During my university years, I was spending so much time in a local pub I finally asked if I could work there as a busboy. The pay was lousy, the job dirty and sometimes back-breaking, and I constantly smelled like other people’s food. But there were two perks, courtesy of various brewers: a constant supply of pint glasses and promotional black T-shirts. Whenever a beer would be discontinued, branded barware would be free for the taking. I didn’t buy a glass for years and drank everything (juice, milk, coffee and, yes, beer) at literal pint-size. I felt like it was a pretty good arrangement.
Still, the time comes for every man to cast away chipped Carlsberg glasses and embrace actual glassware. As I became more interested in cocktails and home bartending, I discovered a world of vessels purpose-made for different drinks. Back when people took their drinking more seriously, there was a glass for virtually every cocktail: cordial glass, Irish coffee glass, zombie glass. While it’s true that most home bartenders could get by with a few highball, Collins, rocks and cocktail glasses, it’s worth taking a look at a few other, somewhat more obscure glasses. In this space, I’ll periodically highlight some that I’ve added to my collection over the years.
Uncommon Glassware: Silver Mint Julep Cups
The traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, a Mint Julep is the perfect cooler for when the sun is beating down and the humidity is nearing 100%. Check out cocktail historian David Wondrich’s authoritative recipe. It’s traditionally served in silver beakers that frost over beautifully when the drink is prepared correctly. This is one of those instances of a drink being essentially influenced by the vessel in which it’s served.
A few years ago, I was going to have some friends over to watch the Derby, so, on a whim I went into an antique shop and asked if they had any Mint Julep cups. The second I was referred to their deadly serious ‘silver consultant’, I knew I was in over my head. “Are you from the South?” he reverently asked. When I told him I was not, he solemnly informed me that “Julep season is very short in Canada.” Good to know! He showed me a beautiful 10-piece sterling silver set that cost a mere…$3,000. I apologized for wasting his time and fled.
Thankfully, I was able to find some much more affordable ($25), silver-plated options at Angus and Company. I now keep a few out for my wife to use as low vases and a couple more ready in the freezer at all times, for whenever Julep O’Clock rolls around. Mine is the cup pictured above, versus the one at the top of this post (though I suppose that’s also "above"). Oh, sure, theirs is more pewtery-looking — but that’s simply a function of the lighting. And I just know that mine tastes better.