OK, all you mint haters. You can finally rejoice after we’ve crammed the love-it-or-hate-it Mint Julep down your throat during Derby season and, just recently, Thursday’s National Mint Julep Day. But don’t put the sugar away just yet. Because now, it’s time for Old Fashioned Fortnight, Louisville’s two-week celebration of its official city cocktail, starting Saturday, June 1, and culminating with National Bourbon Day on June 14.
But first, a little background.
Louisville is only the third U.S. city to have an official cocktail. The others are New Orleans, with its Sazerac, and Washington, D.C., with The Rickey.
The classic cocktail is made with bourbon, sugar and bitters and sometimes includes an orange slice and/or a cherry. Some are muddled, some are not. Some local bartenders like to add a splash of soda to fizz it up, which, in our opinion, is just wrong.
The Old Fashioned was said to have been invented at the Pendennis Club in honor of Kentucky distiller James E. Pepper, who introduced the cocktail when he traveled to New York City. Louisville native and famous African-American bartender Tom Bullock included the recipe in his cocktail book, “The Ideal Bartender,” in 1917.
Mayor Greg Fischer proclaimed the Old Fashioned Louisville’s official cocktail in June of 2015, and ever since, it’s become a staple at the city’s hundreds of bars and restaurants. In fact, I helped the mayor — while wearing my Bar Belle cap — determine some of the best Old Fashioneds in town and continue to be on the hunt for delicious concoctions.
I was given a key to the city for my arduous efforts, so if you’re curious, I listed the top Old Fashioneds in September 2015, again in December 2016, once more in December 2017, and it looks like I’m due for another roundup sometime soon.
There are several ways people can participate in Old Fashioned Fortnight throughout the next two weeks.
Some of those include ticketed events like the Kentucky Bourbon Affair (June 4-8) and Bourbon by the Bridge (June 8), as well as free events like a whiskey-themed walking tour throughout downtown (June 12), a happy hour at Garage Bar hosted by the Bar Belle (June 13) and a party at the Visitors Center to celebrate National Bourbon Day (June 14).
Also, if you complete your Urban Bourbon Trail passport during these next two weeks (only six stamps are needed), you’ll be eligible to win a bonus gift and also get a water bottle that reads “I’d rather be drinking bourbon.”
For more information and updates on these events and more, stay tuned to Louisville’s tourism website.
This post was updated with Washington, D.C.’s signature drink, The Rickey.