For an American, July 4th is an auspicious day. Celebrations in the U.S. ranges vastly, from Mississippi Miller-Light fuelled hick-fests in aboveground pools, to Nantucket lobster grills with bottles of Chandon (from California, of course) tackily adorned with the stars and stripes accompanied by tastefully crafted Bourbon cocktails (more on this shortly).
I have now lived in the UK for over six years, and the excitement around the 4th has somewhat waned. Not because I feel any less American, but because for rather obvious reasons it’s not something widely celebrated across London. My previous 4th consisted of a fun but meagre gathering of a few of us Americans (vastly outnumbered by our varied European friends) where I was forced to drink Budweiser, as evidently that’s only what we Americans drink (clearly most Europeans have as nuanced an understanding of American food and drink as most Americans do of European) and apparently was the only one who could manage a disposable Tesco foil BBQ.
This year, I was looking for something more Nantucket than Miller-Light, and one place stuck out to me which emulated certain American ideals: The Hurlingham Club.
The Hurlingham, it is a vast and exclusive sports club near Putney Bridge, essentially inhabiting its own park in the middle of central London. It is grand yet relaxed, and ornate yet subdued, and most importantly, has a BBQ and copious amounts of alcohol: in other words a perfect place to celebrate 4th.
On the way to the bar, and it being a day for patriotism, I decided I would order the most kitsch American drink that was appropriate for the weather, and it struck me instantly: a Mint Julep. The mint julep is famed as the drink of choice amongst “southern gentlemen” in the U.S. and every year is sold in absurd quantities at the Kentucky Derby. It’s simple to make, refreshing, and most importantly generous on the alcohol front.
I’d like to say I got my cocktail, but that’s not how this story goes. After asking the bartender for one, he sorted of squinted at me like I just asked if he’d like to join me in the bathroom. Hoping it was some sort of lost in translation issue, I said “It’s a cocktail”. Pause. “I apologise sir, we don’t do cocktails”. This confused me, since I saw every ingredient I needed to make a mint julep behind the bar, but if there is one thing I have learned as an inhabitant of British Clubs: rules are rules. I ordered a Gin & Tonic and sulked off outside, resolved to buy all the required ingredients on my way home to round off my otherwise perfect anglicised 4th celebrations.
The ingredients and preparation are surprisingly simple. Personally, I use Woodford Reserve as a standard benchmark for decent bourbon cocktails. You can happily use Jim Beam or Makers Mark if you want to save a few pounds, but the quality isn’t as high. You could also try different types of whiskeys as well, though this has been tried and tested, and ultimately, Bourbon is the best option.
- 60 ml Bourbon whiskey
- 4 mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons water
In a highball glass (or some metal tankard if you’re a hipster) meddle the mint, sugar, and water, add cracked ice to the top of the glass (or to your liking) pour in bourbon and stir for a minute or so.