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Mint Juleps: A Potable Family Tradition

Flag and Bell, Pretty Lake

Pretty Lake on July 4th.

Next to fireworks, only one thing since childhood has been synonymous with the 4th of July: mint juleps. Yes, the alcoholic beverage. No, no, I haven’t been drinking them since childhood, but I’ve had the awareness that mint juleps existed because the family has gathered at the lake every July 4th, or weekend closest to it, to drink them since as long as I can remember.  The cottages and land have been in the family since the late 1800’s, but I’m unsure how long the mint julep tradition goes back. This is something I need to find out. Only a few attendees don’t drink the juleps for personal reasons such as aversions to having fun or ice allergies. When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed near the gathering overlooking the lake where the adults drank and ate, as if they did want us to learn from them how to consume alcohol, afraid that one day we might even out-drink those oldies. Nowadays, it’s not an issue, and my daughters are allowed to sit down and discuss local politics and international trade with the drunk adults.

If you’ve never had a mint julep, here’s a common recipe.  This recipe, however, is for a single cocktail. The old family recipe is just as simple, if not more so, and is stated in proportional amounts for making ginormous batches a day or two before the party.  I’d reveal that recipe, it’s precise proportions of sugar to bourbon, but then I’d have to…well, you know, whack you on the head with a 5-iron to induce amnesia.

Mint julep jars

Mint soaking for 3 days in bourbon and sugar.

I’d like to say that the party, which begins precisely at 4pm, rages on all night long, but this is not entirely true. For a few of us it does – this year I was out until 3am – but typically the old people and those not staying the night turn in or go home immediately following the lake’s fireworks display, if not before then.

For many years, it seemed a Fourth of July Mint Julep Party did not go by without some injury occurring to an attendee. Some were minor: falling backwards in a chair or losing one’s balance and tumbling down the steep hill to the lake; but some were more serious: a couple years ago, my brother gashed his leg open on a pier on the other side of the lake during an excursion to score free beers from other parties. It required a trip to the emergency room and several stitches. This year, however, seemed a bit mellow, no matter how drunk I tried to get my brother by making his juleps strong (less ice). I don’t even remember hearing a slurred rendition of “The Virgin Sturgeon” sung for all the lake to hear by the age 50+ family members.

Mint Julep

Sweet, minty bourbon slushie: the mint julep.

Then again, I was on the other side of the house playing cornhole with the non-geriatrics, losing money to my jobless brother, and working on maintaining cerebral numbness.

Surprisingly, after drinking countless mint juleps, boating until 2am, swimming 200 yards in the dark, and running a quarter mile barefoot down the back road in wet clothes, I still managed to get out of bed at 8:30 the next morning and go out for a short run – only 1.2 miles – each step seemed to amplify the cheap bourbon headache, but after the run, I jumped in the lake and doggy-paddled a while, and the headache dispersed.

Apparently, I just needed to rehydrate by fully immersing myself in the water that I’ve known since before I was born.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2010/07/23 2:07 am

    It was Opening Day at the race track recently. Could have used a mint julep.

  2. 2010/07/23 8:07 am

    I found your blog via…um…hmmm..I don’t remember just how I got here, but I’m glad I did. Great stuff! I would love to follow you on my blog but I don’t see a ‘follow’ button.

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