How you doin’? As Theodore Roosevelt might have said, “I am de-lighted to be sharing recipes with you every day.” Theodore Roosevelt, often referred to as Teddy (he really hated that name) or his initials T. R., was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. T.R. was the Roosevelt champion of so many things – the outdoors above all, where his efforts to create the National Parks resulted in a namesake stuffed toy—the Teddy Bear.
Morris Michtom the owner of a gift shop in Brooklyn, New York displayed a plush bear made by his wife and labeled it a "Teddy Bear." Morris Michtom's Teddy Bear was an instant success. Michtom, along with a large wholesale company, Butler Brothers, began making stuffed Teddy Bears and sell them everywhere.
T.R. only drank alcohol occasionally (he won an expensive court battle defending his reputation after being accused of being a drunkard), but when he did drink it may have been the Mint Julep on the large front portico at his home at Sagamore Hill, New York. Most people think a tough Rough Rider like T.R. would have enjoyed 2-fingers of American whisky instead—but it was the Mint Julep.
You might ask where did the Mint Julep originate (please ask)? The Mint Julep has certainly been associated with bourbon and Kentucky for what seems like forever. The origins are a bit sketchy. Some claim The Mint Julep can be traced back to the Middle East from a drink made from water and muddled rose petals called the Julab. Some mixologist probably thought it made the horrible quality water more palatable. In those days nobody wanted to drink the water unless it was a last resort.
I like to believe the Mint Julep’s origins are well connected to American bourbon and the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. This is a cocktail with staying power and legendary status, as well. Usually a cocktail like this needs a few passionate barkeeps featuring it on their menu, a particular establishment, or having it linked to an event like the Kentucky Derby. But with the popularity of the Bourbon Trail Distillery Tours, and the Urban Bourbon Trail (21 bars that carry at least 50 bourbons on their bars) visitors have been wanting to sample this refreshing Southern beverage.
The bourbon-based Mint Julep evolved and accelerated probably because of passionate people who loved it—most notable, and very well-liked senator from Kentucky, Henry Clay. Senator Clay made the Mint Julep famous at the world-renowned Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar in Washington DC. His fellow congressmen no doubt took that drink and shared it along with his passion to constituents in their districts. I can imagine them saying something like, “this is what the good folks in Kentucky drink to cool off the humid summers there in the Bluegrass State.”
We also owe the Mint Julep a great thank you for the invention of the straw. Because of the Mint Julep—the mint garnish was almost like a bouquet of flowers coming out of the drink. So, in order to get close enough to sip it, they needed to invent the straw! Churchill Downs made the Mint Julep the “Official Drink” of the Kentucky Derby in 1938 which remains the social event of the season (in “normal” times).
Yield: 1 cocktail
10 to 12 fresh mint leaves
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. American rye whiskey (I prefer Woodford Reserve Rye—about $30)
1/4 oz. brandy
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “I don't know why my fishing buddy is worried about Coronavirus, he never catches anything.”
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