do the wrong thing you need to do it right. So it’s straight to our cocktail bible. As I sit on the couch and pore over the text, the kids wander up and mill around. This is heartening. I always like it when they see me reading.
According to our cocktail guide we need 6 sprigs of mint, 2 1/2 oz of bourbon, crushed ice, 2 teaspoons water and 1 teaspoon of caster sugar or sugar syrup. So not only will the mint julep be using fistfuls of home grown produce but it will involve bourbon. And drinking bourbon always provides me with a special satisfaction.
This is because simply ordering the stuff conjures up a vivid mental image of my sherry-sipping, paternal grandmother. In my mind she looks down on both me and the bourbon, with a very particular expression of disapproval. It is an expression that she really nailed in her lifetime, and one that I call the Tilde Mouth.
The tilde is that thing up in your keyboard’s top left corner. It’s this one ~. You don’t get to press that key much so I’ll have one more go ~~~~~~~. There you go, enough tildes for a whole bridge morning.
Mr Boston says superfine (caster) sugar or simple syrup. Don’t be afraid, step up to syrup. More things can wrong cooking 2 minute noodles than making sugar syrup. Just put a cup of sugar into a cup of water and gently bring it to the boil for a bit so the sugar dissolves. And unless you’re straight outta Richmond VA I would also suggest putting in more than a teaspoon of the syrup in your glass.
The only other thing is the crushed ice. In the absence of ice crushing technology send your wingman outside with a bag of ice and a huge rolling pin. When he asks to come back in make him have a few more bashes. Finer is better.
The instructions stipulate that the sprigs need to be sticking a couple of inches above the rim of your glass and that you use a short straw. Drinking your mint julep will ideally involve thrusting your face into a freshly picked thicket of the stuff. As we had no straws drinking our mint juleps involved our faces actually crashing through the foliage. The scent is intoxicatingly intense.
For a moment it is all about you and the mint, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. That is until the icy, slightly sweetened bourbon sidles its way onto your tongue. Merry Christmas indeed.
Comments on this post close at cocktail hour, which today we deem to be 6 pm AEDST and possibly much earlier
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