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Kentucky Derby Museum
Urban Bourbon

The Mint Julep

The Mint Julep has been a Kentucky tradition for more than a century with the earliest origins of the drink documented as a morning beverage to add a little zip to the day! What began as a rum cocktail now has evolved to become the most iconic bourbon drink associated with the "Run for the Roses" (TM). Today, more than 120,000 mint juleps are served in souvenir glasses at the track during the Kentucky Derby.


Mint Julep Glasses

The story of the souvenir glass started somewhat as an accident. In 1938, water glasses with the name of Churchill Downs and the year on them started disappearing from the dining areas. Management decided to charge an extra 25 cents and allow patrons to keep the glasses. By 1939, they were used especially for mint juleps and the sale of this signature drink tripled. The Libbey Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio was contracted to create the glasses in color, which made them more attractive for purchase.

Over the years some modifications have occurred. In 1940, over apparent concern for broken glass found on the racetrack grounds, aluminum tumblers were used. During the war years, 1942-1944, aluminum was at a premium and a composite ceramic-type tumbler of various colors was produced by the Beetleware Company. Until 1974, you could only buy a glass at the track on Derby Day making it a popular souvenir for race fans. Beginning with the 100th Derby, they were made available to other outlets. Today about 700,000 official glasses are produced, with 2/3 sold off-track.


Sterling Silver Julep Cups

Churchill Downs President Bill Corum introduced the Sterling Silver julep cups in 1951. The idea of a sterling silver julep cup was an idea of Col. Matt Winn, Corum's predecessor who died in 1949. Winn had discussed with Downs's officials his feeling that there should be another official, useful souvenir of the Kentucky Derby.

The cups feature a small horseshoe and they hold 12 fluid ounces. The silver julep cup plays an important role in Kentucky Derby folklore. Traditionally, the governor of Kentucky salutes the victorious Derby owner with a toast at the Winner's Party following the race.



Mint Julep


Get a Julep or Derby glass at our Finish Line Gift Shop!




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