Virginia Barton

2 August 2013: Mint julep, anyone?

2 August 2013

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Did Miss O’Hara drink mint julep on the porch while entertaining the doomed Tarleton twins? Where does the name “julep” come from? And how do you make it? With mint obviously. No problem there, I grow it in a pot on my terrace. What else?

It’s as easy as pie to find the answer in Wikipedia, but do you know what? I’m trying not to rely on Wikipedia for all the answers. Who puts them there? Are they correct? If we ALL quote verbatim from Wikipedia how dull we will be!


There is rarely only one answer to a question. Take mint julep for example. There are probably as many ways of making one as there are afficionados of it. But is googling or wiki’ing any different from finding the method in a recipe book?

mint-julep-su-682571-lBefore I give in and look it up, here’s what I have assumed a mint julep to be for the past, shall we say, 55 years.

Take a chilled tumbler, perhaps frosting the rim with sugar. Fill it with lots of crushed ice – seemingly unavailable in the UK unless you happen to be in a Hilton hotel. Now add a teaspoon or two of liquid sugar, a few drops of green colouring, and two teaspoons of very finely chopped or crushed mint.

Finally, top up the tumbler with lemonade, or soda water. No, that can’t possibly be right – it sounds feeble, like something the children would make for a dollies’ tea party. You can tell I have never drunk a mint julep.


My American cousin made iced tea here the other day (bewailing the lack of crushed ice), and swore that it was more refreshing than a decent cuppa. Hmm.

Personally, this summer I’m drinking elderflower cordial with tonic water and no ice. Why dilute it? BH is stuck on Rum ‘n Coke, and not only this year but also last year. If there’s no Coke in the cupboard he’ll tolerate a whisky with soda. He has never drunk plain water in all the years we have been married, for which I can hardly blame him. We who remember water as it used to taste in the good old days, deplore the “used” flavour of modern water. Let alone the added fluoride. (I’m told water is re-circulated 14 times – can this be true?) The bottled stuff is too pricey to buy every day.


Now for a complete change of topic.

Remember Sean? He who had the kidney transplant? I think I mentioned him in that first Commonplace aeons ago? He and his wife have just come back from a week’s holiday in Yorkshire! He couldn’t have done that this time last year could he?

A day or two after that, on May 8th to be precise, I noted that the swifts had arrived, a sure sign of summer. They came in dribs and drabs over several days, but eventually there were at least 24 of them screaming over this block of flats every day. So cheery and environmentally reassuring.

Well, they left yesterday. They always do this – now you see them, now you don’t. So now summer is on the wane and we must make the most of what’s left.






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