The Thrilla in Manila and Manila Hotel Julep

Your cocktail calendar entry for: October
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Today is the anniversary of the infamous 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  An epic bout of pugilism between two very large men, it ultimately led to Ali being crowned World Champion for a second time.  So today we’ll explore the Thrilla in Manila and the Manila Hotel Julep No. 1 as Drink of the Day.

This fight was the last of a series of three between the men and is consistently regarded as one of the best and most brutal fights in boxing history.  Their first fight, billed as the “Fight of the Century,” occurred when neither had yet suffered a defeat.  Frazier won this one by unanimous decision, but Ali wasn’t done.

Their second fight was a non-title match held in Madison Square Garden.  Ali was aggressive from the start and won in a unanimous decision.

Their final showdown was, as you might guess, held in Manila.  President Ferdinand Marcos campaigned hard for the location and paid a hefty sum to make it happen for its value as a distraction from rampant corruption, poverty and impending threats of an insurgency.

Ali didn’t hold back on flinging personal insults at Frazier as the fight drew near, and after having nicknamed Frazier “The Gorilla” he coined the phrase “Thrilla in Manila.”  Using his old trademark rhymes, it would be “a killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila.”

In the end the fight was a brutal contest in which Frazier and Ali beat the living crap out of one another.  Frazier’s trainer stopped the fight after 14 rounds rather than risk a 15th round.  Ali soon collapsed from exhaustion, with his personal physician and cornerman Ferdie Pacheco later remarking “Do you think after the beating he took that day in Manila he went home happy and had chocolate ice cream? He goddamn near died. It’s the reason he’s a shambling, neurological wreck.”

Our Drink of the Day for this occasion will be Monk Antrim’s Manila Hotel Mint Julep No. 1, straight from the pages of Charles H. Baker’s classic The Gentleman’s Companion.  For reference, we discussed that work here on his birthday.

We should note that Baker has a lot to say about Juleps before we jump into the recipe.  As he notes, “On this matter of Juleps we can boast to a thorough Julep research, without pride or prejudice, for we have put in some years of mighty clinical home-work on the matter.”  To quote him directly, he notes that:

“So before the shooting starts let’s explain right here and now that there’s no more chance of getting the various Julep schools to agree on fabrication of this most delectable of drinks, than we have of getting a proud Atlanta great-grandmother to concede General Sherman a nice, gentle, well-meaning, big boy.

First of all there is the silver cup versus the glass school; the slightly bruised mint versus the all-bruised school; the rye versus the bourbon school; the fruit garnish versus the plain school.

Feuds have begun because someone breathed the possibility that city water would make a Julep as well as water dipped from a fern-draped Blue Grass County spring.  Men have been shot at for heaping fruit juices, slices of citrus, and maraschino cherries on a Julep completed.”

Baker then goes on to proclaim that the best Julep of all to date is the one we’re about to mix, the Manila Hotel Julep No. 1.

Manila Hotel Julep

Manila Hotel Mint Julep No. 1

Taken from Charles H. Baker's book The Gentleman's Companion, in which he claims this to be the best julep recipe from among all those he sampled around the world. Baker actually describes a drink to have two straws put in, but we have scaled the recipe below as a single serving.
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Ingredients
  

  • ½ oz Simple syrup
  • 3 Mint sprigs
  • oz Bourbon Baker notes it is entirely acceptable to use Rye Whiskey if you are so inclined.
  • 1 tsp Rum Use a fragrant rum, ideally a Barbados or Demerara rum.
  • Garnish: pineapple, 2 cherries, mint

Instructions
 

  • Chill glass, whether silver julep cup or a regular glass.
  • Add simple syrup and three mint sprigs.
  • Muddle gently. Baker is adamant on this point.
  • Discard mint from cup or glass.
  • Pack cup or glass with crushed ice.
  • Pour in your choice of whiskey, either bourbon or rye. Do not stir!
  • Dribble rum slowly to cover as much of the surface as possible.
  • Garnish with pineapple, cherries and mint.
  • Insert straw and drink.
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