Hot Tip: You Can Buy Booze at Costco and Sam’s Club Without a Membership

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Wholesale chains are great places to go for food like hot dogs, rotisserie chickens, and massive cheese wheels. But in many parts of the country, stores like Costco and Sam's Club also offer impressive selections of beer, wine, and liquor. In addition to being cheap and plentiful, the booze sold at bulk stores comes with another perk: They're often some of the only items for sale that you don't need a membership to purchase, according to Lifehacker.

The benefits that come with store memberships—such as access to bulk groceries, water deliveries, and even cheap funeral accessories in Costco's case—are well worth the annual fees for many customers. But even if you aren't willing to pay $45 to $100 upfront to do your grocery shopping, a visit to a bulk outlet may be worth the trip if you're looking to stock up on alcohol.

Thanks to a legal loophole in some states, retailers aren't allowed to require customers to sign up for memberships before buying alcoholic beverages. At Sam's Club, that means you can pick up a 12 pack (or a 30 pack) at any location without proving you're a member first. The way Costco handles booze sales is less clear. Though the chain won't disclose the specifics of its policy, according to Lifehacker, "word on the street is that you don’t need a membership to buy beer, wine or spirits if you shop in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Texas, or Vermont."

So if you find yourself near a wholesale store and want to do all your beverage shopping for the month at once, don't be afraid to walk in without a membership card. The stores carry the same big-name brands as regular outlets, and even the store-brand options are popular with customers. But if you want to take home a robot-prepared pizza to go with your Costco beer, you may need spring for that membership.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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A Brief History of the Mint Julep

Mint juleps began as medicine.
Mint juleps began as medicine.
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images Plus

The mint julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby—but the cocktail's history dates to back long before the famous event was even conceptualized.

The Ancient (and Medicinal) Origins of the Julep

According to David Wondrich's cocktail history book Imbibe!, the first known record of a julep is from the Kitab al-Mansuri, a Persian medical text dated to around 900 CE. However, the julep that the author included in the Kitab al-Mansuri looked much different than the modern favorite (it was also written as julāb). It was a medicinal drink made by soaking violets with sugar in water. "Julep" pops up in the historical record again in the 1400s when the book was translated into Latin.

The drink was used almost strictly as medicine for centuries. It migrated across the Atlantic with early European settlers making their way to America, along with an herb prized for its medicinal qualities: mint.

Why the Mint Julep is a Spring and Summer Drink

Around the time the julep hit the U.S., things changed a bit. In the 18th century, people started drinking it recreationally as well as medicinally, but we wouldn’t recognize those tipples as a modern julep.

First off, they would have been made with whatever spirit was locally available. Before the Civil War, Southern juleps were likely made with fruit brandy. In Maryland, the julep was (and still is) made with rye whiskey. Elsewhere, it would have been made with rum or rye or moonshine or pretty much any available booze. The drink would be sweetened with honey, sorghum syrup, or any other available sweetener.

And since mint wasn’t available year-round—it’s a perennial plant that grows near water, and, according to The Kitchn, pops up first thing in the spring—the mint julep would have been a seasonal drink, best enjoyed in the spring and summer.

Kentucky Senator Henry Clay: Inventor of the Mint Julep

A portrait of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay
Henry Clay: American statesman, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and inventor of the mint julep
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As the story goes, bourbon’s role as the go-to base for the julep was cemented by Kentucky Senator Henry Clay. Clay is famous for a number of things, such as brokering the “corrupt bargain” that secured the 1824 presidential election for John Quincy Adams. The Kentucky senator also mixed his mint juleps with his state’s native spirit, and he is credited as the bourbon mint julep's founding father.

Clay’s love of the julep is well-documented. He likely introduced the drink to the famed Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. around the time it opened in 1847. Clay's journals indicate that he made his juleps with “mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels.”

Henry Clay’s Mint Julep Recipe

As collected by the University of Kentucky Press, Clay's mint julep recipe from his diary is as follows:

"The mint leaves, fresh and tender, should be pressed against a coin-silver goblet with the back of a silver spoon. Only bruise the leaves gently and then remove them from the goblet. Half fill with cracked ice. Mellow bourbon, aged in oaken barrels, is poured from the jigger and allowed to slide slowly through the cracked ice.

In another receptacle, granulated sugar is slowly mixed into chilled limestone water to make a silvery mixture as smooth as some rare Egyptian oil, then poured on top of the ice. While beads of moisture gather on the burnished exterior of the silver goblet, garnish the brim of the goblet with the choicest sprigs of mint."

Or, in modern terms:

Handful of mint leaves
1/4 to 1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 ounces bourbon
Crushed ice

Lightly press (don’t smush!) the mint leaves against the inside of a silver julep cup so that you can smell the mint. Add the simple syrup. Fill the glass halfway with cracked ice, and pour the bourbon over the ice. Stir until the glass starts to frost over. Add more ice and stir again. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a short straw.

Why do people drink mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby?

A photo of a person holding a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby
The mint julep has been the official drink of the Kentucky Derby since the 1930s.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Churchill Downs

Mint juleps have been served at Churchill Downs—the home of the Kentucky Derby—since the track was built in 1875 (legend has it that mint was even planted at the track for juleps). But the mint julep didn’t become the official drink of the Derby until the 1930s. Sarah Brown Meehan, director of lifestyle communications at Churchill Downs, told Good Morning America that "we know that juleps were a big part of the event by Prohibition because the press at the time lamented the Kentucky Derby without its favorite drink."

After Prohibition was repealed, master bourbon distiller Chris Morris told GMA, making juleps the official drink of the Derby “simply recognized the fact that Kentuckians had been enjoying mint juleps while attending horse races since the early 19th century, if not earlier."