Drinks & Mixology

The Mint Julep

Even the most casual James Bond fan can tell you that it was the block-buster hit Goldfinger that forever transformed gentleman secret agent James Bond into a world-wide phenomenon. In addition to being such an extraordinary film, there’s something particularly fascinating about the third James Bond adventure. You can begin to see a few well-known characteristics of the film series starting to evolve, and certain trends beginning to emerge. What is even more interesting from the standpoint of a mixologist, is that you can actually see these traits best when Bond is discussing his drinks.

Bond, the Expert

The first trait we begin to observe is the characteristic of James Bond as the expert on all things; a trend that will continue throughout the series. Bond may not be able to disarm a nuclear device, but if you serve him a glass of “disappointing brandy” he will dazzle you with his expertise and his ultra-fine palate.

The second trait we find in Goldfinger, and one of my personal favorites, is that of Bond as an experienced traveler who will eat and drink “locally.” When Bond touches down into Kentucky, he quickly remarks, “I believe that the bourbon and branch water is rather splendid here.” We begin to see that, wherever his job may take him, James Bond takes full advantage of the opportunities to experience the finer things that region has to offer.

While relaxing on the front porch of his home on Auric Stud, his Kentucky horse ranch, Auric Goldfinger offers James Bond a Mint Julep, commenting that the drink is “traditional, but satisfying.” The mint julep certainly is traditional in Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Derby Museum, the cocktail became Churchill Downs’ signature drink in 1938, and today, the Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over its annual two-day event.

Bourbon

Kentucky has been known for bourbon–the whiskey variety that’s the key ingredient of the Mint Julep–since the 1700s. Made primarily from corn and other grains and aged in oak barrels, bourbon is named after Bourbon County, one of Kentucky’s three original counties when the state was still part of Virginia.

When he graciously accepts the offer of the Mint Julep, Bond doesn’t let an opportunity go by to demonstrate his amazing expertise. He responds, “Sour mash, but not too sweet, please.”

“Sour mash” doesn’t refer to the flavor and doesn’t imply a sour taste. It simply relates to the process of making bourbon, which is much like the method for making sourdough bread. Older malt is reused and added to a new batch as a way of maintaining quality and consistency.

The Mint Julep is a perfect choice for whiskey enthusiasts who prefer their drinks strong, but may want to sweeten and soften up the booze just enough to create a flavorful and aromatic cocktail.

PREPARING THE MINT JULEP

1. Take a tall Collins glass; add a small handful of mint leaves.

2. Add about half an ounce of Simple Syrup.

3. Muddle the mixture until the mint becomes fragrant. (Bartender’s Hint: A common mistake is to over-muddle the mint leaves until they are shredded, and the crushed veins and stems release a bitter flavor. Once you can clearly smell the mint, you’re done muddling.)

4. Fill the glass with cracked ice.

5. Fill with Kentucky Bourbon.

6. Garnish with additional mint leaves.

7. Serve and enjoy.

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