The first time I ever had a mint julep, I was in Charleston for the first–and so far only–time, for work. I was 23. I didn’t really know what a mint julep was, but we were at a restaurant serving delicious Lowcountry food and the atmosphere begged for full participation, and I thought, why not.
The first sip was surprisingly sweet and pleasant. And while the rest of the drink was tasty as well, and the dessert we had was also very good, that first sip of delight remains seared into my memory as one of the better experiences in life.
The warm mint julep at a bar in Brooklyn on yet another frigid evening (about as far from South Carolina as one can be, figuratively) was essentially mint tea with whiskey.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a fine thing to drink on a cold winter’s night. But I had been expecting the drink to take me back to that first sip when the night felt full of possibility and the air felt soft and mild. When I had little serious worries besides paying rent, which yeah, at the time, was a big one, but still it was all slightly magical, visiting the real south for the first time and spending the evening indulging in cuisine I’d never before tasted. When getting old meant turning 24 and visiting Charleston meant opening myself up to opportunities I’d never even imagined until then.
Maybe that’s a lot to ask of a warm mint julep in the dead of winter. But I see nothing wrong with having high expectations for libations.