Uncovering the Untold Story: The Fascinating History Behind the Kentucky Derby's Iconic Drink
Richmonder John Dabney's Mint Julep
The Fascinating History Behind the Kentucky Derby's Iconic Drink
John Dabney (Encyclopedia Virginia)
While the Mint Julep seems the epitome of Kentucky Derby tradition today, the famed racetrack at Churchill Downs isn't the drink’s birthplace. The earliest juleps appeared in Virginia at the start of the 19th century and the drink’s perfection and popularity is generally attributed to a Black man, John Dabney.
John Dabney was born into slavery in Hanover County circa 1824. In his early years, Dabney’s owner hired him out to a relative who had him trained as a horse jockey. After success on the racecourses of central Virginia, Dabney earned lasting fame from his bartending, catering, and cooking. His signature culinary items which were so delicious and were often called “immortal foods” were Mint Juleps, terrapin stew, and canvasback duck.
On several occasions Richmond residents presented Dabney with large trophy cups in recognition of his mint juleps, and in October 1860 he served one to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), who was visiting the US. Black Food and Spirits attended when one of the trophy cups was returned by Dabney descendants to Richmond to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture. Dabney’s julep is known as “the most historic drink in Richmond, Virginia.”
Dabney was a devoted family man who with his wife (whose freedom he purchased) raised five children — including, schoolteachers, a professional baseball player, and a musician-turned-newspaper editor. Dabney died at his Richmond home on June 7, 1900, and was so well known that four of the Richmond’s daily newspapers reported his death.
Black Food and Spirits will honor John Dabney by serving Dabney’s Juleps on Derby Day – Celebrating the Black Godfathers of Horse Racing on 05.06.2023 in Richmond, VA.
Derby Day is Coming!
It’s not too late to join us for Derby Day - Celebrating the Black Godfathers of Horse Racing in Richmond, VA! But time is running out to secure your tickets.
One special guest will win 2 tickets to the Meet and Greet with Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey’s Master Blender, Victoria Butler on June 29, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia! Get your Derby tickets today! blackfoodandspirits.com
Victoria Butler is back in Richmond this June!
Victoria Butler, Master Blender, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey
Celebrate and Sample Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, with the multiple award winning brand’s Master Blender, Victoria Butler! Black Food and Spirits will host Victoria’s visit to Richmond, VA on Thursday, June 29, 2023! Stay tuned! We will be releasing more details in the coming weeks!