Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mad Men Cocktail Hour - The Mint Julep & A Little Kentucky Derby Fun

'Evenin' Darlin's!  (Cue curtsey.)

For those of you who were unaware, the Southern institution that is the Kentucky Derby kicked off the Triple Crown last weekend.  There are many really interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby.  And here are some of them in no particular order:

-The Kentucky Derby was started by Col. Meriweather Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark exploration team.
-The race is called "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" or "The Fastest Two Minutes In Sports" as all the hoopla surrounds a race that is two minutes on average.  It is also referred to as "The Run for the Roses," a reference to the wreath of 554 red roses that is placed around the winning horse's neck.
-The Kentucky Derby has taken place at Churchill Downs in Kentucky every year since 1875 without fail.
-The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown.  Since their inception, all three races have only ever been won by the same horse in one year eleven times, the last time in 1978.
-The 1973 winner, Secretariat, holds the distinction of winning the Kentucky Derby with the fastest time ever, but it is his Belmont Stakes win was ranked #2 behind Wilt Chamberland's 100 point game as being the best sports performance of all time by ESPN in 2005.  Secretariat was also the only non-human athlete on the list.

While I'm not a fan of what happens to these beautiful creatures after they've passed their racing prime, I do love the tradition of the races.  And the Kentucky Derby has the richest tradition of any horse race in the U.S.  My two favorite traditions are listed below.

Tradition #1.  The Fashion.  Specifically the hats.  There are only a few events that still have a dress code and the wardrobe and the hats are still an integral part of the Kentucky Derby experience.  Despite the tradition and the amount of money to be made, the parade of large, over-the-top hats is the biggest draw for many people.

photo credit

Tradition #2.  The Mint Julep.  Ah, now we're getting down to the nitty-gritty!  The Mint Julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938.  Because watching horses run may leave one parched, over 120,000 Mint Juleps are served over the course of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks racing weekend.  Since 2006, Churchill Downs has also served a special (read - ridiculous) Mint Julep that supports a charity for retired race horses.  This version sells for $1000 (!?!?) and is made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, ice cubes made from Spring Water imported from the Bavarian Alps, and Sugar from Australia.  Seriously?  Seriously.  Oh, did I also mention that they are served in gold-plated cups with silver straws?  I didn't?  Well, they are.  Oh, the decadence of it all...  With or without the $1000 price tag, the Mint Julep is a fun drink - a strong fun drink.  Which is why it was perfect for this week's Mad Men cocktail!  When I found it on the Mad Men Cocktail Guide, I knew my weekly search was over!

Speaking of tradition, in true cocktail tradition, the Mint Julep has quite a history.  This cocktail appears to have originally been prescribed for the medicinal properties it was believed to possess, which is the reason I had one.  Wasn't that your reason too?  Perhaps its earliest literary mention was in 1784 in Medical Communications - Volume 1, in reference to a patient who was sick to their stomach.  "I then prescribed her an emetic, some opening powders, and a mint julep."  It was also the Virginians' morning drink of choice before coffee came into vogue as the way to function when getting up before dawn.  The Mint Julep made the move from farming fields to the big city when Kentucky senator and future Secretary of State, Henry Clay, made it in the Willard Hotel's Round Robin Bar in Washington, D.C.  While the Mint Julep may appear to have strictly Southern roots, the Julep itself is quite worldly!  The word "julep" stems from the Middle Eastern "julab", which was a drink containing water and rose petals.  Swap mint for the rose petals and add some bourbon and sugar and you've got yourself a mighty tasty cocktail!

It seems that there are as many versions of this cocktail as there are people who make it, I used this one and muddled the mint a bit.  If you want to buck tradition, you can take the unnecessary step of making a mint infusion like they did in this recipe.  I'm betting that this second recipe makes a Mint Julep closer to what most people who have only ever had a virgin Mint Julep in Disneyland's New Orleans Square think they are.  To be honest, I'd never had an actual Mint Julep before now and while I liked it a lot, I have to admit, that Bridget nailed it when she said that people who've never tried one assume that it will taste like mint sweet tea with bourbon.  For those of you who have yet to try this cocktail, it does NOT taste like that, but rest assured, it doesn't matter in the slightest.

So, now that we're sipping on some tasty beverages, let's talk Mad Men.  With or without a Mint Julep in hand, there is such comedic value when it comes to the new fashion styles as we get closer to 1970.  I don't know anyone who watched last week's episode and didn't get a good chuckle out of this shot.  The men's fashion = comedy gold!

photo credit

This season's fourth episode is finally back on track with the Mad Men that everyone, including me, has been waiting for.  There was tension and Roger's one liners and me yelling at my TV screen.  And the episode ended with me cheering and it was glorious!

So first, the tension.  After Peggy is given a new account and has Don assigned to her team, the first meeting is SO awkward that Don proceeds to return to his office and throw his typewriter against the window.  I was actually expecting the deathstare that he gave her to lead to a fight in her office.  That fact that it didn't was probably worse.  And it wasn't at all surprising that it prompted him to swipe a bottle of vodka from Roger's office, but when he got tanked at work - breaking one of the explicit rules that the Partners had given him, I was on pins and needles, expecting him to be found out at every turn.  Good thing he had Freddie to save his dumb butt and give him the 'Come to Jesus' talk that he desperately needed!

photo credit

There was tension in Manhattan and there was tension outside of Manhattan.  In the season opener, we saw Roger have lunch with his daughter, Margaret.  She told him that she forgave him for everything and I automatically thought 'Cult.'  I wasn't too wrong.  In this episode we learn that she has abandoned her husband and child and has joined an honest-to-goodness hippie commune upstate.  Roger and his ex-wife Mona (whom I LOVE) go to the country to bring her back.  Heaviness and hilarity ensues.  Which means, we have our beloved Roger back.  These were my absolute favorite scenes of this episode!  I mean, who didn't love Roger in his three-piece suit and Mona in her fur at the commune?  If the visuals of the clothing and Mona fixing her makeup before getting out of the car weren't enough to stress the two different lifestyles that are now in play, Mona's line really drove the point home.  "These people are lost and on drugs and have venereal diseases!"  This scene really was fantastic!

photo credit

When Mona freaks out after Margaret (who is now calling herself Marigold) tells her that, unlike her, she does not need to lock herself in the bathroom with a pint of gin everyday to be happy, Roger has Mona take the car to go back to the city.  He tells her that he'll have "Cletus drive (him) back to the train" and I about lost it!  While Roger can appreciate Margaret wanting to escape her problems, he ultimately tries to force her to come back.  Unsuccessfully.  And when she throws the fact that he was always working and having affairs during her childhood in his face, I almost threw my Mint Julep at the screen!  How dare she compare Roger's actions to hers?  The fact that he was not around all the time is in no way comparable to her completely abandoning her child!  The fact that he is even there trying to bring her back is evidence enough that he never truly abandoned her.

photo credit

Ultimately, after all the ups and downs, the episode ends with Don taking Freddie's advice.  He sits himself down in front of the same typewriter that he unsuccessfully attempted to defenestrate at the beginning of the episode.  And he starts "doing the work."

photo credit

The final minutes of the episode made me give a cheer.  It's so on!  And the Partners had better watch themselves because Don Draper is back and he's about to kick some major ass and take some names!  (I'm really hoping that the first one will be Lou's!  I really hate that guy!)

PS - If you didn't catch all the 2001 references in this episode (Monolith), you'll definitely want to give this it another viewing.  It was like an hour-long omage to Kubrick.  It was so brilliantly and seamlessly done, that it never, in any way took away from the storyline.  Oh, Mad Men, how are you this good?!?

Wishing you a fabulous Episode 5!

No comments:

Post a Comment