Friday, May 6, 2011

Will Percy on the Art of the Julep

The Kentucky Derby is upon us again (Ouchers! those horses are heavy) so for those who are inclined to this sort of thing, this is exactly the sort of thing to which you will incline.

Poet, lawyer and autobiographer William Alexander Percy (the uncle of Walker Percy, "The Moviegoer," "The Second Coming," etc.) wrote up his recollections of his father and friends imbibing Mint Juleps and gave the "right way" to make them in "Lanterns On The Levee; Recollections Of A Planter's Son" (New York, Alfred A Knopf, 1941)
First you needed excellent bourbon whisky; rye or Scotch would not do at all. Then you put half an inch of sugar in the bottom of the glass and merely dampened it with water. Next, very quickly - and here is the trick in the procedure - you crushed your ice, actually powdered it, preferably in a towel with a wooden mallet, so quickly that it remained dry, and slipping two sprigs of fresh mint against the inside of the glass, you crammed the ice in right to the brim, packing it with your hand. Last you filled the glass, which apparently had no room left for anything else, with bourbon, the older the better, and grated a bit of nutmeg on the top.
My own addition  to Percy's classic recipe is to proceed to throw out the concoction and pour two fingers of Makers's Mark, neat.

Will Percy's "Lanterns on the Levee," 2008 reprint
Walker Percy's Wikepedia entry
The Kentuck Derby horses


  1. I've got the fresh mint handy but who has a wooden mallet and towel dedicated to crushed ice?

    Yeesh, and people think I'm too highbow.

  2. Highbrow? With spelling like that? ;)