Mint Julep by Robert Simonson

recitation was a poem McMillian had dug up from the 1890s by journalist Joshua Soule Smith. It was a lurid piece of purple prose, using the kind of language typically employed by youths while in the first throes of love. This verse, however, was about a cocktail. It begins thusly: 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. And it ends so: Then when it is made, sip it slowly … Sip it and dream — you cannot dream amiss. Sip it and dream — it is a dream itself. No other land can give so sweet solace for your cares; no other liquor soothes you in melancholy days. Sip it and say there is no solace for the soul, no tonic for the body like old Bourbon whiskey. It’s a safe bet that, when McMillian began casting those words upon the air for the benefit of strangers, like a man dutifully reciting the one poem he had managed to commit to memory in elementary school, no one had uttered them in a century. McMillian has probably made a Mint Julep every day for the past 15 years. That’s saying something, since the Julep is hardly an everyday drink. You need special ice and a particular vessel and lots of fresh mint, which isn’t always available. It’s a drink made for occasions. Luckily, Kentucky has long furnished just such an occasion. The annual running of the Kentucky Derby is all about opulence and decadence and self-indulgence. It’s a time when men and women pull out all the stops, in dress, in food and in drink. And what mixed drink is as opulent and decadent and self-indulgent at the Mint Julep? It is, as Smith pointed out, “the very dream of drinks.”

Virginia and Kentucky are traditionally the states that duke it out over parentage of the Mint Julep. Though Kentucky, where they make the drink with bourbon (naturally), is more closely associated with the crushed-ice wonder, Virginia was likely compounding Juleps long before Kentucky achieved statehood, albeit with brandy or rum. But Louisiana has its own stake in the matter. This is largely due to one man, New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian. McMillian currently spends his time at Revel, a cocktail bar and restaurant

he owns in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans. But he has been keeping bar at various saloons throughout the city for 20 years, and arguably made his reputation with a wooden mallet in one hand, a Lewis bag full of ice in the other, and a mouthful of blarney between them. For if you ordered a Julep from McMillian, the price of the drink came with a show and a recitation. The show was the big man pulverizing the ice with the mallet until it achieved a fine crumble, and then piling the frozen rubble into a silver chalice along with the needed simple syrup, bourbon whiskey and fresh mint. The

Combine chocolate chips and whole milk in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring until melted. Use a dipping fork (or toothpick) to submerge buttercream balls, one at a time, in the melted chocolate, coating the balls on all sides. Place back on the baking sheet lined with parch- ment paper. Allow balls to completely harden before eating.

sugar. Allow to stand for a minimum of 4 hours and preferably overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease pan generously with butter, then dust with flour. Remove mint leaves from sugar and discard them. Using a handheld electric mixer, cream together cream cheese, butter and the minted sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs to the mixture one at a time, mixing until ingredients are completely combined. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the wet mixture, stirring until batter is smooth. Taking two small-medium bowls, melt one chocolate square in the first bowl and fill with half the batter, mixing to combine. Place the remainder of the batter in second bowl, then mix in peppermint oil. Pour chocolate batter in the pan, followed by the mint batter. Drag a butter knife in a zigzag pattern through the batter to marbleize it. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit to cool. Once the cooked brownie in the pan is cooled, sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add bourbon and whisk until smooth. Pour this glaze over brownies and allow to cool a bit before cutting into squares. Serve immediately.

Bourbon Balls Serves 8

WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 1 cup chopped pecans 1½ cups plus 3 tablespoons bourbon (your preferred brand — don’t go bottom shelf!)

1 pound powdered sugar ¼ pound unsalted butter 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 2 tablespoons whole milk

Mint Julep Brownies Serves 8

HOW TO PREP: Add pecans to an airtight jar and pour the 1½ cups of bourbon over them. Close the container and allow to sit for at least a week, but up to 10 days. Drain the pecans and discard the bourbon. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar and the three tablespoons of bourbon to the butter until completely incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the bourbon- soaked pecans. Using a melon baller (or a tablespoon), form the buttercream into approximately 1-inch balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until firm.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED: 5 sprigs fresh mint ¾ cup granulated sugar 4 ounces cream cheese, softened ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan 2 large eggs, room temperature

1½ cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 1 ounce dark (80% cacao) chocolate 1 teaspoon peppermint oil

1 cup powdered sugar 2 teaspoons bourbon

HOW TO PREP: In a small bowl, muddle mint leaves with granulated




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