ISSUE 70  |  Spring Fling

Derby Day Recipe: Take One Julep Cup, Add Mint And…A Peony

May 03, 2013 3:00 PM

BY Erin Boyle

In case you haven’t already become acquainted, julep cups are those sturdy-looking sterling silver or pewter vessels used to mix icy, sugary juleps to enjoy on warm summer evenings. If you’re a born-and-bred Kentucky Derby fan, you might own a set of them.  But if you’re not, a whole set of sterling silver cups reserved for one kind of drink is likely not something that you have in your personal bar collection. This is no reason not to be drinking juleps. Serve your mint juleps in a set of old-fashioned glasses and we assure you, no one will complain.  But we also suggest that you keep your eye out for a julep cup or two for another reason. You guessed it: flowers.

Whether you leave them tarnished or polish them to a high shine, julep cups are perfect for creating low floral arrangements with an old-timey flair. In this arrangement, I used just one stem of a favorite flower and a whole pile of mint. Details below.

One stem of this coral charm peony goes for $10 at my local florist shop. And with good reason. Unfurled, these beauties can reach diameters of 6 inches. At that size, just one peony can light up a room.

Do you have room in your garden for just one peony bush? Consider Paeonia Coral Charm; it’s $24.95 and ships for fall planting from White Flower Farm.

In a nod to Derby Day’s most delicious tradition, I used mint leaves as an added bit of greenery in my arrangement. Bunches from my local grocery store cost just $1.50.

I picked through my mint stems to find the best-looking in the bunch and made sure to remove the lower leaves so that they wouldn’t rot under water. I used about ten stems of mint in this arrangement.

Julep cups are relatively low and squat and the wide rim provides just the right support for the oversized blooms. I held the stem of my peony next to the julep cup to make sure that I would cut it at the proper height. As always, I cut my stem at an angle to allow for maximum water absorption.

Ready to invest in a silver-plate julep cup? A Presidio Julep Cup is $39.95 from Williams-Sonoma.

Over the course of a day or two, my peony blossom unfurled to reveal the gorgeous, multilayered interior of the flower. I clustered my mint stems along just one side of my julep cup, so that the peony could rest against the other. 

If you’re planning to make this Derby-inspired arrangement  for race day, you might choose to cut or buy the peony the day before and keep it in water overnight so that it’s fully open by the time guests arrive. But if you’re like me, getting to watch the peony unfurl is half the fun (and the show lasts a heck of a lot longer than the horse race…).

What else can you do with a julep cup? Oh, right: see DIY: A Mint Julep for Derby Day That’s All About the Mint.