Southern Weddings

We’ve taken a bit of hiatus from our Southern Delicacy features, but in honor of Derby Week, we think the mint julep is a great one to jump back in with!

Photo by The Studio B from Anne + Eric’s wedding

There is just something about those shiny silver mint julep glasses–we love them filled with fresh mint or flowing with flowers. There is no question that that these glasses are the epitome of classic and Southern! How to make a true mint julep remains a hotly debated topic in the world of bar tending and mixology, but the classic version of a mint julep is served in silver julep cups, filled to the brim with a refreshing concoction of the finest bourbon, simple syrup, fresh mint, and crushed ice. These classic silver cups should be chilled before being served.

Fun fact: if you want to fit in at the Derby, be sure to hold the glass properly! Only by the bottom and rim of the glass, so one’s hand does not transfer heat to the drink. I imagine Rhett Butler made a mean mint julep, AND knew how to hold the glass!

On left: photo by Elaine Palladino from Baylor + Daniel’s wedding; on right: photo by Ashley Seawell from Sarah + Gabe’s wedding

I was unable to track down the exact origin of the julep, but it is said that the mint julep originated in the Southern United States around the eighteenth century, and can be traced back to a British novel from 1803, in which a traveler wrote about drinking a mint julep at a northern Virginia plantation. It was described as “a dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” It has also been said that farmers in the South drank mint juleps in the morning, using the mint to jumpstart their days! Yikes, I bet that’d put a pep in your step!

Photos by Katie Stoops from Love in the Commonwealth

The term “julep” is generally defined as a “sweet drink, particularly one used as a vehicle for medicine.” The word itself is derived from the Persian word Golâb, meaning “rose water.”

While earlier recipes included many other spirits, such as rum or gin, bourbon-based juleps have decisively eclipsed all others. As a champagne celebration kind of gal myself, I love the twist of a champagne julep! And if you didn’t think the MJ could get any more Southern, there’s the mint julep sweet tea recipe!

On left: photo by Justin DeMutiis from Jessica + Derek’s wedding; on right: photo by Laura Gordon from Ellie + Breck’s wedding

Nowadays, the mint julep is synonymous with the Kentucky Derby, and rightly so! The mint julep first became the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938 when they were served them in collectable glasses and sold them for 75 cents apiece. Since then, almost 120,000 mint juleps are served over the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. This feat requires more than 10,000 bottles of Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail, 1,000 pounds of freshly harvested mint, and 60,000 pounds of ice! Woah!

Now if only I could don some Lilly and my Jacks, and have a silver glass in my hand, I’d be sure to enjoy the Derby! Cheers, y’all!

P.S. Check out our past Delicacies for some yummy treats to accompany your drink!

marissa Written with love by Marissa
5 Comments
  1. avatar Kathryn reply

    I am growing mint for the first time this year, and it’s grown like crazy this week! I will have to use it for derby drinks. Thank you for this history.

  2. avatar Veronica reply

    Hey Marisaa,
    Great post.Thanks for sharing.Mint is really beneficial in summers.I love its smell :)

  3. avatar Lisa Hays reply

    Where can I purchase the silver cups? Do they have to be of sterling? And while I’m asking – does anyone know where to get copper cups that Moscow Mules are served in?

    • avatar Marissa reply

      Hi Lisa! We love these monogrammed ones from Three Hip Chicks! http://www.threehipchicks.com/products/monogrammed-silver-mint-julep-cup And these Moscow Mule ones from Sur La Tables: http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-1398882/Moscow+Mule+Copper+Mug

  4. avatar Matt reply

    Nice summary Marissa…the photography make me thirsty :)

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