Category Archives: Bourbon

No tonic for the body

THE MINT JULEP: The Very Dream of Drinks

by Joshua Soule Smith

Then comes the zenith of man’s pleasure. Then comes the julep—the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain. The honey of Hymettus brought no such solace to the soul; the nectar of the Gods is tame beside it. It is the very dream of drinks, the vision of sweet quaffings. The Bourbon and the mint are lovers. In the same land they live, on the same food they are fostered. The mint dips its infant leaf into the same stream that makes the bourbon what it is. The corn grows in the level lands through which small streams meander. By the brook-side the mint grows. As the little wavelets pass, they glide up to kiss the feet of the growing mint, the mint bends to salute them. Gracious and kind it is, living only for the sake of others. The crushing of it only makes its sweetness more apparent. Like a woman’s heart, it gives its sweetest aroma when bruised. Among the first to greet the spring, it comes. Beside the gurgling brooks that make music in the pastures it lives and thrives.

When the Blue Grass begins to shoot its gentle sprays toward the sun, mint comes, and its sweetest soul drinks at the crystal brook. It is virgin then. But soon it must be married to Old Bourbon. His great heart, his warmth of temperament, and that affinity which no one understands, demand the wedding. How shall it be? Take from the cold spring some water, pure as angels are; mix it with sugar until it seems like oil. Then take a glass and crush you mint within it with a spoon—crush it around the borders of the glass and leave no place untouched. Then throw the mint away—it is a sacrifice.

Fill with cracked ice the glass; pour in the quantity of Bourbon which you want. It trickles slowly through the ice. Let it have time to col, then pour your sugared water over it. No spoon is needed, no stirring is allowed—just let it stand a moment. Then around the brim place sprigs of mint, so that the one who drinks may find a taste and odor at one draught.

When it is made, sip it slowly. August suns are shining, the breath of the south wind is upon you. It is fragrant, cold and sweet—it is seductive. No maiden’s touch could be more passionate. Sip it and dream, it is a dream itself. No other land can give so sweet a solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you so in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like Old Bourbon whiskey.

Walter: I’m crazy about you, baby.
Phyllis: I’m crazy about you, Walter.
Walter: The perfume on your hair. What’s the name of it?
Phyllis: I don’t know. I bought it in Ensenada.
Walter: You ought to have some of that pink wine to go with it. The kind that bubbles. All I got is bourbon.
Phyllis: Bourbon is fine, Walter.

Ads of the Week: Four Roses

Something a little different, as I resurrect this feature. Instead of grouping ads by theme or product, as I have in the past, I’m just going to start moving chronologically through LIFE magazine, starting with the first issue in 1936, and moving forward. Now, at this rate, I’ll have enough ad content to keep this feature going for the next 50 years, so I’m probably going to rethink this feature again at some point. But for now, I just want to get going again, and this is the easiest way. So, first up, some Four Roses ads.

The first ad up is from the November 23, 1936, issue, the first issue published of LIFE.

4roses-full

Detail (click the image to view it in a legible size):

4roses-detail

And a Christmas ad, from the December 21 issue, from the same year:

4roses-full

Detail (click the image to view it in a legible size):

4roses-1

The sizes on these early ads will be inconsistent from ad to ad. I snipped all of these a couple of years ago, and I hadn’t yet set on a consistent procedure for snipping and sizing the ads. Apologies.

A Note to My Unborn Son

Dear Son:

One of the things you’ll learn pretty early is that Daddy likes his whiskey. (Mommy’s a fan, too, but while you’re still incubating, she’s abstaining.) One of Daddy’s favorite families of whiskey is the group of bourbons and ryes made by the Wild Turkey group (although please steer clear of the 80º, k thx bye). Aside from that, I like everything else they make, so it’s safe to say, when you’re finally of age to buy booze, you won’t go wrong buying me some Wild Turkey for Father’s Day.

If you were around this year, and not simply still a wee fetus floating in an amniotic sac, you could do the world a favor and not just your old man.

Wild Turkey has an older brother called Russell’s Reserve, a small-batched, ten-year-old bourbon distilled by father-son team Jimmy and Eddie Russell. Russell’s Reserve is a damn good bourbon, but that’s not what does the world a favor.

Well, actually, it’s part of what does the world a favor, because the world needs all the damn good bourbon it can get. But there’s something more important that Jimmy and Eddie Russell are doing. During the month of June, for every bottle of Russell’s Reserve sold, they’ll make a donation to a nonprofit group called Operation Once in a Lifetime, to help provide flights home for members of our Armed Forces.

Now that, you little monster, is a damn good reason to buy anyone’s Daddy (or Mommy) a bottle of Russell’s Reserve. Well, that and the fact that it’s damn good bourbon.

Dad

Disclaimer: I received a sample bottle of Russell’s Reserve, but don’t let that bug you. I’ll be buying a bottle or two of my own this June to help the cause. (I also plan to rerun this post, or a similar version without the cutesy baby stuff, later in June to remind people.)

MxMo: Brown, Bitter, and Stirred

Welcome to Mixology … uh, Wednesday? Okay, I’m well behind this time, but what the hell, right? The theme this month is Brown, Bitter, and Stirred, and it’s hosted by Lindsay Johnson of Lush Life Productions. Lindsay, it turns out, has a standing order she uses when walking into a bar; it’s this month’s theme, and I think it speaks for itself.

The first thing that came to mind when I thought of this was the Boulevardier, the Negroni variant starring bourbon in gin’s place. I freakin’ love this drink. I went with Bulleit for the bourbon, Carpano Antica for the sweet vermouth, and to really be an iconoclast, Campari for the Campari. (I wasn’t the first to post about it, alas, but hey. Kevin’s a decent type of fellow; he won’t mind.)

The Boulevardier

photo by Jennifer Hess

Equal parts, in my case 1-1/2 ounces apiece because I’m a lush. Brown, bitter, stirred. That Lindsay’s pretty smart.

Bandwagoneering: White Manhattan

Talking to bartenders, reading blogs, I’ve noticed a trend rising over the last several months: you take a classic whiskey cocktail, such as the Manhattan or the Sazerac, and you swap in an unaged (“white”) whiskey for the brown stuff. If you’re not familiar with white whiskies, they’re nothing more than unaged whiskies that have never seen a barrel. Spirits straight from the still, and cut with water (in most cases). You can say they’re like moonshine, but the key point here is that moonshine by definition is illegal. As my friend Matthew Rowley wrote, “If you can you buy it in liquor stores, it’s not moonshine.” (For more information: Simonson, Clarke, Cecchini, Rowley)

Legal white-dog whiskies, as the unaged stuff is called, aren’t exactly new to the market. I tasted some at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008. But they’ve been slowly gaining ground among bars and consumers since then and started making their way onto cocktail menus. As I mentioned above, one popular way is to replace the brown spirit in a classic whiskey drink with a white. I wanted to riff on this, but instead of using a white dog, I chose Bols Genever. It’s a favorite in our household, a malty botanical spirit that’s the precursor to modern gin. Bols tastes uncannily like whiskey, so I thought it would play well in this type of preparation. I tried a couple of different ideas–one using Carpano Antica vermouth–to re-create the Manhattan cocktail, but this is the one we liked best.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Stir, squeeze on lemon peel, discard peel.

Nieuw Amsterdam

photograph © Jennifer Hess