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Podcast Summary:

“Anyway, I’ll Drink to That” is a Boozn Sam’s production, exploring the fun, quirky, and fascinating tales of drinks (The Mint Julep in this episode) that define culture, history and the world. Every drink has a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it…as true as I can. Hosted by Sam, from Boozn Sam’s. Saddle up with a good cocktail and give me a few minutes of your time for a mystery surrounding a drink that changed the world.

Episode 13 Details:

The origins of the Mint Julep date back to ancient Persian times and the Safavid Empire, which was a famous but treacherous family that ruled most of Persia through murdering and killing their own family members. Persian culture was the birthplace for the name of this now famous Kentucky Derby drink.

Transcript of Podcast:

*This is the entire podcast episode in written form. Do not read if you want the audio version to be spoiled.

Pari looked on as the corpse of her brother Ishmail the second was lowered in the ground and buried. They concluded the Persian ritual as was customary, with a grand dinner fit for a king, because…well, Ishmail the second was a king, and they washed it down with a delicate drink that would give it’s name to a famous drink three hundred years later.

Pari watched the ceremonies with a cautious eye, was unconcerned. With her brother now dead, poisoned, mysteriously, the kingdom would fall to her. And what a kingdom it was. 

Considered as one of the three great empires of the early modern muslim world that also included the Ottoman Empire and the Mughal Empire, the Safavid Empire expanded from the Caucasus Mountains, wrapped around the Kaspian Sea, and ended where Iran is today.

Pari was no stranger to power, which, for a woman, was not uncommon during this time. Today, such behavior from the Middle East would be received quite different. But, back then, before the regression of values in the forward progression named religion, it was not unique for a woman to run a kingdom. 

Pari had, in fact, when her ailing father was in his last years. Then after his death, and after twenty years imprisoned by his own father, out of fear and jealousy for how well liked he was, Ishmail, with the help of Pari took the thrown. 

There were many other claims to the thrown at this time. The kingdom had grown powerful in the 75 years that it had already existed and there was much to desire in the way of wealth, land and power. Ishmail, to secure his spot, and with the help of his sister Pari, killed all those siblings, except for his full brother, who had a claim on the thrown. 

Without a clearly designated successor by her father, Pari had to imagine that the kingdom would fall apart from civil war and factions. Something had to be done. So she took a side. And, in doing so, I doubt either her or Ishmail the second participated in any of the customary funeral rituals that followed all of their murdered, with the drink that gave it’s name to a fashionable drink today. 

Now, only a four years removed from all of that chaos, Pari was up against the same thing once more. She had participated heavily in the ruling of the kingdom under Ishmail the Second, as well. But, would the men let her continue to rule? Surely not. Their egos were too fragile. Pride too big. This was a patriarchal society, after all. When one king died another must be selected or ascend to the throne somehow, even if no successor was selected.

Of course, she’d thought this over many times in many different ways before she poisoned her brother, and continued to reach the same conclusion. If she continued to act as ruler, who would stop her?

No one had with her father. No one had with her brother. The kingdom had enjoyed her years of reign and wisdom to help guide it toward greater prosperity. In parts of the kingdom, Kashan in particular, the drink she was drinking now was making a surge in popularity, thrust forward by the distilleries that popped up overnight and flooded the kingdom and beyond its border with the sweet, slightly soapy to some, flavored drink that seemed to suddenly dominate Persian culture.

Pari had a loyal following. Many personal guards and servants. Surely it would be madness for someone to oppose her. So, the best thing for her to do was act as if she owned the kingdom, and people would think she did. 

She mulled this over as she sipped the drink heralded for its medical benefits and healing properties and pretended to console those around her who mourned the dead king. She had other problems. Bigger problems. A kingdom to rule. One of the largest and most important of the time.

So, for over two months Pari ruled the Safavid Empire, until a council, comprised of men, appointed one of the few still living that also had the royal bloodline. Mohammad. The full brother that Ishmail the Second spared during his murderous family rampage and ascent to the throne. 

Still, Pari felt confident that Mohammad and his wife Madh-e would be no problem for her. You see, Mohammad was old and his blindness made it challenging to rule. He’d rather spend his time enjoying the pleasure of women than ruling. And his wife was a woman and, well, a woman would know her place. After all, this was a patriarchal society. 

With Mohammad in power, Pari knew that she could continue on as she always had, ruling and controlling the affairs of this great kingdom. She gave her agreement to the new proposed king for that reason. Knowing she could still control the kingdom with a weak king in power. And, if all else failed, and he didn’t bend to her will, like her father, and like her other brother, then she would toast and sip another glass of this rose flavored drink to another dead king. 

So, a few days later when Mohammad and Madh-e arrived in the city to take the throne she greeted them on a gold throne of her own. Flanked by 5,000 personal guards and servants. She looked at the people around her, her heart beat pumping harder in her young chest. At 28 she had achieved alot. But, back then, that was not uncommon. 

When you lived till 50, at best, you needed to get started with really living life a little sooner. Of all the things that we’ve forgotten in our society today, this would be a good one to remember. For even though our lives are longer, our life in those years is shorter.

50, of course is a ripe old age to reach during this age. And, it was an age Pari would never reach, as that very same day she greeted Mohammad and Madh-e at the gates of the city to welcome them through with a display of her power, she was strangled by the bare hands of a man loyal to the new queen: Madh-e

As it turns out, Madh-e had an equal amount of desire to prove that a woman can rule. And she did. Until, years later, she had the power snatched by a son of Mohammads, that was not her son, when he rode into the capital and forced Mohammad, his own father, to give him the crown under threat of death. 

And in that way Abbas, not Madh-e, or Pari, would be attached to the period of this famous empire’s rule that was considered the pinnacle of its rule and height of it’s power. 

And no one, I’m sure, took the time to tip back a drink of rose water in honor of these women. 

A drink that flourished under the Safavid Empire under blooming rosewater distilleries throughout the kingdom, 

And started an annual event, which is now over 700 years old, that translates as the “rosewater making festival” 

that honors the blessings and greatness of the natural world  and its many gifts, 

Including gulab.

An ancient Persian word that translates into “rose water”

A non alcoholic drink that infuses Damask roses with water, 

A popular drink the middle east still today, 

But which has another drink derived from it in American culture.

Julep

Derived from gulab

Which signifies the infusion of something in water.

In the case of Gulab it’s roses in water.

For Julep it’s mint

Which is crushed and muddled with a bit of water and sugar, 

Tossed with some bourbon

And garnished with a mint leaf

The Mint Julep

Named after a rose water infusion that flourished under one of the great early modern Middle Eastern kingdoms, 

A regal kingdom that also existed with a surprising twist of powerful females ruling, but ultimately succumbing to violence and cultural norms, something that has unfortunately become even more common place today.

But, it’s only fitting that we toast the mint julep’s powerful and regal history, 

Filled with so many struggling to win at any cost, 

Not unlike the Kentucky Derby, which is, ironically, so closely tied to the mint julep today.

Anyway… I’ll drink to that.