I’ve long been a bourbon guy. I’ve also been a mint julep guy for quite some time. I can’t remember what exactly got me into either, but I can remember the first really good mint julep I ever had. I went to The Greenbrier many years ago and ordered a julep at the Lobby Bar. Despite The Greenbrier’s website showing a julep in a clear glass with citrus on its site and a plastic straw on another page, I recall getting a beautiful julep in a proper beaker. It was perfect or damn near anyway. There are so many reasons that its hard to get a good julep at a restaurant/bar, but I think the major obstacle is that establishments do not want to serve such a strong drink. The julep is from another time when people really drank and enjoyed the taste of hard liquor. Nowadays, most people seem to prefer that a drink have no taste of alcohol whatsoever and bars want to serve one ounce or 1.5 ounces of liquor per cocktail. I imagine its also costly to keep fresh mint on hand and employ bartenders that can craft a quality drink (as opposed to those that can only add vodka to redbull). If I’m at a bar thats not known for good cocktails, for say, a work happy hour, odds are I’ll order a bourbon or scotch neat. Not because I don’t want a cocktail, but because I doubt the bartenders’ ability to make a good one in a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately for me I live near Washington DC where there are plenty of excellent bartenders, and even bars with julep history. Here is the problem: If you want someone’s interpretation of a classic, by all means, enjoy a julep at any upscale bar. DC has plenty. If you find yourself north of the Mason-Dixon, Nick Nicholls (formerly of Berlin, MD) at Forest Hills Station House can serve you their interpretation from the menu, or a historically authentic julep made to order. So if you truly want the real deal you’ll probably have to make it for yourself (or have it made to your exact specifications).
So at this point, I imagine you’re wondering, “What is the correct/authentic mint julep recipe?” The answer is that it depends on the timeframe and your preferences. To truly understand the julep, and to become a champion of the julep, one must read, The Mint Julep by Richard Barksdale Harwell. In the aforementioned work, it is stated that one of the first recorded uses of the word julep in America was in 1787. It was said to contain rum, water, and sugar, and was drunk by a Virginian, in the morning. Recall that rum was quite popular in the Colonies at that time, and that whiskey did not become the most popular American spirit until quite a while later. In 1803, the julep was first described as having mint as an ingredient and this time, the spirit used was whiskey. Again, the context is a plantation in northern Virginia, and the julep is taken in the morning.
In the The Bon Vivant’s Companion (Jerry Thomas, 1862, source again is The Mint Julep by Harwell) a recipe for the Mint Julep is given, using Cognac, and a splash of Jamaica rum. Other recipes with various base spirits are given, but Cognac and Jamaica rum is given as the standard. Notice the published date (more on that later).
Elijah Craig is credited with first aging whiskey in charred barrels. This is said to have happened at his distillery, built 1789, and before his death, in 1808. By 1793, “Old Whiskey” was a term used in advertisements, and by 1814, the actual number of years the whiskey had been aged was advertised. That said, straight off the still ‘white dog’ whiskey is what predominated (Bourbon, Straight. Cowdery). Even though charred barrel aging was starting to be used, the modern practice of using brand new charred oak barrels once (and only once), would not become a standard practice until much later. 1849 is the first time whiskey is described as being red in color (Bourbon, Straight. Cowdery). At this time, whiskey was very very rarely sold in bottles. Distillers sold white whiskey to wholesalers, who then might, “rectify” it, by charcoal filtering, adding fruit, redistilling it, or some other process to improve the flavor. There were no laws about labeling, so if you could make whiskey look dark, and you could sell it as aged whiskey (Bourbon, Straight. Cowdery). After the bottled in bond act of 1897, and the invention of a bottle making machine in 1903, bottled whiskey, and guaranteed aged whiskey, would become more common. Once can experiment with unaged whiskey in a julep, but I’d wager you’re unlikely to love the result.
So now that you know a little more about the spirits that are often used as the base for the julep, lets talk about when/why one should use each.
If you want a colonial/antebellum mint julep, one that a Virginia statesman such as many of our founding father’s would have enjoyed, I suggest Madeira, Cognac, brandy, or rum. It would also be authentic to use claret (red Bordeaux) or unaged whiskey, but again, I don’t think you’ll enjoy a white dog julep, and a claret julep does not have the strength of the other options. Madeira was the preference of many of the more wealthy planters, but at around 20% alcohol or 40 proof, it is not quite as strong as a hard liquor. My suggestion is to use Cognac or brandy, but feel free to substitute any of the above options in my recipe below. I also like to add some rum for a little something extra.
Colonial / Antebellum Mint Julep
Add roughly 10 mint leaves (preferably Kentucky Colonel) to a metal beaker (Julep cup) and bruise lightly to bring out their aroma. Fill beaker with crushed ice. Add sorghum syrup (or equal parts sugar and water, heated to create a syrup) to taste. I suggest roughly a quarter ounce of syrup. Add Cognac to the beaker until almost full. Add a dash of rum to the beaker, preferably Jamaica rum. Mix with a spoon. Top with more crushed ice. Garish with a sprig of fresh mint, and serve with a metal straw that just crests the rim of the beaker.
Despite the knowledge I’ve tried to impart, I can imagine that many of you cannot accept a Mint Julep without whiskey. Fortunately, my next two recipes do include whiskey. Recall that white whiskey was a drink of the common man. In the The Mint Julep by Harwell, there is an account of a wealthy Virginia planter drinking a Mint Julep made of whiskey, but this was during the Civil War when good liquor may have been hard to come by. In the reconstruction era, many southern families fell on hard times. It is likely they drank white whiskey in their Juleps. I do not suggest that you do the same (at least not regularly), but I will provide the following recipe:
The Reconstruction Era Mint Julep.
Add roughly 10 mint leaves (preferably Kentucky Colonel) to a metal beaker (assuming the Yankees didn’t loot your family silver, and you haven’t had to sell your valuables to a carpet bagger) and bruise lightly to bring out their aroma. Fill beaker with crushed ice. Add sorghum syrup (or equal parts sugar and water, heated to create a syrup) to taste. I suggest roughly a quarter ounce of syrup. Add white whiskey to the beaker until almost full. Mix with a spoon. Top with more crushed ice. Garish with a sprig of fresh mint, and serve with a metal straw that just crests the rim of the beaker.
In the early 1900s, brown liquor was starting to become more common. Unfortunately, prohibition would change that. Moonshine was plentiful and white whiskey remained the king. So to enjoy a modern mint julep, one must wait until post-prohibition when the medicinal bourbon distilleries got back to capacity, and new distilleries opened to meet demand.
The Modern / Post-Prohibition Mint Julep
Add roughly 10 mint leaves (preferably Kentucky Colonel) to a metal beaker and bruise lightly to bring out their aroma. Fill beaker with crushed ice. Add simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated to create a syrup) to taste. I suggest roughly a quarter ounce of syrup. Add bourbon to the beaker until almost full. Mix with a spoon. Top with more crushed ice. Garish with a sprig of fresh mint and sprinkle the mint with powered sugar. Serve with a metal straw that just crests the rim of the beaker.
Have you ever heard that its blasphemy to mix good bourbon? Well… thats a good rule, but like all rules there are exceptions, and rules are made to be broken. I like to use what I consider to be middle-quality bourbon in my juleps. My overall suggestion to you is to use Elmer T Lee. ETL is really more of a top shelf bourbon at a middle price level (as of the writing of this post), making it a great value. It also has a lot of sweetness, which works well in a julep. If you prefer to use bottom shelf/value bourbon, for Kentuckians, I suggest Very Old Barton. Its easy to find and about the best value on the shelf. For Virginians, I suggest Virginia Gentleman. If you’re from somewhere else, you can probably still find one, if not both of these options. If you prefer top shelf bourbon in your julep, I bet you already know what you want to use.
If you haven’t already, notice that The Greenbrier’s mint julep recipe is quite similar to the Modern recipe I’ve provided. The Greenbrier succeeds in making a quality modern julep, but I think they have a luxury of budget, and a tradition of history, that no establishments can match. Others can and do put out a quality julep, but it is rare. This is especially true since many high quality bars like to put their own spin on a julep. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but this post is about history and the classics.
I’d like to take a quick aside and talk about my copper julep cup. I bought these after seeing an article about them in Garden and Gun. They’re beautiful, but also significantly larger. Copper is not traditional, but I highly recommend them (especially in addition to a more traditional set).
Making a great mint julep is fairly easy to learn, but difficult to master. So how and why does the julep get ruined in restaurants? They use the following recipe:
The Post-Modern Mint Julep
Take the fundamentals of the mint julep as provided above. Then consider mass appeal and profit.
Examples include serving in a glass with a plastic straw, adding soda water, using granulated sugar, using the wrong type of mint, the list goes on. If you have to add fruit, at least choose a fruit that grows in the south, in America. Strawberry or peach are examples of authentic additions. Let me briefly clarify my comment about granulated sugar. It can be used to make simple syrup. It should not be stirred into water or bourbon as it does not completely incorporate. If you are too lazy to make simple syrup (which when made most simply, involves pouring equal parts water and sugar into a pyrex container/mug and microwaving for about a minute) then at least seek out superfine sugar, which dissolves much more quickly than granulated sugar. Lets look at a real world example of a Post-Modern Julep:
Branch water is not I-talian sparkling water. They used lemon, but not a beaker. “Southern style.” I’ve had this julep and it is enjoyable, but given this bar’s heritage, I expect better. One could ask for no sparkling water, and no lemon, but it would still be served in a glass.
Now, my gift to you, lets watch a true master craft a julep the way God intended:
This master and champion of the julep discussed the seasonality of the julep, gave us a history lesson and a physics lesson, and recited a poem, all while teaching us the art of the mint julep. I have never seen such an informed and passionate barman. Truly an inspiration.
If you’re looking for more recipes, The Mint Julep by Richard Barksdale Harwell has a wealth of detailed poetic instructions and rituals. As you can hopefully tell, as a Virginian, and bourbon connoisseur, I take my mint juleps seriously. I hope I’ve gathered and presented information on this quintessential American cocktail in an entertaining, interesting, and informative way. My goal was to create the most comprehensive and subjectively superior blog post on the julep to date. Its my sincere hope that you procure a julep cup, julep straw, Kentucky Colonel mint (spearmint from the grocery store or your garden will do in a pinch), and use this post to make yourself a truly great julep.
When the mint is in the liquor and its fragrance on the glass
It breathes a recollection that can never, never pass–
When the South was in the glory of a never-ending June
The strings were on the banjo and the fiddle was in tune,
And we reveled in the plenty that we thought could never pass
And lingered at the julep in the ever-brimming glass.
— Clarence Ousley
If you need some supplies:
Julep Cups (I suggest silver-plated (my preference) or pewter, assuming your budget/inheritance doesn’t include silver. Figure out what size/volume you want. My copper cups have a 12 oz capacity. I would estimate that my silver plate cups have an 8-10 oz capacity.)
Julep Straws (You want the straw to come to just above the rim on the cup, so that one can enjoy the fragrance of the mint while sipping. Steel straws can be cut with a dremel tool, with a metal cutting disk. I use a copper tube cutter for my copper straws, which are really just lengths of tube I cut down to size.)
Kentucky Colonel Mint (my local herb place didn’t have any of the colonel this year, so I ordered it online. Mine shipped from Richmond, so at least a Virginian got my money.)
Nugget Ice Machine Just like sonic or cook out. One of my least favorite parts of making a mint julep is finding my lewis bag and mallet. This takes a lot of the work (but perhaps some of the soul) out of making a julep. I love mine. For better or worse, it definitely has me making more juleps.by rsiv with no comments yet
A couple years ago, a friend of mine got a book about grilling. In it (link at the bottom), it suggested putting meat directly on the coals as a very (very) old school way of grilling steak. We tried it, and the steaks came out great. I don’t do it often, but my gas grill has a leak that I have yet to address, and I had some all natural charcoal left over from smoking, so I decided to clinch some steaks. I assume the term clinching comes from the fact that the coals stick (clinch) to the steak, even when turned. This is a great method for when your grill is broken, but its also great for camping, or even cooking in your fireplace.
I was at whole foods, so I got some dry aged beef. My wife is pregnant, so I started hers in the oven to ensure it was at least medium (doctor’s orders), while I threw my on raw, hoping for medium rare (or rarer).
When you clinch, you always get a good charred crust on the outside, even if the steak is still rare on the inside. This time, I ended up with medium rare in the center, more like medium on the ends, but it was good none the less. I also threw the lettuce directly on the coals for about 15 seconds per side, in order to get a little char on them as well.
I enjoyed a nice bottle of wine, and a custom rolled cigar from Cigar World in McLean. The weather was great, and the meal was delicious.
Found a video, and the original book here. Don’t bother with all that hair dryer business. Keep it simple like I did.by rsiv with no comments yet
We had an afternoon flight, so after a great breakfast, I hit the sauce and the stogies.
I was able to get my mom to try a puff of the Behike.
I started with another Mag 50, and read a little Hemingway. After I smoked it down to about the size of the Behike, I did a side by side comparison. I like both, but the draw and flavor of the Behike were significantly better than the H Upmann. I took the HU to about the band, and then hit the beach with the Behike and the HC 7.
With one R&J cigar left and two half-full bottles of rum, I ran out of time. I gave the bottles to our driver for the week, Havi, as well as a few cigars I had leftover (mostly Guantanameras from the Tropicana show). Then we headed to the Jose Marti Airport for the flight home.
I enjoyed one last cigar in the VIP lounge, and one last Cuba Libre. I reflected on the amazing time we had in Cuba, and hoped I’d be back soon. We said goodbye to the friends we’d made, and got on the plane.
Back at the Hilton in Miami, I found these at the gift shop. Its like they were adding insult to injury. However, our vacation was not yet over. My family has missed many international connections though Miami over the years, so we decided to spend a night in Miami to make sure we made our flight. After checking in, we took a taxi to Little Havana, and to a restaurant recommended by our first P2P speaker back on the first night in Miami.
A lot of other P2P trips do an excursion in Little Havana. Its too bad a lot of people on our trip didn’t get the opportunity, but we made the most of ours. After what my dad said was the best sandwich he’d ever had, he asked the owner of the restaurant about Cuba. The owner was Cuban-American, and had a candid talk with us about his thoughts. After dinner, we took a walk down Calle Ocho.
After our walk, we had some ice cream, and went back to the hotel to get some sleep.by rsiv with no comments yet
I don’t have a picture of breakfast on day 7, but as you can imagine, it was delicious. After breakfast, we went downstairs to a conference room for a presentation and Q&A with a local physician. One of our fellow travelers asked about the motivation to become a doctor. In Cuba, doctors do get paid more than unskilled laborers, but the difference is not substantial. So why would someone work so hard in school to enjoy pay essentially equal to those who did not. The answer was twofold. First, many find medicine to be a calling, and its what they love to do. Also, its the family business for many, and they come from a long line of doctors. Second, many are banking on the embargo lifting, at which time, they expect Cuba to become a huge destination for medical tourism. Another factor that may be a motivation is that due to Cuba’s oil for doctors agreement with Venezuela, medicine creates an opportunity for travel that most Cubans do not have. After the presentation, we headed into the suburbs of Havana to hospital, the next tier up from the local community doctor in Cuba’s healthcare system.
The hospital was an interesting visit. Since they don’t have the privacy laws we do, we basically were led around the hospital while consultations and treatments were going on. We got to see checkups, physical therapy, etc. This particular hospital seemed pretty modern. My mom had been to Cuba previously with a medical conference, and she got to see many hospitals like this, so I guess they’re not uncommon.
After the hospital, we visited a daycare center. The center is for children who’s parents struggle with addiction, are imprisoned, etc. It was very much like a daycare center in the US, movies, crafts, snack time, nap time. The highlight for me was one of the kids who performed a fairly long and intricate Michael Jackson routine. We left some gifts and headed to lunch.
The meal at Divino was quite good, but the dessert was outstanding. The ice cream tasted like it was 50% fruit, and 50% ice cream. I’m not sure if I liked the coconut or pineapple better. The restaurant was owned by a couple. The Husband is Italian, and the wife Cuban. They had a large collection of Cuban nicknacks in their wine cellar.
After a great meal, and a fun look around in the cellar, we snapped a few pictures of some cars outside, and headed to Finca La Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba were he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The house is also featured in Island’s in the Stream.
I’m a huge Hemingway fan, so I loved this stop. As a hunter, traveler, avid reader, and on rare occasion, fisherman, I was drinking it all in. The house was fairly minimalist, despite being decorated with bullfighting posters, taxidermy, and book and magazines. It was clearly decorated and setup for a purpose. The decorations would remind Hemingway of his travels and happy times, while the furnishings were clearly for work. Literature and booze were everywhere, and there was very little else that could be considered a distraction. I’ve been to Malaga and Rhonda, Kenya and Tanzania, and I loved the Finca. The interior decorator on our trip asked if I was taking notes, and I definitely was. I wouldn’t want my primary residence too influenced by Finca La Vigia, but for a hunting lodge, etc, it would be perfect. The tower you see above was built by his wife for him to write in, but he hated it. The boat is the Pilar which he used to hunt uboats during WWII. The cemetery was for his dogs, which was interesting as he was more of a cat person. The pool is where Hemingways wife, and on occasion, Ava Gardner often skinny dipped. I’m about 60% through Island’s in the Stream, and Hemingway, and a beauty from the USO are in route to Finca La Vigia, so perhaps the pool will be in the book.
After Hemingway’s house, we went back to the hotel, and had some free time. My wife was feeling tired from the trip, and her pregnancy, so she took a nap. I headed down to the beach and found a hammock. After relaxing, we headed to dinner.
We had an amazing dinner. After dinner (and dessert), I was surprised with a birthday cake. What a way to celebrate your 30th. Despite being quite full, I ate a fair amount of cake as it was tres leches, and quite delectable. One couple on the trip had heard about the show at the Tropicana. Its a 50s style revue show with a lot of the original choreography from its heyday. We were offered cigars as we walked in, and given bottle service at the tables. The show was incredible.
The show was great. The cigars and drinks too. Most of our group took cigars, and since they did not smoke them, gave them to me, which meant I had way too many cigars for how many days we had left. I got to dance with a showgirl. The whole experience was unforgettable. This was not part of our itinerary, but what a show. We all had a great time, were exhausted, and pretty sleepy on the short ride home. I kept wonder how the next day could possibly live up to the previous. Cuba never failed to delight us.by rsiv with no comments yet
Every Memorial Day we head down to our friend’s parents’ place in Fredericksburg. They have an amazing deal on a lake, with a pool, and the company and food is even better.
When we got down, we whipped up some papa dobles, and lit up some cigars. I chose a Fuente Anejo that has been aging in my humidor for about 6 years.
For breakfast the next day, Winn-Dixie whipped up my favorite: biscuits and gravy. Delicious.
I don’t feel like summer starts until I’m in the pool, hat on, beer tipped. The fried jalapenos were delicious, but my tum-tum was not too happy with me later… The pimento cheese was from my parents home town. Pretty wild.
After a paddle, we had some steak and cheese. Winn-Dixie used to be a short order cook, so he has some serious cooking skills. You gotta love a steak and cheese with lots of meat.
After lunch we played some shoes. I took the kayak out in between rounds. That evening we made a batch of Death in the Afternoon. I’m not a huge Absinthe fan, but I did see the appeal. Its not something I think I’ll make again soon, but it was a fun experience none the less. My buddy Marteen on the other hand was a big fan that night. Not so much the next morning.
The next morning we woke up to another amazing breakfast, and then lounged around with friends, while enjoying the resort-like atmosphere.
I mixed up some Hemingway-style Tom Collins, which turned out to be very good, especially for the summer. The addition of coconut water was a stroke of genius, but then again, he was quite the rummy. We enjoyed the drinks and snacked on some homemade guac.
Later, I made some more papa dobles (you can see why Hemingway compared them to the ocean as the Pilar motored through it), Marteen hit the brown, we watched the 500 and played some cornhole.
Our hosts always put a huge spread together for Memorial day. Everything was great (not sure why that brat looks green in the picture).
After lunch we threw some more shoes, went back out on the water, and just enjoyed the company, cigars, and view.
Another day, another spectacular breakfast (this time featuring homemade apple butter the host’s neighbor makes in a big cauldron during an apple butter party). Later on, I tried a traditional Tom Collins (I prefer the Hemingway version), Thom hit the brown, and Marteen recovered with some coffee.
The rest of the day consisted of sriracha wings, manwork, and pool volleyball. We had some great weather this year. The company was amazing as always, and I can’t wait for the 4th.
In the spirit of the holiday, check this out:
I thought it was a pretty cool and unique way to support the troops. Also, if you’d like to know about a not so well known hero, check out the following two links:by rsiv with no comments yet
Day 4 in Cuba started out with a buffet, and amazing cafe. After a great meal, we headed down to a conference room in the hotel. We met with a former Cuban Foreign Services Scholar, who brought the group up to date on Cuba – US relations from the colonial period to present times. I had just read Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba, which is as much a history of Cuba as the Bacardi family and company, but from a capitalist perspective, so it was interesting to notice the discrepancies between the two accounts. For instance, the speaker implied that business owners fled the country out of guilt/fear prior to the revolution, and failed to talk about the confiscation of their assets. However, when directly asked, he provided an account that was more inline with what I had read in the book. There was lots of talk about, “Terrorist groups in Florida.” He also said that Cuba was not changing from Socialism to Capitalism, but something new. He said, “Cuba has to adapt.” He thought that it would be a slow process, but Cuba has to change. A member of our group suggested that when the embargo is lifted, people will get rich, everything socially and otherwise will change. He presenter said, “we accept this challenge…we have been preparing for this.” Later he added, “Cubans need to work harder to have more.” “We are going to face new realities, and I’m optimistic.” The presenter kept talking about Cuba embracing at least some degree of capitalism, but he never once used the word capitalism unless someone else used said word in their question. I got the impression that Cuba will try to hold on to its socialist ideals for quite some time. I think that longer term, it will likely look more like Canada, or perhaps a Sweden. Controlled capitalist, but with strong social concern, for instance socialized medicine, nationalized industries, etc. That said, it may be hard to resist the fast money that American tourism will offer.
After the foreign services presentation, we got on the bus. After hearing that we had another giant of a day, our American guide introduced our Cuban guide. “She’s your guide, shes our guide, shes Ms. Cu-baaa!” Nilda told us about the day’s activities as we headed to the Muraleando neighborhood community project. The manager of this project was very genuine and very enthusiastic. His passion was contagious. He described some of their art as, “tangible poetry.” He definitely did not need a translator. The project is called El Tanque, because they petitioned the government to take an old water tank in a trash heap, and turn it into an art gallery. They cleared out a junkyard, and now they have a beautiful community center. They’ve also beautified and improved the entire neighborhood. The female singer pictured below had just won a caribbean talent show. I have her CD, so I’ll try to update this post with more details about her later. The statue is of a local character, who we got to meet. The teeth are real dentures. The bench is dedicated to an old woman who used to sit there daily, waiting on her love (it is assumed that she was referring to a potential future love).
After saying our goodbyes, we took a walking tour though Old Havana with a local architect. Both he, and his wife, were architects in Havana trying to save and restore old buildings, so it was a very enjoyable and informative walk. It was also our first chance to wander the streets, so even without the great commentary, it would have been a great time. I don’t recall the architect’s name, but I thought of him as a Javier (Bardem), perhaps you can see why.
First, notice the box of Virginia apples. I do know that they don’t grow apples on Cuba, so perhaps it was some kind of aid? I didn’t get to ask about it, as that pic was taken during our free time wandering. Next, notice the shotguns. Does your grandpa ever tell you that Obama/Clinton/etc is going to take away your guns? In Cuba, they really did. This museum displays the shotguns confiscated by the government. I saw a bunch of Browning A-5s. I was with our Cuban guide at this point, who is from Pinar Del Rio (the country), which makes her a guajira (country girl). I thought she might know about hunting. She said that it is difficult to get a permit to own a shotgun, but some Cubans do. However, most harvesting, of say boars, is done by trapping. The interwebs shows me that there is quail hunting in Cuba, but I couldn’t tell you if Cubans are allowed to do it. The architect was particularly candid about his thoughts on Cuba. He said his grandparents were for the revolution, when it was still about getting rid of Batista. When it became communist later, they regretted it, as they were a wealthy family. Eventually, his grandfather took his own life. The architect also said that he would not be able to live as well as he does without his two brothers sending clothes and money from Miami. He was a very interesting guy, and I wish we had more time with him. The picture of stone above is so you can see the coral in it. The cigar is a Romeo y Julieta #2. These were my walking around sticks while I was in Cuba, as they were 3.4 CUCs (less than $4 American), and easily found in Tubos for portability. I never had a draw or construction problem, and the flavor was great. Maybe a little one dimensional, but they were prefect for my purposes. I really just grabbed a few by chance, but ended up having one whenever I had 30-45 minutes.
We hit Cafe Del Oriente for lunch. Apparently, its the place to see and be seen, as the Castros can often be seen there, and other high level officials. The welcome cocktails and food were great, but the atmosphere and music were just incredible. It was a nice respite from the heat and the walk.
After lunch, we had a tour of Casa De Africa, with an Afro-Cuban religions specialist, and then saw a show. The actors were excellent, and as always, we were blown away by the quality of the production, and that it was just for our small group. However, some school children wandered over, as the museum is right on the street, and they joined in the dancing. The dancer in blue is the Yorùbán/Santerían orisha Yemaja. I thought she stole the show. She pulled me up to dance with her. My wife thought it was fitting as she is the patron deity of women, especially pregnant women. After Casa De Africa, we headed to a hotel for lessons in making mojitos, and dancing salsa.
I lost the mojito contest, but I had lots of rum, and maybe instead of the loser, we can say I was runner up. Then we learned Cuban style salsa, which involves a different count and a post. Or at least thats what I remember. I’m not a great dancer, but I learned the basics, and had a great time.
We drove back to the hotel along the Malecon, and with a few hours to burn, I opted for another Romeo y Julieta #2. I also tried Bucanero Malta, which at first I thought was malt liquor, but when I saw our bus driver Havi drinking it, inquired, and found out its more like sugarcane root beer. It had an interesting and very unique flavor I can’t quite describe. I thought it went well with the cigar, and was a welcome change of pace from the 14 or so rum drinks I had that day. I also threw in a bonus bathroom cigar selfie. How often does one get to enjoy a bathroom cigar?
We had dinner at Cafe Espanola. It was a good meal in a very interesting place. Afterwards, we enjoyed some jazz in the lobby, and called it a night.by rsiv with no comments yet
I just finished reading The Ian Fleming Files: Operation Armada, and The Ian Fleming Files: Operation Parsifal by Damian Stevenson. Stevenson’s work answers a question I’ve often asked myself. How does one create a better thriller character than James Bond? I think the short answer is that one can not. However, Stevenson has found an interesting loophole. He created a series of novels that are part origin-story for Bond, and half historic fictionalization of Fleming’s intelligence career. Essentially, these are Bond books, but with Ian Fleming as the main character. The books have femme fatals, Walther PPKs, eccentric villains, booze, exotic travel, and plenty of thrills. To keep this post short, I’ll summarize thusly: If you haven’t read the original Bond books, start there. If you have and are looking for more Bond summer reading, check out Stevenson’s take.by rsiv with no comments yet
I started a new book about TR. I’m not very far in, but enjoying it thus far. I thought about trying to explain why this book is so manly/badass, but which antidote to pick? I suppose when Teddy was shot, diagnosed himself as fine for the time-being, and gave a speech, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Teddy was known to blow through a book a day, so I’ll let y’all know what new books I’m on in two days…
I’m also concurrently reading some Tennyson. If you’re not familiar, he brought us such quotes as:
“Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.”
“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
“Who are wise in love, love most, say least.”
“I am a part of all that I have met.”
This weekend I also won friend of the year by helping my buddy CW move out for the 2nd weekend in a row, and then painting his old house with him.
We did get compensated with tacos and beer. The former were from cafe rio, and not half bad.
I also did a 5k. I say, “did”, and not, “ran”, because ran would be inaccurate.
As you can see above, the buds are on the cherry blossom trees. It won’t be long. Also, check out the bathroom break mid-race that runkeeper recorded. Pretty funny. My and my mom’s walking time was 9 minutes worse than last year. Clearly, we were not too worried about our time. My dad, however, tied for third in his age group.
After all was said and done, I rested my body while watching El Clasico.by rsiv with no comments yet
We had a power outage on Wednesday night, so I found a hardcover and a candle and did some light reading. On Thursday when a friend was coming over, I wanted to have some cocktails, but all I had on hand was the makings of a martini. According to the book, Hemingway favored a style of Gordon’s Gin no longer produced. I substituted Boodles, named after a Gentlemen’s Club, and rumored to be a favorite of Winston Churchill.
After drinks we went to Panjshir. We split a bottle of wine, and decided we had to watch The Man Who Would Be King.
In the colonial mood, we also watched Khartoum, and had some Indian food.
For the Indian, we took a short walk to Curry Mantra II for lunch the next day. CMII has a lunch buffet that is very good, but their dinners also impress. The first pic is all lunch buffet food. The rest are from a dinner the wife and I had there. I intended to write up the Falls Church Curry Mantra before, but never got around to it. Short of Rasika, which is really in a class all its own, I think you’d be hard pressed to find better Indian in the DMV.by rsiv with no comments yet
I posted the other day about starting Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba on my kindle. I made good on my promise of a Cuban themed evening:
I picked out my last Monte #2. This stick has been in my humidor for a good while, so it needed to be smoked. I figured this was as good a time as any. And because you can’t have a Monte without rum (though I’m sure I’ve broken that rule a time or two)…:
I paired it with some HC7. I lit up the pyramid took a sip of rum, and got into the book.
All three were amazing. On the first puff, you get that unmistakable flavor. Then a sip of the rum gives you a fairly light body, but rich dark molasses, smoke, and spices. The book kept me turning the pages.
When the cigar got down to about the size of a Fuente WOA, it really hit the sweet spot. The book got into the 1920s, and I went to find some coke. I mixed myself a cuba libre (relax, why not) and finished the chapter and cigar. A great cigar, great rum, and great book made for an amazing evening.
by rsiv with no comments yet