Brian Makes Mint Juleps: The Sling

This week, in our series on the history of the Mint Julep, Program Director Brian Cushing takes us through the process of making a “sling”, an early version of what we now think of as the mint julep. Take it away, Brian! 


In general, we will be working off of original mint julep recipes in this series but to get the story kicked off, I am going to rely completely on David Wondrich’s excellent research presented in his book, Imbibe: a cornerstone of information currently available on the evolution of spirits and what people did with the in North America.

Calling a recreational beverage a “mint julep” started off as a joke in the later middle part of the 18th Century, right around the time the original owner of Locust Grove, William Croghan, was making it to America from Ireland and getting started. The word “julep” had been used to refer to medicinal concoctions for centuries and what started being called a “mint julep” at that point was really a minty “sling,” an early form of individual cocktail (vs. the popular flowing bowls of punch at the time, a prevailing method for several individuals to partake of spirits made into a tantalizing and palatable form). Aiding the joke was that the essence of mint leaves was understood to be medicinal and could be extracted with alcohol (they are also, of course, very pleasant to the senses).

Wondrich cited an account by none other than Dr. Benjamin Rush of how he observed slings being made (by an acquaintance who eventually drank himself to death): equal parts rum and water with some sugar.

While his unfortunate acquaintance used rum, any spirit was a candidate for a sling, with gin being very common and brandy occupying a more prominent place in American spirit culture at the time. Spirits were often more commonly used in an unaged, clear (or “white”) form at the time. I happened to have some high proof, white brandy on hand so I started with that for this attempt to recreate what these early juleps might have been like. You can find similar products in your local liquor store today, including from Louisville based Copper and Kings, a Locust Grove  Farm Distillery Project sponsor. Since part of the joke may have been alcohol’s ability to extract the essence from the mint leaves, I decided to crush some mint leaves and let them steep in 6 oz of the brandy for a few days.

When the time came to make the drink, I went with Wondrich’s recommendation of 1 tsp. of sugar per 2 oz. of spirit. So, since I had 6 oz. of spirit, I dissolved 3 tsp. of sugar in 6 oz. of room temperature water. Early cocktail recipes often involve sugar dissolved in water instead of simple syrup; it is important to dissolve the quantity of sugar in the quantity of water at room temperature that the recipe calls for first; it will not want to dissolve in spirit and will be problematic in cold water.

Then I strained the leaves from the spirit, added it to the sugar and water, mixed, and dispensed into glasses. For good measure, I placed a couple of mint stalks into each glass, agitated slightly in my hands first to start getting the scent released.

Being used to the magic of a classic mint julep, I was prepared for a disappointment, but actually found it very pleasant, mellow, and maybe a little too easy to drink. One possible origin of the term “sling” that Wondrich points out is the ease at which it is slinged back. You may notice that a crucial element of the mint julep is missing here- ice! It would begin to be incorporated in the 19th Century and by the time the mint julep became no longer a joke but a drink of its own, a staple. In our next installment, we will have made it all the way to 1840 when the joke is over, the julep is getting serious, and the results will be wonders that you won’t want to turn loose of no matter how much you love the classic mint julep!

Cheers, y’all! Stay with us next week as the joke is over, and the julep is getting serious in the 1840s! 

George on the Go

If you follow Locust Grove on Facebook, you may have noticed pictures of a familiar face floating around Louisville landmarks, accompanies by staff members and volunteers. Yes, folks, General George Rogers Clark (or at least his cardboard doppelganger) has taken to leaving Locust Grove once a month to stretch his legs, make some friends, and familiarize himself with the sights and sounds of the city he founded. George on the Go is a new Locust Grove program that takes a cardboard cut-out of GRC around Louisville and Southern Indiana with a threefold mission: to introduce George to Louisville, to heighten our staff and volunteer’s knowledge of other area cultural and historic sites, and to spread the word about all things Locust Grove. So far, we’ve had four outings and many more are in the works! George makes friends wherever he goes, so here are some pictures of his adventures!

For George’s September outing, he visited his old haunts and re-familiarized himself with Downtown Louisville.


George hanging out with Meriwether Lewis and his brother William Clark at the Falls of the Ohio.


George takes in the view of the river from the site of his cabin in Clarksville.


George on the porch of his cabin in Clarksville.


George with Locust Grove volunteers Hannah and Brandon.


George also enjoyed taking in all the sites along Main Street!

George took a tour of the Frazier Museum’s exhibit The Lewis and Clark Adventure to catch up with his brother’s exploits!


George even saw a familiar face at the entrance to the exhibit!

In October, George and friends Jason, Noah, and Jocelyn Hiner took in the Kentucky Derby Museum and Churchill Downs, the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual Meeting, and the Big Four Bridge!

George’s great-nephew, Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. founded Churchill Downs and started the Kentucky Derby in 1875!

Catching up with friends at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual Meeting at the Galt House!

George also had a blast walking to Indiana on the Big Four Bridge!


In November, George stopped by the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery to pay his respects to President Taylor and his fellow veterans, accompanied by volunteer Jeannie Vezeau, and his sister Ann Clark Gwathmey and her husband, Owen Gwathmey.

The General’s most recent outing was to the opening of the New Lincoln Bridge, connecting Louisville to Jeffersonville, IN. George was very gratified to meet outgoing Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen and several Abraham Lincolns!

Miniature Georges have also been taken on trips to Japan, Disney World, Florida, and the Cayman Islands in 2015!

Volunteers, staff members, members, and friends of Locust Grove are always welcome to join George as he goes out and about the city of Louisville!  In fact, I need your help deciding where George should visit in January! Our outing is scheduled for January 23 at 10am, and we would love to have you join us! Please take a minute to check out the poll below and cast your vote!

Thanks for all your support of George’s adventures–we’re looking forward to even more in 2016!

Intrepidly yours,


P.S. Catch more pictures of George below! And follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #GeorgeontheGo!

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We’re going to Kentucky, we’re going to the Fair: A Weekend at Locust Grove’s Market Fair

Fall is one of the best times of year to visit Locust Grove, so what better way to see the house and grounds than during the lively festivities of Market Fair! This year’s event was a tremendous success, full of wonderful performances, engaging demonstrations, dozens of vendors of all sorts of foods and goods, and of course, the faces of our friends who came out to the fair! Here are some of the highlights from the weekend.


My favorite part of Market Fair is seeing the site come alive with the stories from the past and the people in the present who interpret those stories. It’s especially fun when Locust Grove plays host to animals! Spinner and Weaver Peggy from Loom Hall borrowed three sheep and brought them with her! I spent a lot of my weekend making friends with Juniper, Llama, and Cotton.



Good morning sheep!


An animated discussion about wool.

Wool at Loom Hall.

Wool at Loom Hall.


Peggy was happy to talk wool, sheep, spinning, and looms to visitors.

Another new addition to Market Fair was an 18th century pony cart! Candy trotted Mattie the pony around the fair, cheering everyone up with the sound of the cart’s bells!


Candy and Mattie pause during artillery demonstrations.


Spot Candy and Mattie in this picture!

Crown Point Bread Company joined us again from New York, and brought along Carver, the resident bread dog. However, Carver was more interested in the wares of His Lordship’s Beef than bread and made every effort to befriend Steve and his team throughout the weekend.


“Come on Steve, just one tiny taste?”


Meat roasts at His Lordship’s Beef


Carver’s human, Yannig, sold delicious rolls, loaves, and cookies, and always had long lines.


The crew of His Lordship’s Beef!

For many people, Market Fair is a kind of family reunion, a time to spend time with friends and fellow reenactors from all over the country. Blacksmith Aubrey Williams came from Terre Haute, Indiana for the weekend, and shared a booth with Jim Carr, from the Hikes Point neighborhood of Louisville. Williams has been coming to Market Fair for about ten years, and enjoys demonstrating his forge to visitors, remarking that “people like you to make things.” Carr works in IT when not in the forge and got hooked on reliving history after visiting Market Fair a few years ago.


Jim and Aubrey are truly talented smiths.

Silas Moore the Rat Catcher brought his apprentice (and grandson) Roscoe to Market Fair this year.

Silas Moore the Rat Catcher brought his apprentice (and grandson) Roscoe to Market Fair this year.

By day, Nathanael Logsdon is the director of Historic Tunnel Mill, and the proprietor of Taylor Rose Historical Outfitters. During Market Fair, he brewed my favorite beverage, coffee, along with tea and chocolate, as Hellringer and Kurtz. (The Kentucky Bourbon Pecan blend was delicious!)



Nathanael was joined by his family and a giant copper coffee pot!

I also met a group of folks with another connection to George Rogers Clark–Barbara Lemmons and Gary, Liz, and Kyra Williams from Evansville, Indiana. Their home historic site is George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes, and they enjoy coming down to Louisville to further celebrate the past and George Rogers Clark. As Gary, a graphic designer, said “George Rogers Clark was a very real person”, and learning more about him and other like him is one of the best part of reenacting. Kyra has been a reenactor her whole life–24 years, one month, and three weeks as of Market Fair!–and along with her mom, Liz, counts the shopping and the people as her favorite part of the event. My favorite part? Barbara’s ginger cookies.


Gary, Kyra, Barbara, and Liz are Market Fair veterans!

Joining us once again all the way from Wisconsin were the Amazing Budabi Brother, Nick and Erik. According to Erik, they grew up as Amish gypsies, and were raised as ninjas. Put differently by Nick, they were born into reenacting and trained horses and oxen until they learned to juggle as teenagers to help them get girls. They quickly learned that jokes and fire make for a better show, and audiences seem to agree! What should we expect from the Budabis at next year’s Market Fair? “Elephants.”



Erik often gets called Aladdin. Someone once told Nick he looked like the Hamburglar.




We also had some wonderful musical performances by Jonathan Hagee the balladeer and Jack Salt and the Captain’s Daughter! You can go to our YouTube channel and check out some song snippets from these talented performers.

Market Fair wasn’t always pleasant, however. Some Patriot gentlemen began declaiming anti-British sentiments and reading aloud from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and brought out a dummy of the King. Two Loyalist gentlemen overheard, and the next thing anyone knew, the Regulars were on the move, and the Patriots were on the run.


Mr. Paine has some interesting ideas.


However, this Loyalist gentleman didn’t seem to appreciate them.


Searching for those radical gentlemen.

Market Fair wouldn’t be complete without reenacting a few military drills and engagements.








So, for one weekend, this old house rang with the sounds of forges and pony cart bells, cannon fire, sea chanteys, and good friends meeting old friends. What a lovely end to October–we can’t wait until next year! We love knowing what you thought of your historical experiences, so please share your stories and pictures with us, here on the blog in the comments section, or on Facebook. We certainly hope to see you again soon–for Christmastide! Thank you for spending time with us this autumn!

With sincere good wishes,





P.S. Check out even more photos from Market Fair below!

Additional photographs provided by Jeannie Vezeau, Gail Thompson, and Bob Boone.