Mint juleps are a favorite hot-weather drink of mine. They're an ice cold, aromatic dance between fresh mint and good bourbon--and they are just so beautiful! (Look at this picture and tell me you don't already feel slightly refreshed.)
Cocktails are fascinating to me, and I think there are a couple reasons why this might be. First (and most importantly, perhaps), cocktails are ways to make art out of your favorite kind of liquor. It's a way to add a touch of class to your beverage, and they're interesting and aesthetically pleasing. This, then, leads to my second reason for being intrigued by nice cocktails--that it says something about the way people think about what they consume (and how much they're willing to pay to consume beautiful things).
Granted, mint juleps don't take much by way of supplies and are relatively cheap to make. However, there are hundreds of cocktails that either have several ingredients and are very labor-intensive to make or that consist of one ingredient--a top-shelf liquor of some sort--poured over ice. Regardless, we are still willing to pay a pretty penny for drinks that are aesthetically pleasing, and this is curious to me. Interestingly, though, we aren't often as inclined to pay a little extra (or even put a little extra effort into) fresh, locally grown foods. Why is that?
I think much of the problem revolves around our culture's idea that food is just fuel, and not something that should be revered daily at each meal. I don't think many people have a vibrant cosmopolitan or a crisp, austere old fashioned every night, and so we think of these drinks as more special than food.
But I would like to look at food like I look at a nicely made cocktail--beautiful, rich, and aesthetically pleasing. If we think of food as our chance to create something beautiful every day, we can turn even a couple ingredients into something we are truly proud to eat. And, just like many of the best cocktails, a bit more labor will be required than if we were to just slop things together and gulp it down. But the end result, I think, is a piece of art that will help us develop a greater appreciation and reverence for the everyday food we eat.