Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we stop in Kentucky for some bourbon and bluegrass music. The Bluegrass State, named for the blue flowers from the species of grass found in the area, is known for so much more, so let’s get to it:
Motto: “United we stand, divided we fall” – Sounds like something you’d see on a movie poster.
Food: Kentucky Fried Chicken, with its secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices was first introduced in the state, but that seems too easy for this category. Instead, let’s go with the Hot Brown Sandwich, invented at Louisville’s Brown Hotel. The sandwich features chicken or turkey breast, with bacon and Mornay sauce, which is baked or broiled until the bread is crispy. It is very popular throughout Kentucky.
Drink: 95 per cent of all Bourbon is produced in Kentucky, with more barrels aging across the state than its population. Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the World and hosts an annual Bourbon Festival. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail includes distilleries such as Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, Evan Williams, and Maker’s Mark.
Site to See: Mammoth Cave National Park is home to the longest cave system in the world and it’s still being explored today. It is the second oldest tourist attraction in the U.S., after Niagara Falls. Mammoth Cave was named a World Heritage Site in 1981.
Street: Along Main Street in Louisville, a number of attractions can be found, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Kentucky Science Center and Frazier History Museum. Restaurants and bars also line this entertainment district.
TV Show: Daniel Boone aired for six season and 165 episodes, following the adventures of the real-life frontiersman. Set in Boonesborough (founded by Boone), the series starred Fess Parker, who was previously known for playing Davy Crockett. When Disney refused to sell the rights to Davy Crockett to NBC, Daniel Boone became the subject matter.
Movie: Coal Miner’s Daughter is a biographical film about Kentucky singer, Loretta Lynn. Starring Sissy Spacek, the movie documents Lynn’s rise from humble beginnings to being a top country music star. Spacek won an Oscar for her role, including singing all of Lynn’s most popular songs.
Book/Author: The father of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, was born in Louisville. His most famous works include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary, both of which starred Johnny Depp, when adapted into films. Thompson and Depp were friends and the actor made sure to carry out the writer’s last wishes to have his ashes shot out of a cannon.
Fictional Character: Rick Grimes, leader of the focal group of survivors in The Walking Dead, is Kentucky born and bred. A police officer, prior to the zombie apocalypse, Rick is highly-skilled in fighting the “walkers” and also with survival tactics.
Fictional City: There wasn’t much to choose from for this category, but I did find that the movie In Country was set in Hopewell. The box office flop stars Bruce Willis, just after he became Die Hard famous, but is about a high school graduate (played by Emily Lloyd) trying to learn about her father who she never met after he died in the Vietnam War.
Actor/Actress: Three Hollywood A-listers hail from Kentucky: Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Jennifer Lawrence. They were born in Owensboro, Lexington and Indian Hills, respectively. The trio have been responsible for some of the most memorable movies and characters of recent times, but have never worked together in any combination.
Song: Bluegrass music is the State Music of Kentucky and a fine example of the style (which the Sip Advisor is a fan of) is Blue Moon of Kentucky, by Bill Monroe. The song has also been recorded by Elvis Presley, rearranged to be a rock and roll tune, and released as the B-side of The King’s first single in 1954.
Band/Musician: More on Monroe, who was born in Rosine, and has been called the father of the Bluegrass genre. After all, his band The Blue Grass Boys, inspired the name of the style. Monroe was made an honorary Kentucky Colonel in 1966 and inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
People: The fact opposing leaders of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, were born in the same state, one year and less than 100 miles apart, is fascinating. Both were said to be politically moderate, so maybe that can be traced back to their Kentucky roots.
Animal: Of course, a state filled with so much horse racing history, would also be home to a couple iconic thoroughbreds. Man o’War had an almost unblemished record, losing only one race over his career. He sired War Admiral, who won the Triple Crown in 1937, and grandfathered Seabiscuit, who continued the family tradition of winning.
Invention: Nathan Stubblefield, from Murray, invented wireless telephones, which some debate were radio transmissions, making Stubblefield’s exhibitions the first ever radio broadcasts. Either way, his work led to further developments of the medium.
Crime: The infamous Hatfield vs. McCoy feud took place between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky. The murder of Asa Harmon McCoy, in January 1865, is said to have ignited the feud, which would go on to claim the lives of 13 members of the two families. In 1979, descendants from each family waged a different kind of war on the TV game show, Family Feud.
Law: In Kentucky, it is illegal to hunt game from the window of a moving vehicle. This applies to all animals, except whales. Whales after all, are the most dangerous game on land, so the use of vehicles are a necessity.
Sports Team: The Kentucky Derby is a highlight of the annual sporting calendar. The first leg of the American Triple Crown, it is the oldest continuously run horse race in the U.S. and although the sprint lasts only two minutes, the duration is called ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports’. The University of Kentucky Wildcats vs. University of Louisville Cardinals NCAA basketball rivalry is also huge across the state.
Athlete: The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, was born Cassius Clay, in Louisville. Ali was a three-time Heavyweight Champion and also won a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics. However, Ali’s fame extended outside the boxing world, as an activist and philanthropist, following his in-ring career. Ali was picked to light the torch at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, but that appearance highlighted the Parkinson’s disease he was suffering from. Ali passed away in June 2016, at the age of 74.
Famous Home: The Muhammad Ali Childhood Home, can be found in Louisville. Here, the future sports icon grew up and first began to box. Today, the unmistakeable pink home is filled with memorabilia from Ali’s life and career and guided tours are available.
Urban Legend: Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Louisville, is considered one of the most haunted places in America. Some of the legends surrounding the former hospital for tuberculosis patients, include the ghost of a nurse haunting the first floor, room 502 being the site of a suicide/murder and the tunnel used to discretely remove bodies from the facility being rife with paranormal activity. Today, the facility hosts ghost tours and can be stayed in overnight.
Museum: Louisville Slugger baseball bats are synonymous with the sport, having been used by professionals since the late 1800’s. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is home to the storied history of the company. Visitors can’t miss the place, as the world’s largest baseball bat is found at its entrance. You can even enter a batting cage and try bat models from the past and present.
Firsts: The first commercial winery in the U.S., was opened in Nicholasville, in 1799. Over 200 years later, the winery still stands, restored to depict what it would have looked like in its earliest years. The site seems like a perfect place to celebrate Mother’s Day, which was first observed in Kentucky on April 20, 1887, as a project started by teacher Mary Towles Sasseen, to honour her mother.
Company: A trio of popular restaurant chains are headquartered in Kentucky. This includes KFC, A&W and Papa John’s Pizza. It should be noted, KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders may not have been a Kentucky native, but his famous creation led to him being recommissioned a Kentucky Colonel, an image he maintained for the rest of his life.
Events: The War of 1812 was catastrophic for Kentucky, as half of the American soldiers killed were from the state, despite battles not taking place there. Kentucky also greatly supplied the war effort, including mining of the Mammoth Cave.
Miscellaneous: Kentucky’s Fort Knox, is home to the United States Bullion Depository, which stores a majority of the country’s gold reserves (estimated in July 2019 to be worth $210.8 billion). In the past, it has also safely held the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
- 2 oz Bourbon
- Top with Ginger Beer
- Splash of Lime Juice
- Garnish with a Lime Wedge
Although the obvious choice for Kentucky is the Mint Julep, the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, I’ve already made that drink for this site and I never do repeats. I had to choose something using Bourbon, given its association with the state, so I went with the delicious Kentucky Mule, to sort of keep with the horse theme.