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Bourbon and the Mothers 

Cocktails Anyone?
by Sheila Swerling-Puritt

And now a tribute to Mother's Day, the other great occasion on which civilized folk turn to the genteel pleasure of the mint julep. The first great occasion, also this month, is the Kentucky Derby.

My friend Pete, who knows everything there is to know about Bourbon, says Kentucky is the home of beautiful horses and fast women!

This year, Louisville's Churchill Downs celebrates its 130th anniversary running of the Derby. More than 150,000 devotees will turn out on the first Saturday in May to witness one of the world's most historic horse races. Millions of others throw Derby parties at home. Obligatory is the Bourbon-based mint julep.

The mint julep? Yes, and traditionally from a silver cup: After every Kentucky Derby, the winning owner toasts his horse with a julep from a sterling silver cup. The winner's name and the year of the win are engraved on the cup and it is added to the permanent collection of the Churchill Downs Racetrack.

Like the Derby, Bourbon has a wide and varied history. In a way, it's the history of the United States, its cast of characters encompassing the country's founding fathers, presidents, saints, sinners, tycoons, temptresses, heroes, villains, patricians and even the occasional preacher.

Intriguingly, Bourbon – the American whiskey and unquestionably one of the world's great whiskies, bowing to neither Scotch nor Irish – started life as an act of defiance, a revolt against the Molasses Act of 1733 that rendered rum consumption "ruinously expensive" to the colonists. Corn was abundant and cheap, and corn liquor evolved into Bourbon.

Bourbon's incomparable taste of caramel and vanilla springs from the use of charred new American oak barrels during the ageing process. One of the whiskey's proudest achievements has been the creation of popular ultra-premium Bourbons. A fine example is Knob Creek Bourbon (Small Batch Bourbon), aged for nine years in charred American white oak barrels. It proffers a powerfully sweet nose hinting at rich grain and dark berry flavors. It's fruity and well-balanced, with some oak-vanilla notes and a touch of caramelized sugar. The finish is long and surprisingly spicy.

Now, in this space, from our side of the border, I'd like to offer a toast to Frederick Booker Noe II, Master Distiller emeritus of Jim Beam Brands Co. and grandson of the legendary Jim Beam. "Booker" died in February of this year at his home in Bardstown, Kentucky. The sixth generation Beam involved in the making of Jim Beam Bourbon, he was 74 years old.

So here's to Booker. And here's to Mom. And here's to my introduction to a delicious mint julep recipe by a wonderful Kentucky gentleman, Ova Haney, the late Master Distiller of Four Roses Distillery. I can only hope that up there somewhere, Booker is a-settin' in his rocking chair, nodding to Ova's tall fish tales, and the two o' them are sipping juleps in frosty sterling cups, their Bourbon rich and mouth-filling, the mint pungent and refreshing, the color of Heaven morphing into a purple-streaked Kentucky sky.

Ova Haney's Mint Julep


    Syrup (may be made a week in advance and kept covered and refrigerated until use):
  1. Fill a 4 quart pot with fresh mint leaves
  2. Add 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Slowly add 1 lb. confectioner's (icing) sugar.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to ½ pint (200 mL.)
  5. Remove from heat. Squeeze the mint leaves into the remaining liquid before discarding.
  6. Filter the mint flavoured simple syrup through a cheesecloth or fine filter.
  7. Refrigerate.


  1. Add 1 tsp. of mint-flavoured syrup to your silver julep cup or tall highball glass.
  2. Insert a straw.
  3. Fill the cup up with finely crushed ice, tightly packed.
  4. Add 2½ oz Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon (or Four Roses Bourbon).
  5. Let stand a moment and repack with crushed ice.
  6. Dust the top of the ice with a little powdered sugar.
  7. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

For more information, you can contact Sheila at




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