Delicious Food on Tap at Kentucky’s Bourbon Distilleries
Just as there’s more to bourbon than corn and grain, there’s so much more to Kentucky’s famed distilleries than just the liquid gold they create. In addition to producing nearly 95% of the world’s bourbon, some of these historic and beautiful facilities also offer top-notch food experiences as well.
From elegant restaurants and riverside taverns to casual cafés and gourmet chocolate pairings, the Bluegrass State’s bourbon distilleries are ready to tantalize your taste buds.
Here’s a roundup of some of the top distillery food experiences in Kentucky.
Star Hill Provisions, Maker’s Mark
Most bourbon connoisseurs are familiar with the iconic red wax seal that tops every bottle of Maker’s Mark, but few know this distillery in Loretto is also home to an acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant serving up the fresh flavors of Kentucky.
Tucked inside the beautifully renovated Distiller’s House, Star Hill Provisions offers a seasonal menu of locally sourced and inspired ingredients that chef Newman Miller has carefully curated to pair with signature bourbon cocktails.
Raised just 10 miles from the distillery, Newman went on to lead kitchens in Louisville, Chicago and Scotland before returning home to eventually take over the culinary program at Maker’s Mark. Since then, he has also hosted dining experiences, partnered with celebrity chefs and even cooked at the prestigious James Beard House.
You’ll see why the minute you taste creations like house-fried chips with beer cheese dip, Golden Reserve two-cheese meatloaf sandwich on toasted ciabatta, and a Whisky Creek Salad blending roasted butternut squash, sunflower seeds, walnuts, local asiago cheese and greens with maple bourbon vinaigrette.
Firehouse Sandwich Stop, Buffalo Trace
Sprawled over 130 acres along the Kentucky River in the very spot where buffalo once migrated, Buffalo Trace in Frankfort has been crafting fine bourbon for more than 200 years as the oldest continuously operating distillery in America. (It was even permitted to remain open during Prohibition to make bourbon for “medicinal purposes.)
Today, Buffalo Trace offers the cure for what ails you in the form of great bourbon, barbecue and burgoo. Located just a short walk from the Visitor Center inside the circa-1930s distillery firehouse, the Firehouse Sandwich Stop mixes distillery memorabilia with a memorable menu of good eats.
You won’t want to miss the restaurant’s award-winning burgoo (voted best in Kentucky by the readers of USA Today) but slow-smoked pork, chicken and brisket with all the fixings will tempt you, as well as the bourbon ball ice cream.
Feeling extra adventurous? Tackle the employee-named “Hog Dog,” a quarter-pound Angus beef hot dog topped with pulled pork.
The Kitchen and Bar, Bardstown Bourbon Company
Situated on 100 acres of active farmland in the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” Bardstown Bourbon Company is one of the world’s most modern and technically advanced whiskey distilleries.
Flavors coming out of The Kitchen & Bar are just as complex, thanks to a mouthwatering selection of scratch-made, Southern-inspired dishes featuring seasonal, local ingredients. Artisan salads and farm-fresh meats and cheeses pair with craft cocktails to dazzle your taste buds in swanky surroundings.
While the restaurant’s menu is constantly evolving, recent hits include a country ham and cheese sandwich, chicken saltimbocca panini and Bardstown club.
Glenn’s Creek Café, Woodford Reserve
Dating back to 1812, Woodford Reserve is a National Historic Landmark in a pastoral setting tucked among the rolling hills of Versailles. A pillar on Kentucky’s culinary scene, chef-in-residence Ouita Michel leads the kitchen at the distillery’s Glenn Creek Café, offering specialty coffees and light fare.
Her Bourbon Trail Chili – featuring locally raised beef, black beans and Great Northern beans simmered in bourbon-spiked chili gravy with tomatoes and peppers – is served with a wedge of piping hot scratch-made cornbread, while her Turkey in the Barrel sandwich is made with sliced turkey stacked on wheatberry bread with white cheddar, hot bourbon mustard, red onion and lettuce.
Or just go all in with her Bourbon Barbecue Pulled Pork Sammich Platter, a feast of slow-cooked and locally smoked Stone Cross Farm pork roast with Woodford Bourbon BBQ sauce, white cheddar and pickle on a fresh kaiser roll. With coleslaw on the side, naturally.
Desserts include specialty treats from nearby Midway Bakery and gourmet ice cream from Lexington’s Crank & Boom. Or for an extra special pick-me-up, indulge in a Bluegrass Mocha. The double espresso with frothed milk and bourbon-spiked fudge sauce is pure heaven in a cup.
Elkhorn Tavern, Barrel House Distillery
Located inside the historic 1780 barreling house of the old James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, the appropriately named Barrel House Distillery is committed to producing fine spirits using the traditional methods made famous by some of Kentucky’s most storied bourbon-makers.
After a tour and tasting, make your way to the distillery’s Elkhorn Tavern, a lounge and taproom on the banks of the Elkhorn River that showcases its bourbon, vodka, rum and moonshine in inventive cocktails served with light regional fare in rustic surroundings featuring natural wood accents, plus copper bar tops and ceilings.
Whet your appetite with a beer cheese platter or tortilla chips with a “cowboy caviar” of corn, black beans, black-eyed peas, onions, red pepper and tomatoes in zesty vinaigrette. Then fill up on Kentucky country ham rolls with honey mayo, slow-cooked soup beans or a hearty burgoo made with elk, rabbit, beef and vegetables.
And don’t miss the restaurant’s corn mash muffins and breads made with the distillery’s own Rockcastle Bourbon spent grains!
Alex&nder, Copper & Kings
Using traditional copper pot distillation methods, Copper & Kings in Louisville crafts pure American brandies with uncompromising standards from start to finish. That same care goes into the food lovingly prepared by award-winning chef Dallas McGarity in the distillery’s upscale restaurant, Alex&nder.
Combining classic cocktails with dazzling views of downtown Louisville, Alex&nder’s menu shines as well with gourmet appetizers like bacon and chive hushpuppies with tzatziki; warm goat cheese dip with roasted tomatoes and sumac; roasted cauliflower with gochujang hoisin, garam masala and toasted peanuts; and kimchi risotto fritters with spicy mayo and sriracha powder.
Mouthwatering dinner options include curry-spiced salmon with beans and greens; braised short ribs with creamy polenta and brandy-cheery demiglace; and shrimp and grits with andouille sausage and Cajun butter sauce.
But they just may have saved the best for last. End your feast with the brandied hazelnut chocolate mousse; a warm chocolate chip blondie with caramel, cherries and pistachios; or – get a load of this! – Brandy Alexander with chocolate liqueur, nutmeg and cream.
Chocolate Pairings, Lux Row
After hiring other distillers to blend its bourbon for more than 40 years, Luxco opened its own 18,000-square-foot, six-warehouse facility in Bardstown called Lux Row, featuring a 43-foot custom copper still capable of producing 3 million gallons of spirit per year.
After taking an immersive tour of the facility famous for producing Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks, David Nicholson, Daviess County and Blood Oath bourbons, you can enjoy a premium bourbon tasting and chocolate pairing – with a souvenir glass to take home with you.