Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SOTD: Count Basie, "One Mint Julep"

Why it's song of the day:
I think this is proof that there is a song out there for EVERY occasion.

Yesterday, that occasion was my first ever mint julep (hard to believe, I know) at The Willard Hotel's Round Robin Bar.

For those of you who aren't capital history buffs (which, I will admit, I was not until I decided I was leaving and had to do and learn everything I possibly could in one week), here's a crash course:

Since 1813, The Willard Hotel (now The Willard Intercontinental) has catered to the elite of Washington and the world. Abraham Lincoln stayed there for two weeks before his inauguration in 1861 and legend (and by legend, I mean Wikipedia) has it that Julia Ward Howe penned the Battle Hymn of the Republic after she heard union soldiers singing "John Brown's Body" outside her window there. Folklore also holds that the term "lobbyist" originated there, after the people who would ask Ulysses S. Grant for favors while he was enjoying cigars and brandy in The Willard lobby.

Writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, a regular at The Round Robin Bar, observed the following: "the Willard Hotel more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department." Basically, if you were anyone in Washington in the 1860's, you hung at The Willard.

After several renovations, The Willard today is still one of the classiest spots around. And its Red Robin Bar is the place to go if you want to get "gussied up" and have a nice drink before going out on the town (or out to the monuments, as was the case last night-- oh how I love summer strolls!). With plush, mahogany decor and old-fashioned, top-shelf cocktails (sidecars, manhattans, gin fizzes) it attracts a clientele of businessmen, politicians, wealthy tourists, and... yours truly.

The Red Robin is especially famous for its mint julep recipe, insisted upon by Kentucky senator-turned-secretary-of-state, Henry Clay. Our bartender claimed to make a hundred a day on a hot summer day like yesterday.

Unfortunately, at fourteen bucks a pop, "one mint julep" was all a poor apprentice, three days from unemployment, could afford.

Why you should love it:

Originally recorded by The Clovers, this song has been covered by many (most notably, Ray Charles), but this instrumental version by Count Basie is my favorite by far.

Like a good mint julep, this song is smooth, cool and refreshing. And like The Round Robin, it is classy as hell.

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