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The Cocktails of James Bond: The Mint Julep
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.
Kentucky has been known for bourbon–the whiskey variety that is the drink’s key ingredient–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.
James Bond knows all this, as you suspect when you watch Goldfinger, the blockbuster hit that transformed this gentleman secret agent into a worldwide phenomenon. Bond emerges in this film as an experienced traveler who will eat and drink “locally.” When he touches down in Kentucky, he quickly remarks, “I believe that the bourbon and branch water is rather splendid here.” We can tell that, wherever he may be, Bond takes full advantage of opportunities to experience the best that the region has to offer.
We also begin to observe in this film that Bond is an expert on all things; he may not know how to disarm a nuclear device but if you serve him “disappointing” brandy, he will dazzle you with his expertise and ultra-fine palate. When he graciously accepts Goldfinger’s offer of the mint julep, Bond doesn’t miss a chance to demonstrate his 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. Add a small handful of mint leaves to a tall Collins glass.
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 and then with Kentucky bourbon.
5. Garnish with additional mint leaves, serve and enjoy.