A history of julep cups

Julep cup Wakefield-Searce

Wakefield-Searce sterling silver mint julep cup, $850. Photo from Wakefield-Searce website

It’s Kentucky Derby week in Louisville, Ky., which means we’re hearing a lot about mint juleps. Contents aside, what makes this drink stand out is the distinctive cup in which it is traditionally served.

Wakefield-Searce Galleries in Shelbyville, Ky., has a long history of making julep cups. Since the Franklin Roosevelt administration, Wakefield-Searce has sent a silver julep cup to each U.S. president, hand engraved with the Presidential Seal on the side and the president’s initials on the bottom.

A fascinating history on the company’s website includes this delightful description of the mint julep excerpted from a 1937 letter from Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr., a Munfordville, Ky., nativeto General William D. Connor, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who had requested the recipe:

“A mint julep is not the product of a formula. It is a ceremony and must be performed by a gentleman possessing a true sense of the artistic, a deep reverence for the ingredients, and a proper appreciation of the occasion. It is a rite that must not be entrusted to a novice, a statistician, nor a Yankee. It is a heritage of the Old South, an emblem of hospitality, and a vehicle in which noble minds can travel together upon the flower-strewn paths of happy and congenial thought.”

 Read the rest of the julep cup history here.

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