Mint Juleps

Derby is 100 days from today.


Now, as I write those words, I can't help but picture y'all immediately logging off HerKentucky, and running out to buy a dress and a hat because Derby is just around the corner.  But, I'm sure that our readers are more prepared than all that.  Anyhoo, the Derby Countdown has kept my spirits high on a dreary, wet, windy Thursday.  I've been thinking about fabulous hats.  I've been stalking the Lilly Pulitzer spring line.  But, most of all, I've been craving a julep.


Source: tumblr.com via Heather on Pinterest
The Derby's official drink is an iconic cocktail that immediately conjures images of Southern grace.  They're an emblem of a more sophisticated time.  I think there's just something so elegant about a mint julep -- the simple silver cups, the delicious bourbon, and the whimsical mint sprigs.  It's not a cocktail you just throw together -- you have to make your simple syrup and pick (or purchase) fresh mint.  While not a Southerner herself, the Mad Men character Betty Draper simply won me over when she served juleps to the adults at a child's birthday party.  I keep asking my friends to let me borrow a kid so that I can stage an homage to Betty's entertaining.  Oddly enough, nobody has taken me up on that request.

Beyond the imagery of the julep, I find that there is, when done properly, a surprisingly good cocktail.  Now, I'm not much for the pre-made bottles that pop up every spring, but a well-made julep is a wonderful complement to a hot day.   I've always found that Dudley's in downtown Lexington  serves the very best version of the Commonwealth's Cocktail-- sweet, tart, and icy cold, with the slightest fizz of club soda.
Source: amazon.com via Heather on Pinterest

While the mint julep is perhaps the most famous symbol of the Kentucky Derby, it has as many critics as it does fans.  Louisville newspaperman Henry Watterson famously once described his own julep recipe: "Pluck the mint gently from its bed, just as the dew of the evening is about to form upon it. Select the choicer sprigs only, but do not rinse them.  Prepare the simple syrup and measure out a half-tumbler of whiskey.  Pour the whiskey into a well-frosted silver cup, throw the other ingredients away and drink the whiskey."  Here on HerKentucky, Cristina wrote that, while she loves the individual ingredients, she just can't get behind the finished product.  I'm even the only julep afficionado in my own home; my fiancé considers the mint julep to be a waste of good bourbon. 

Whether you love the sweet, minty compliment to your smoky, rich whisky or you simply think it's a waste of good bourbon, you have to admit that julep cups are a classic addition to any Southern home.  Julep cups add a rich look to any flower arrangement or keepsake -- they're small enough to add elegance to any spot without overwhelming your space.

So, while I still have to wait 100 days until I pull out my fabulous hat and dress and sip the season's first julep, I decided to bring a little julep culture into my life tonight.  I made a little flower arrangement using a Louisville Stoneware julep cup and some springy blooms.   Here's hoping it makes the countdown go by a little quicker!!