Excerpt from my upcoming study on Col. Harland Sanders and Corbin, Kentucky.
– Wallace Hebert, Columbia, Tennessee. (The title of my working chapter: Well I’ll be Julep’d! Colonel Sanders Mint What He Said!)
The Colonel said, ‘The julep is not a drink; it’s a social hour.”
In 1950, Col. Harland Sanders was a celebrity known throughout the Commonwealth as the champion of Kentucky’s tourism industry. Each summer, Kentucky’s “Governor’s Tour” rode the highways in a Greyhound bus to promote state parks and local attractions—with multiple stops, public functions, evening banquets and speeches, and an early start the next day. It was a moving bipartisan celebration of pranks, politicians (including the governor), business and agricultural leaders, and journalists. HD Sanders was on eleven of the first thirteen tours. “Harley Sanders” had been a public speaker since Jeffersonville in 1918 Courier Journal Documents. He always had a message, loved audiences of all sizes, and probably knew every influential journalist in Kentucky; Sanders couldn’t wait to board the Governor’s Greyhound each summer.
Bill Ladds almanac Column was required reading Courier Journal fans back then. Ladd reported frequently on the Colonel’s Corbin antics and rode with Harland Sanders on the 1950 Governor’s Tour. Bill’s June 21, 1950 column included: “How the Old Colonel of Kentucky Made His Juleps. This dope comes from Harland Sanders of Corbin. He looked like a Kentucky colonel to use for a sign at his tourist yard. He demonstrated the process of the julep for several of us while hopping along on the bus.” Ladd reported, “The results were delicious.”
“The julep isn’t a drink, it’s a social hour,” he (The Colonel) says. Each guest received a glass with ice, mint leaves and (powdered) sugar. They made their own julep while they sat and talked. “This keeps the party sober and also saves on the liquor bill since it takes at least 20 minutes to make a julep.” One should “palm the glass around it to help melt the ice. Place the tip of the spoon against the glass wall and press down on the ice with the back of the spoon. The goal is to crush the leaves and extract the oil from the mint, but not crush the stems and release the acids they contain. After about 20 minutes you will find the melted sugar, mint and about half a glass of water colored green. Pour in whiskey (two ounces). Then sip. Don’t swallow!”
On June 22, 1952 the Columbus, Ohio To ship Travel editor Mardo Williams provided another account. Williams paid attention to the recipe. Colonel Sanders declared mint juleps to “a dozen travel writers” in Corbin, Kentucky, at the Sanders Motor Court. “The glass must be thoroughly frosted and filled to the brim with crushed ice. Four or five mint leaves are placed on top of the ice and two teaspoons of powdered sugar are placed on top of the leaves.” After 20 minutes of rubbing with a spoon, the sugar should have dissolved and the glass should be filled with mint flavored and colored water. “With an ongoing fire of commentary and humour, the mint julep’s authority distributed its instructions while people juggled their glasses. ‘Be gentle, these mint leaves are as tender as a woman’s heart and should never be ruthlessly crushed.’” The Colonel concluded, “In the olden days of beautiful women, swift horses and gracious hospitality, every gathering began with a mint julep party. “
On June 13, 1954, The Milwaukee Journal‘s travel editor offered this summary: Colonel Sanders was “taught how to make a julep by an old Kentuckian 40 years ago”. He says: “It was originally thought of as a temperance drink. You save on the amount of drink you consume.” “Too many Americans are Goozlers with their hard cocktails. (That’s how he pronounces it.) Making your own juleps will be great fun for your guests and slow their goozing!”
On October 13, 1957 the Cleveland Ohio Simple tradermagazine reported on an impressive event with plenty of photos: “Burgoo and Mint Juleps Flavor Menu at Party on Stouffer Farm.” Closing Stouffer’s annual gathering of hundreds of managers and food executives from across America, Colonel Sanders of Corbin, Kentucky, hosted “a famous restaurateur and past president of the American Restaurant Association,” a Hoedown, Kentucky barbecue, and mint julep party. The colonel was a close friend of the Stouffer family; He made and served the burgoo (which took over 8 hours to cook) and prepared the country hams wrapped in blankets (which took even longer). Each guest made their own mint julep under his guidance: “A mint julep is not the product of a formula; it is a ceremony and must be performed with a true sense of the artistic.”
On the way, at the Sanders Cafe in Corbin in 1952, a writer asked, “What about those mint juleps we got in Louisville at the time of the Kentucky Derby?” “They weren’t good mint juleps,” Sanders said. “They were thrown together to market Kentucky’s famous drink at the expense of tourists. There should be a law against it!”
So… throw your derby party – but try the juleps Colonel way!