Lana and I had decided from the outset of the trip that we should experience a mint julep before it was over. I had kidded cousin Marty that I wanted a picture of me sitting on a thoroughbred horse in a field of bluegrass and sipping a mint julep. I think it's probably a good thing he didn't arrange that, because I would probably have broken my neck getting off the horse after drinking a julep.
On our last night, in the Jack Daniel's Saloon at the Opryland Hotel, we finally got our chance to experience an authentic mint julep. Understand that neither of us had the faintest idea what goes into a mint julep except mint and whiskey. I think I expected something on the order of a whiskey sour or a frothy drink with an umbrella in it. Nosirree.
A mint julep starts with a bit of sugar or a sugar syrup poured over mint leaves in the bottom of a glass (preferrably a metal glass, but ours wasn't). Then you cram as much crushed ice into the glass as you can. What room is left is filled with straight bourbon. We both took the first sip of our drink and felt our heads jerk back. It was strong. We stirred the drinks to hopefully move the sugar around and tried again. Another whiplash. We decided the appropriate technique was to take small sips very gently.
The funniest thing happened on the way to the bottom of the glass. The more we drank, the sweeter it got. By the last couple of sips, it was downright larrupin'. I would not have minded having another one at that stage. I would have had to crawl back to the room, however, so we decided that one was enough.
We found ourselves thinking how nice it would be to sit on a wide veranda in the summer heat, looking out over the Kentucky hills and sipping a julep. Two thumbs up!