April 2: Ponce de León, Florida & The Fountain Of Youth

Ponce_de_LeonOn April 2, 1513, Juan Ponce de León spotted land that he believed was an island. In recognition of the Easter season, which Spaniards called the Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers), he named this alleged island La Florida. Today we know it as the state of Florida; and that it was a peninsula.

Now, I’m not going to write about Florida, mostly because the state scares me, and with good reason. Instead, let’s look at popular story about Ponce de León. It’s said that Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth. This, as you might suspect, is a myth. While Ponce de León was looking for new lands and treasures in the hope of expanding the Spanish Empire, none of his writings mention a search for the Fountain of Youth.

The Fountain only became attached to Ponce de León after his death. Fountain of Youth stories had been told for centuries prior to Ponce de León’s exploration of the Caribbean, both amongst Europeans and the natives of modern Latin America. During his Caribbean voyage, Ponce de León was searching for Beniny, a land of riches that modern historians believe was a misunderstood reference to the kingdom of the Maya. It seems that when Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo wrote his Historia General y Natural de las Indias in 1535, he blended the story of Ponce de León’s failed hunt for Beniny with the Fountain of Youth myth and the rest was “history.”.

Naturally, there is a cocktail called Fountain Of Youth. While I cannot speak for its restorative properties, it is quite refreshing. It’s a twist on the Pimm’s Cup that wouldn’t be out of place at an alcohol-friendly spa.

Fountain Of Youth

  • 3 cucumber slices
  • 1 1/2 ounces Gin
  • 2 1/2 ounces white cranberry juice
  • 1 teaspoon Pimm’s No. 1
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

Place two of the cucumber slices, the lime juice and Pimm’s Number 1 in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle them together. Then add the gin, white cranberry juice, and ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the remaining cucumber slice.

Tomorrow: We eat in the hat for the last time.

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