A Southern Gentleman is 2016: Get Your Silver Cups Ready with Danny Anderson

May 20, 2021 at 10:18 am by RMGadmin

It’s time, once again, for me to pull out my silver julep cups and get ready for one of my favorite events - the Iroquois Steeplechase.  Honestly, I think Steeplechase is my favorite day of the year – the setting is awesome, the horses beautiful, the people spectacular and the cause so worthy. 
I am a mint julep enthusiast, to say the least. Love them! My wife started me a collection of julep cups years ago, and friends have added to the collection that I so treasure. Traditionally, mint juleps were often served in silver or pewter cups and held only by the bottom and top edges of the cup allowing frost to form on the outside of the cup.  In early days, Virginians would sip on mint juleps, served in silver goblets, over breakfast. It has been said that the drink, traditionally made with sugar syrup and mint, was once cherished for its medicinal properties and was used by farmers for a jolt akin to coffee. During this time, they were made with brandy or rum. Some say bourbon, which was readily available, was introduced to the julep by poor Southerners who could not afford fine liquor. To this day, many enthusiasts insist that a proper julep should be made only with bourbon whiskey. Bourbon whiskey is named after Bourbon County in Kentucky, which was established in 1786. Different from other whiskeys, bourbon must contain at least 51 percent corn, made with soft water and aged in highly chard oak barrels to give it its dark color. 
The bourbon based Mint Julep evolved probably because of the passionate people who loved it, one of the most notable being Henry Clay who made the mint julep famous at the world renowned Willard Hotel’s Round Robin Bar in Washington D.C. - securing it as one of the most iconic drinks in the bourbon world.
Chris Morris, from Woodford Reserve Bourbon, says, “Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab, made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance the quality of their lives.” When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint – thus, resulting in the Mint Julep. 
Did you know that the Mint Julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938? Nearly 120,000 juleps will be sold at Churchill Downs over the two-day weekend, in Kentucky Derby collectible glasses. 
In 1937,  Lt. Gen. S.B. Buckner Jr. wrote a letter to Gen. William D. Connor, who had asked Gen. Buckner, a Kentuckian, for instruction on how to prepare a Mint Julep. Here is a portion of that letter:
My Dear General Connor, 
A Mint Julep is not a product of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients and a proper appreciation of the occasion. It is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice… It is a heritage of the Old South, an emblem of hospitality, and a vehicle in which noble minds can travel together upon the flower-strewn paths of a happy and congenial thought. So far as the mere mechanics of the operation are concerned, the procedure, stripped of its ceremonial embellishment, can be described as follows:
Go to a spring where cool, crystal clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream thru its banks of green moss and wild flowers until it broadens and trickles thru beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breeze. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age, yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver cups, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.
Into a canvas bag pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush. Into each cup put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the cup. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the cups are about one-fourth full. Fill the cups with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe off outside of the cups dry, and embellish copiously with mint.
Then comes the delicate and important operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon the ingredients are circulated and blended until nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glistening coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.
When all is ready, assemble your guest on the porch or in the garden where the aroma of the juleps will rise heavenward and make the birds sign. Propose a worthy toast, raise the cups to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.
Being overcome with thirst, I can write no further
Lt. Gen. S. B. Buckner Jr. 
If you don’t have all day to make yourself a Mint Julep, you might try one of these: 

Make a simple syrup by boiling two cups of sugar and two cups of water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of bourbon whiskey. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup (remember to hold the cup at the top or bottom). Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. 

Even easier – do it like they do it at the Kentucky Derby:

Buy a bottle of Old Forester Mint Julep Ready-to-serve Cocktail, pour over crushed ice and add mint. 

Come rain or shine, I will be at Steeplechase – julep cups and all. Hope to see you there.