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Old 01-28-2010, 10:59 PM
Location: Philadelphia
1,325 posts, read 2,826,946 times
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Has West Virginia once again been robbed of its culinary heritage? I refer of course to the mint julep. While researching my history of slavery article and reading about the the mineral springs resorts I came across this web page.

Greenbrier Culinary Community: The Story of The Mint Julep

The mint julep is generally credited to Virginia for its New World origins, but no specific locale in Virginia is mentioned. One of the earliest mentions of the julep is in 1803 in a book of Virginia travels. Records at the Greenbrier show that by 1816 the drink was a popular feature of their menu. In Sweet Springs, Monroe County, it was also a popular drink. In the early 19th century thousands of southerners flocked to southern west Virginia for their vacations, at Sweet Springs the cottages that housed the South Carolinians were called "Nullification Row". The "Old White" had a dining room that seated 1200, and it was said if you didn't get down to dinner early you had to wait for a table. Henry Clay, who introduced the mint julep to Washington circles, was a frequent visitor to southern west Virginia, not only having relatives there, but staying at the Old White and Salt Sulphur Springs.

I found a very interesting book on a Governors conference held at the Greenbrier. The Governors seemed quite taken with Henry Clay's drinking habits. The conference took place in 1922 during Prohibition, and I think the Governors were feeling a bit thirsty. I'm sure a helpful porter at the Greenbrier knew someone who knew someone who might have a pint of something if a Governor had a thirst. Here is the book on Google Books, and for a Governor's conference it is actually interesting reading, for the historically minded.

Proceedings of the ... Conference of ... - Google Books

We have some old records here which are interesting. The day book, used as the regular register for the guests as they came in, and they did it in a very liberal way. For instance, you go back to the old books and you see the arrival of Mr. Henry Clay, and you will see on the book it is stated "Mr. Henry Clay, three ladies, four servants and six horses." You will note further down Mr. Clay's toddies for the day and Mr. Clay was a perfect gentleman—he had four or five toddies and his servants four or five. The horse feed, as a rule, cost more than the day's board. Horses in those days as now were a luxury. Those men who came here traveled horseback and came in coaches and carriages and brought their families and servants with them. The service those days, from what we read and know, must have been pretty bad. The old dining room seated 1,600 people and was cut down later to seat 1,200, and the man or woman who got to the table first was the lucky one, and we are told that in those days a pretty liberal tip was necessary to get anything at all—any kind of service. The food was prepared in a more or less crude manner, but the people seemed to get along pretty well and you didn't hear of any cases of appendicitis and nervous indigestion, etc., but instead of that the butcher and his assistants killed the cattle in the morning and killed the sheep in the morning and they were served that same evening. We look back to that now as terrible, but our forefathers and foremothers seemed to have gotten along very well with it.
This website credits the Old White with early offerings of the beverage.

Mint Julep, Mint Julep Recipe, How To Make A Mint Julep, History Mint Julep, Kentucky Mint Julep, Bourbon Whisley, Cocktail Recipes

Here are some current photos of the condition of Sweet Springs. I hope they can get it together to save it, some of the buildings have collapsed.

Sweet Springs Resort at Abandoned



This last bit is an article from Lippincott's Magazine 1898, on Sweet Springs, very interesting reading.


Last edited by Bobilee; 01-28-2010 at 11:49 PM..
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Old 01-29-2010, 06:09 AM
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It's use seems to be more of less restricted to a narrow band that follows Kentucky and across the portion of West Virginia that is in a direct north-south parallel to Kentucky. Mint Julips are delicious, but you really have to be careful with them. They hit you hard and fast, because they are basically pure whiskey with a little mint flavor. The best ones are made with Makers Mark, which is a wheat (not a bourbon) whiskey and is the variety most commonly found around Louisville. About 4 or 5 of those will put just about anyone down for the count.
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Old 01-31-2010, 05:33 PM
Location: Philadelphia
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I found two more things by accident today, sort of amusing, a New York Times article from 1911. I have to admit, I've never had a julep, maybe I'll try the recipe from the Greenbrier cookbook this summer sometime.

I also found this indignant letter written to Time Magazine for Aug. 17, 1953:
Garnish That Fulcher
. . . When we see Kentucky and Mississippi arguing as to who was responsible for the discovery of the mint julep [TIME, July 20], without even a mention of the Mountain State, we think it is time to step in and defend our honor. The Kentucky julep didn't even become popular until around 1881 . . . In the early 1830s, a tavern, which later became the Old White and still later the Greenbrier Hotel at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., was famous for its mint juleps . . . But there are indications, turned up by our office, that the julep was invented right in this section early in 1800 by slaves who used a mountain brew called fulcher* whisky and garnished their master's juleps with the mint that grew around their crude cabins . . .
Executive Director
West Virginia Industrial and Publicity Commission
Charleston, W. Va.
Domestic Symphony

Last edited by Bobilee; 01-31-2010 at 05:44 PM..
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:04 PM
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I would certainly expect the slaves of the old south to have a 'peat pot workin' by the fire.

thanks for a great and very interesting post.
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Old 01-31-2010, 11:22 PM
Location: Philadelphia
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Thank you David, I know you have as much an interest in early WV history as I do. I have to make two corrections to mistakes I have made in this and another thread.

Correction 1: Nullification Row was at Salt Sulphur Springs, not Sweet Springs.

Correction 2: Thomas Jefferson was not the architect of Sweet Springs. I was a bit sorry to read this just yesterday in my "Buildings of West Virginia", by S. Allen Chambers. Apparently Sweet Springs was built by Thomas Jefferson's assistant William B. Phillips, who helped him build the Univ. of Virginia. Sweet Springs is one of the architectural treasures of the state, and I hope they don't wait too long to preserve it. Some of the outbuildings have already collapsed.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:12 AM
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Am in the minority when I say that I really love mint julips?

I never much cared for whiskey until I had my first mint julip.
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Old 02-01-2010, 06:50 AM
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We harvest the mint my grandmother planted about 1905...dry it and store it in worn pillowcases...use it through the winter..it grows in profusion along a tiny creek about 2' wide.

Makes the most refreshing tea and tonic for the winter months.
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Old 02-05-2010, 01:54 PM
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Whiskey-- my rule of thumb is if it burns my lips I better not swallow. My stomach lining is grateful. I'm unqualified to partake shine, but might consider using it for paint thinner or tinctures. Medicinal purposes don't you know.

Mint I keep fresh on my window sill herb garden all year round if for tea. I'm still too chicken to plant it on my parcel because I've already had a dickens of a time dealing with invasive bamboo. I'll figure it out someday.

As for mint juleps, sounds like Bobilee ought to be sending this to the food channel to set the record straight. Local/bar restaurants should be made aware locally in the papers.
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Old 02-05-2010, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by CTMountaineer View Post
The best ones are made with Makers Mark, which is a wheat (not a bourbon) whiskey
I saw this on the front page and had to swing in because I love both bourbon and juleps so this bit of history was kind of interesting

I must correct the quoted comment though

Makers Mark most certainly is a Bourbon - corn is the predominate grain - it's aged for greater than 2 years in new white oak barrels - it hits all the checks and even calls itself bourbon (Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is on the bottle)

It's mash bill is around 70% corn and the small grains are pretty much split between wheat and barley

I personally tend to lean towards rye based small grain bourbons - but there are some exceptional wheated bourbons including the Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.

Staying in a more reasonable price range I'd check out the WL Weller Bourbons - still wheated and much better than Makers IMO

If you are looking for a true wheat whiskey (where wheat is over 51% of the mash bill) try to find a taste of bernheim original wheat whiskey ..... i can't buy it out here yet, but had a taste last time I was back east - it was pretty good and definitely different than bourbon, scotch or other american whiskeys
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Old 02-09-2010, 11:12 AM
Location: Chicago, IL
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Interesting info. Much of my family history goes back to Greenbriar County/White Sulfure Springs. They were some of the first non-native people to settle there.
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