Whether you prefer it neat, on the rocks, or mixed with sugar, there is no denying bourbon is the drink of choice in Kentucky. Everyone here has a lot of opinions about bourbon. Which one’s tastes the best? Which one has the prettiest distillery? Which one has the coolest label? But it is so much more than that.
Whether you drink it or not, most Louis- villians probably have something made out of a barrel staves in their home, a go-to distillery for out-of-town guests, or even a famous family dessert whose secret ingredient involves a splash of something off the bar cart. Long story short, bourbon is more than just a drink around these parts. It’s a culture.
As event planners, we are often asked to come up with creative ways of reimagining traditions. Below we have compiled a list of ways to celebrate our bourbon culture, and none of them require you to drink it!
There is more to bourbon site seeing than distillery tours. Below is our mini city guide to the best in bourbon, beyond the distilleries and bars!
Bourbon Inspired Menus
We just reminded you to cook with your bourbon, so why not learn from the best. Many Louisville chefs have embraced the bottle by infusing their menus with our city’s most beloved spirit. Our favorites are Bourbon’s Bistro (2255 Frankfort Avenue), where the menu’s Bone-in Pork Chop is covered in a bourbon demi-glaze, Grind Burger Kitchen (829 East Market Street) for their Old-Fashioned Burger, named after the cocktail, and Whiskey Dry (4th Street Live) where every meal can end with a bourbon milkshake.
Bourbon History 101
Learn how bourbon put Kentucky, and Louisville, on the map with a deep dive into bourbon history at the Frazier Museum (829 West Main Street), home of the Bourbon Trail Official Starting Point, and the current Spirit of Kentucky exhibition.
Beyond the Distillery
Bourbon industry is more than just the spirit. There are sites hidden all over the city that fill in the blanks left by distilleries. Just a little east of Bourbon Row is the home of Vendome Copper and Brass Works (729 East Franklin Street), the birthplace of many of Kentucky’s most famous distilleries’ gorgeous stills. Looking for a field trip away from downtown, visit the grave of one of bourbon’s most respected forefathers, I.W. Harper’s own Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, located in the Olmsted designed Bernheim Arbore- tum and Research Forest (Clermont, KY).
When thanking a loved one, visiting a friend outside of Kentucky, or welcoming a guest, no gift is as versatile as bourbon. While bringing a bottle is an excellent and everyone loves a stellar bourbon ball, there are so many other ways to say thank you with bourbon. Three of our favorite local shops will help you find the perfect bourbon inspired gifts for every situation. Pappy and Company, in their brand-new home in the NULU neighborhood (843 East Market Street) carries everything from culinary specialties, to books and ap- parel. Similarly, the Stitzel Weller Distillery shop has it all from clothing to bar tools, and all are equally stylish! However, if you can’t get enough of the golden liquid itself, stop by Moss Hill Bath and Body located in Butcher- town Market (2101 Story Avenue) and enjoy the sweet smell of the good stuff with no ID required. They sell an assortment of products infused with bourbon and inspired by its most famous cocktails. We especially like the Mint Julep Chapstick!
A nightcap is always a great way to top off a summer Kentucky evening, but here are three other ways you will find us partaking in the bourbon community.
Entertain with Bourbon
One of our favorite aspects of bourbon is the bottles. There are endless uses for bourbon bottles once the liquid is gone. Most commonly, we use them for entertaining in place of vases and water carafes. More experienced crafters have turned them into lamps, candles and clever kitchen storage. The possibilities are endless!
Cook with Bourbon
The sweet and smoky flavor of bourbon compliments many southern culinary traditions. Give more drama to a delicious pecan pie with the addition of bourbon to your family’s favorite recipe. Add a splash to homemade barbecue sauce for an experience beyond any store-bought brand. And don’t forget to use bourbon infused spices. Bourbon Barrel Foods (multiple locations, including its newest in Fall City Market of the Omni Hotel) will keep you stocked in bourbon smoked salt, pepper, and paprika.
Decorate with Bourbon
While the picturesque photographs of distilleries are gorgeous in any home, there is more you can do with bourbon to decorate your space. Drunkwood (drunkwoodinkentucky.com) is a no brainer when it comes to your walls, with endless possibilities of customizable bourbon barrel creations. You can take it one step further and serve your bourbon inspired dinner atop a barrel stave table, or while sitting on a one-of-a-kind bench. Check out Bourbon Barrel Rehab (bourbonbarrelrehab.com) for inspiration. They even make jewelry!