Louisville Bar Bingo

Local bars come together to offer up Louisville Bar Bingo!

As I have said many times, it’s imperative to support our local bars and restaurants during this COVID lockdown. Many places are hanging on by a thread, and they’re doing their best to come up with creative ways to get you cocktails to-go, create a warm, safe place on their patios, etc.

And new this week, 10 area bars and restaurants — all members of the Responsible Bar & Restaurant Coalition — are banning together to offer up a fun way for folks to grab a cocktail and possibly win some prizes. Louisville Bar Bingo begins this week and runs through December.

Basically, each week the same cocktail will be featured on special at each bar, and it can be ordered to-go or for outdoor drinking. You print out a bingo card by going to one of the bar’s social media pages, and then collect stamps for each drink consumed. (You can also pick up blank cards at each establishment.) You need 16 stamps by the end of the month to compete for a massive prize including local gift cards, speciality bottles and more.

Participating bars are:

  • Gold Bar (Butchertown)
  • The Limbo/Riot Cafe (Downtown)
  • Mag Bar (Old Louisville)
  • Meta (Downtown)
  • Noche Mexican BBQ (Highlands)
  • NoraeBar (NuLu)
  • The Merryweather (Germantown/Schnitzelburg)
  • ShopBar (Germantown/Schnitzelburg/Highlands-ish)
  • Ostra (Clifton)
  • Zanzabar (Germantown/Schnitzelburg)

“We have all made the commitment to do things right and follow the governor’s guidelines, but we are suffering because of it,” said Limbo Tiki Bar & Riot Cafe owner Olivia Griffin in a news release. “So we’re creating interesting and fun ways for the community to support us.”

Louisville Bar Bingo
Louisville Bar Bingo runs through December.

While some bars are following Uncle Andy’s rules to a T, others are completely ignoring them, ultimately putting people’s lives at risk for contracting COVID-19. We can’t be doing that.

“So many of us in the bar and restaurant industry are committed to supporting each other, so it makes sense to do something that drives traffic to all our establishments,” Griffin added.

Louisville Bar Bingo is also being supported by local businesses that have yet to open back up but still champion the cause. And big-name sponsors include Four Roses Bourbon and Plantation Rum.

Cocktails on the bingo card are holiday themed and will range from a hot toddy (this week) to a spiked cider and even a “frostbite colada” at the end of the month. Now that one has my name all over it!

Every bar will put its own creative spin on the libation, and you’ll be able to taste them side by side and pick your favorites.

Personally, I’m definitely interested in checking out the White Russian, Cookie Jello Shot and Frostbite Colada, so you better believe I’ll be screaming “BINGO!” way before you all.

Repeal Day photo

Repeal Day is Dec. 5, so pull out those party pants!

It was a chilly Tuesday back on Dec. 5, 1933, but that didn’t stop the nation from dancing in the streets out of celebration for the end of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment was passed that day, and Repeal Day, as it’s become known, has been honored ever since.

Old Repeal Day photo
Let’s party like it’s 1933!

Skip ahead 87 years, and while 2020 hasn’t given us much to dance in the streets for, we should still recognize and raise a toast to Repeal Day, which falls on Saturday this year.

Whether you craft yourself a fine Old Fashioned or pop the top on your favorite beer, let’s all remember that things could be worse — our country went without a drop of (legal) alcohol for 13 long years.

There are a few places around town celebrating Repeal Day and offering up to-go cocktails, and even if they’re not signifying a “Repeal Day” party, it’s still important, now more than ever, to support our local bars.

I’m thinking I might buy a couple margaritas from Dragon King’s Daughter, El Mundo AND Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen — or maybe brave the elements next to the fire at Shop Bar and indulge in the aforementioned Old Fashioned.

There are also two interesting virtual sessions being planned for Saturday if you’re looking for a group activity.

First up is a cocktail-making class with bourbon extraordinaire Marianne Eaves called Bourbon, Brandy and Rum: Repeal Day Classics on the Chibo platform.

Marianne Eaves
Marianne Eaves | Courtesy

Eaves will help you concoct three classic cocktails — New York Sour, El Presidente and The Vieux Carre — and you all will have fun sipping and mixing along.

“I am a distiller, not a mixologist,” says Eaves on the event website, “So let’s mix up some fun, chatting about being the first female master distiller in Kentucky, history of the spirits industry, booze and how glad we are that it’s legal again!”

The class starts at noon on Saturday, Dec. 5, and it costs $35. If you’re interested, I’d join now rather than later so you can get your kit in time.

If you’re wondering what Eaves has been up to since she left the master distiller position at Castle & Key, she’s created her own bourbon education company called Eaves Blind. If you’re a fan of Eaves or just a bourbon fan in general, you can sign up now to become a member of Eaves Blind and receive various experiments and products she’s been working on.

It’s a pretty damn cool concept, and it’s on the top of my Christmas list this year if anyone is looking for ideas for me. (hint, hint) Go check out her website and read all about it.

The other Repeal Day event is being organized by Fred Minnick, another bourbon extraordinaire, is called Repeal Day Expo. This takes place on Saturday from 1-11 p.m. and is an all-day virtual extravaganza with speakers, live music, cocktail-making sessions and much, much more.

Tickets range in price from $20-$50 (the VIP $140 tickets are sold out), and you can find out all the cool details at the link above.

For a shout-out, I also wanted to mention that the local Whisky Chicks group is also hosting a special Repeal Day Virtual Cocktail Soiree, but unfortunately tickets to that are sold out.

TEN20 Brewery

Check out TEN20 Brewery’s Black Friday releases!

If you haven’t checked out Louisville’s newest brewery, TEN20 in Butchertown, today is the day to swing by. They’re releasing five new, limited-edition beers, and you can enjoy them on their outdoor deck area or to-go.

The brewery’s first bottled beer, a Russian Imperial Stout they’re calling The Machine, is one of the five releases.

TEN20's Machine beer
Here’s a look at The Machine stout. | Courtesy of TEN20

I was fortunate to try a sample, and I haven’t been able to put it down since popping it open. It’s nutty, it’s rich and chocolatey, there are some vanilla notes — overall, it’s a robust stout guaranteed to nab some awards for head brewer Larry Horwitz.

The other four beers available today on tap (while supplies last) include a Chocolate Machine (I can’t even imagine!), a Coffee Vanilla Stockyards Porter, a Schwarzbier Black Lager, and an Ironworks Black New England IPA.

“We want to be sure that people can still celebrate the holidays safely, and we look forward to sharing these new specialty beers,” said Horwitz in a news release. “Each offering is warm and inviting, perfect to enjoy this time of year as the weather cools down.” 

TEN20-logo

The brewery, which is located at 1020 E. Washington St., will be open today (Friday, Nov. 27) starting at noon.

You can get flights of the specialty beers, which is what I would recommend before committing to a whole pint.

Also, at 4 p.m. today, you can hop on the TEN20 Facebook page for a virtual meet and greet with Horwitz, who will guide participants through a tasting of the newly released products.

TEN20 will set up purchase stations for to-go packages and offer gift packs to ease purchases. Plus, the outdoor beer garden will be open and they have expanded the existing area into the parking lot to provide ample socially-distanced outside seating.

This could be one of our last nice, sunny days. So go stock up on some Vitamin D and beer!

Sara with Baker Beam

Love Baker’s Bourbon as much as I do? Jump on this cool promo Thursday

Now that I’m doing bourbon tours for Mint Julep Experiences (shameless plug), I often get asked what my favorite bourbon is. As any bourbon aficionado might tell you, our top 5 fluctuates throughout a year, and it’s not exactly the PC thing to do to single out one single brand or distillery.

So I simply say either: “The one in my hand” or “The one you’re going to buy me later.”

But I will admit I’ve always had a soft spot for Baker’s Bourbon, part of the Jim Beam Distillery‘s Small Batch Bourbon Collection that Booker Noe released in 1992. Baker’s sister brands include Booker’s, Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek.

Baker’s is released in that sweet spot of 7 years old and at 107 proof — similar to a yummy brand released over at Buffalo Trace Distillery (Weller Antique, anyone?).

But Baker’s is a rye-grained bourbon, as opposed to a wheated bourbon like Weller. This means Baker’s will be spicy, nutty, oaky and a soft, sweet molasses that’ll permeate the finish.

Sara with Baker Beam
Hey, Baker! Let me in that rick house!

I was fortunate to meet Baker Beam last year when I did a story for The Bourbon Review on the man, the myth and the bourbon legend. He was as humble as pie and as sweet as sassy as you’d imagine him to be.

He put in nearly 40 years at the distillery, working tirelessly behind the scenes and right alongside his brother David Beam and cousin Booker Noe.

Anyway, let’s get to the funny photo above. If you’re a Baker’s fan like me, on Thursday you can get a chance to get a similar photo and also perhaps win a one-on-one tasting experience with Freddie Noe, the 8th generation Beam family distiller.

As part of a holiday promo, the Baker’s team is calling it the Single Barrel Journey Experience. Beginning Thursday, Nov. 19, you go to the Baker’s Bourbon website and enter the Barrel ID number from the neck tag on your bottle of Baker’s. (If you don’t have a bottle, I suggest you go out today and grab one!)

It’ll tell you the story of exactly where your bottle aged in the rick house and share a few more tasting notes of exactly what you can expect out of your particular single barrel bourbon.

After that, you’ll get to enter the contest with your name and email, and hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones to get an awesome photo like I did — or even better, the tasting experience with Freddie!

I would do it first thing in the morning if I were you, because the press release notes it’s for “consumers that act fast.”

Baker's package
Christmas came early.

So go get your Baker’s (around $60), or if you already have one of the newish single-barrel bottles, just make sure the Barrel ID number on the neck tag is handy.

Baker’s makes excellent Old Fashioneds as well, so if you’re worried about spending that much money on a bourbon you haven’t tried, trust me — you’ll love it on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, or on a train.

World's Top Whiskey Taster winner

Buy me bourbon: Preparing for the World’s Top Whiskey Taster competition

Back all the way in September, I was in a regional competition for the Bardstown Bourbon Company‘s “World’s Top Whiskey Taster” title.

Somehow I beat out a handful of talented and fierce competitors that evening, and now I plan to bring the title home to Kentucky as I compete against nine others from around the country on Saturday, Nov. 14.

To say I’m nervous and apprehensive is an understatement, but again, just like in the last challenge, I’m trying to harness the powers of confidence and raw bourbon tasting to give it my best.

And that’s where you come in.

If you see me out, please buy me a bourbon or whiskey of your choice (no need to break the bank or anything), but don’t tell me what it is. Make me guess the proof, or the age, or even what type of whiskey it might be. If you buy me Fireball, though, I might give you the evil eye from 6 feet away.

World's Top Whiskey Taster winner

Of course I’m not relying on the kindness of strangers (and friends) to prepare for this competition. I’ve been holed up in my bourbon bunker day and night practicing.

My brother who lives in Texas even sent me four blind samples — all from the Buffalo Trace family — and it was tough sorting them out.

If you have any ideas on other methods to practice, please feel free to reach out! Hell, I’ve been preparing for this competition since I turned 21 — OK, 19 — so I feel like I have a shot.

I just can’t let my nerves and second guesses get the best of me.

The competition won’t be broadcast live this time — to see my first competition, click here or watch below — but a video will be available later with the competitions and results.

Wish me luck!

Now back to tasting …

Angel's Envy Cask Strength bottle

Bourbon sips & scoops: Maker’s, Parker’s, Angel’s, Michter’s and more!

Things are starting to pile up on the Bar Belle desk, and my boss is nowhere to be found! I should have written this sooner and I apologize, dear thirst nuggets.

But alas, here I am with a mound of announcements and a handful of samples. What’s a bourbon journalist to do? Let’s take ’em one at a time.

Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup bottle

Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup bottle

You might see these pop up at your local liquor store this weekend! It’s the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup commemorative bottle, which also helps raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

As you know, the Breeders’ Cup will return to Keeneland Race Course Nov. 6-7, so this limited-edition bottle celebrates the partnership between the two entities — as well as Maker’s Mark, which is the official bourbon of the race.

I kinda like the white bottle with the purple wax — it would definitely make a nice show piece on your bar or nightstand. Hey, no judgement here.

Buffalo Trace expands soda line with ginger ale and ginger beer

Freddie's Ginger Ale

If you’ve visited Buffalo Trace Distillery within the last year, you probably noticed Freddie’s Root Beer for sale in the gift shop.

Freddie Johnson is a longtime tour guide — and all around great bourbon ambassador — at Buffalo Trace, so the line is named in his honor.

Word is, they’re expanding the line with ginger ale and ginger beer. These will make perfect mixers for that bourbon you pick up there, or consumed on their own, of course.

The new products should be at the distillery by mid November and will sell for $1.25 a bottle.

New Releases:

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength 2020

Angel's Envy Cask Strength

Despite the craptacular year we’ve had, good things do happen. Case in point, the release of the annual Angel’s Envy Cask Strength.

This biting baby doll will be 120.4 proof and released on Nov. 1 — just in time for the election. (Maybe we’ll be celebrating, or maybe we’ll be drowning our sorrows — who knows.)

There are only 17,400 bottles divided up between all 50 states (for the first time ever), so dust off that hunting gear and get prepared for next week.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this year’s release and can say that it does not sip like 120 juice — it’s quite smooth, and it’s teeth are not as sharp as you’d imagine them to be. There’s a lot of vanilla, caramel and brown sugar up front, but there’s also a nice ripe cherry note in there, as well.

And the finish … ah, the finish: It’s like licking the spoon after Mom made some sugar cookies. I could sip on this all night long.

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength will retail for $199.99.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye

Michter's Toasted Rye

These delectable dudes were released in September, so I’m sorry I’m just now getting to them. You may be able to find a pour of them at your favorite bourbon bar, and I suggest you give them a sip!

The Toasted Rye consists of fully matured Michter’s Single Barrel Rye (at barrel strength) that is then put into a second custom toasted barrel and aged a bit longer.

The result is gorgeous notes of caramel and spice and everything nice. I was also fortunate to receive a sample and will tell you without hesitation that this juice is richer than a cheesecake the Golden Girls are huddled over at midnight.

I love the viscosity in this one, as well. It’s thick and coats my mouth like a North Face. Think of the consistency of a cherry juice — if you buy the right ones, especially Luxardo — and you get the idea.

This limited release is bottled around 109.2 proof and goes for about $85 if you can find it in a store.

Parker’s Heritage 2020: Heavy Char Bourbon

Parker's Heritage 2020

This is the 14th edition of this annual, highly anticipated release, and it’s a 10-year-old bourbon that was aged in a heavily charred (level 5) barrels.

The brand is named after the late Heaven Hill Master Distiller Parker Beam, and it raises funds for ALS, the disease Beam passed away from in 2010.

This one is bottled at 120 proof and retails for about $120. And like these other releases, it’ll be hard to find.

I was fortunate to try a sample of this, too, and would describe it as a maple bomb. It’s got a touch of spice and sips easy — I can imagine sipping it next to a fireplace as it gently snows outside.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C920

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

This is the third barrel-proof release from Elijah Craig this year, and it’s the second highest proof — at 132.8 proof.

This seems to be a theme here, but despite the high proof, it sips quite smoothly. It’s got deep flavors of toasted marshmallow, caramel, and I’m even getting some milk chocolate in the sample I got.

This is uncut, 12-year-old bourbon bottled straight from the barrel, as God intended. If you haven’t explored the Elijah Craig portfolio, I’d recommend getting acquainted with it. It’s delicious and pretty darn affordable.

This one retails for around $65.99.

Larceny Barrel Proof C920

Larceny Barrel Proof

This wheated barrel-proof bourbon is also a product of Heaven Hill, like the Elijah Craig above.

Bottled at 122.4 proof, this bourbon is consists of bourbon aged 6 to 8 years and is non-chill filtered.

To me, this is definitely getting better each time I try a new Larceny release.

Since it’s a wheat-based bourbon, it’s a little sweater on the palate and less spicy, but you get those wonderful full-time flavors — think s’mores, campfire and soft baking spices from the kitchen.

This one retails for around $67.99, and I would recommend the barrel proof over the standard Larceny.

Three ciders

Alcohol Professor: Searching for seasonal cider in Bourbon Country

Sometimes what you intend to write ends up totally opposite. Case in point, this piece for Alcohol Professor. My intention was to pick the fall’s top seasonal ciders — ciders made with pumpkin, spice and everything nice.

There are TONS of seasonal ales, lagers and porters out there, so I figured I’d find plenty of cider options. But unfortunately, after stopping by five liquor stores in town both big and small, I was only able to find three.

So here are my thoughts on those three, along with a list of several others I’d love to try but couldn’t find here in Bourbon Country.

Three ciders
Two of these are quite tasty!

An excerpt:

Fall is the definitive season for cider drinking. It’s as if nature shines a multi-colored spotlight on the beverage as it tap dances across happy palates of the world. Cider pairs well with pumpkin. Cider couples up nicely with cinnamon. Cider can even be served warm.

Cider is meant for sweater weather, and it’s that weather now, so why can’t I find many seasonal ciders in Kentucky?

READ MORE HERE.

Old Fashioned cocktail

Elijah Craig celebrates the Old Fashioned

I often get asked what I like to drink, especially by bartenders.

Hey-oh!

What … too soon for a joke?

But really, my favorite bourbon cocktail has to be the classic Old Fashioned, beating out our tried and true Mint Julep by a nose.

The Old Fashioned brings out the best in bourbon by only using three simple ingredients, not including ice: bourbon, bitters and sugar.

That’s it! No need to muddle a mess of oranges and cherries at the bottom of my glass. No need to pour in fake cherry juice.

If you insist on adding fruit, I’ll take one Luxardo cherry and a spritz of an orange peel, which you have my permission to stuff into the cocktail afterward.

The Old Fashioned is the official cocktail of Louisville, as declared by the mayor. And that same mayor gave me the key to the frickin’ city for helping him find the very best ones in town.

The fact is, fall is the perfect time to indulge in an Old Fashioned or three, because it’s spicy, it’s semi-sweet, it’s hearty and it plays well with bourbon — meaning it doesn’t mask the wonderful flavors, but instead accentuates them.

Old Fashioned Week logo

Heaven Hill bourbon brand Elijah Craig is hosting an Old Fashioned Week now, and the big event — which you can join for free in the comfort of your home — is Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m.

Chef Richard Blais will talk about the classic cocktail, which was invented in Louisville, and also show you the proper way to make one. The session will include special guests and even a live Q&A — just in case you can’t get it stirred the right way.

I suggest you have your ingredients ready by 7:30 before jumping on the session (which you can access here, or on Elijah Craig’s YouTube, Facebook or Instagram). Grab your bourbon, grab some bitters (preferably orange bitters), grab some sugar (or simple syrup) and pick up a jar of those Luxardo cherries!

Get ready to learn the tricks of this treat!

Old Fashioned cocktail
The Old Fashioned is the perfect fall drink. | Photo by Sara Havens

One other note: There’s another session called “Elevating Your Home Bar” that’ll take place on Friday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. I’m always looking for more ways to entertain my friends (free bourbon sometimes isn’t enough), so hopefully there will be lots of advice on this topic.

More info here.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival starts (virtually) today!

2020 sucks … blah blah blah … everything is canceled.

But that’s not always true, especially when you have a team of creative thinkers planning an entire festival outside the box — or, rather, inside the box of your computer or phone screen.

The 29th annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival will commence today, Oct. 15, and run through Sunday, Oct. 18, with a series of free virtual sessions you can attend in the comfort and safety of your own home.

Yes, it doesn’t hold a flame to actually being in Bardstown, Ky., this time of year and rubbing shoulders with distillers and fellow bourbon buddies, but you gotta do what you gotta do this year, right?

One of my favorite memories from the Kentucky Bourbon Festival was taking a photo with the venerable Russell family (Wild Turkey) at the Bourbon All-Star Event where you sip the night away and also chat with master distillers.

Sara Havens and the Russell family
I think I fit right in! Call me Sara Russell!

Of course I had a few sips before asking for this marvelous photo, but the Russells were gracious and down for it!

The festival is offering nearly 20 “Spirits Education Seminars” that feature master distillers, master tasters, bartenders, chefs, etc. And all of these seminars take place in the evening, so you can settle in after dinner, grab some bourbon, and learn a thing or two from the industry’s top experts on a variety of topics.

Take a look at the schedule here.

Below are some of the sessions that caught my eye:

• “Supermarket Cocktails” with the awesome and talented Thomas Bolton, distillery diplomat of Maker’s Mark (Thursday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m.).

• ” From the Shadows to the Spotlight: Barton 1792 and Four Roses” with Barton’s Josh Hollifield and Four Roses’ Brent Elliott (Thursday, Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m.).

• “Why Bottled-in-Bond” with Heaven Hill’s Bernie Lubbers and Buffalo Trace’s Beau Beckman (Friday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m.).

• “The Art of Making Bourbon” (Several Sessions throughout the weekend) with Danny Kahn (Barton 1792) and Steve Nally (Bardstown Bourbon Co.) in Part 1, and Denny Potter (Maker’s Mark) and Conor O’Driscoll (Heaven Hill) in Part 2 (Part 1: Friday, Oct. 16, 7:15 p.m.; Part 2: Friday, Oct. 16, 8 p.m.).

• “Cocktail Quickie” with Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s Samantha Montgomery (Friday, Oct. 16, 7:45 p.m.).

• “Adventures in Food & Whiskey Pairing” with Michter’s Andrea Wilson and freelance writer Steve Coomes (Saturday, Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m.)

• “Cocktail Quickie” with Jim Beam’s Beth Burrows (Saturday, Oct. 17, 6:45 p.m.).

OK, OK, I’m just going to stop here. Basically ALL of the sessions look interesting to me, so just go click on that link above and read more about all of them.

I know where I’ll be this weekend — glued to my computer screen!

Kentucky Bourbon Festival glasses
Line ’em up! | Courtesy of KBF

One last thing to mention. If you want to get in on the Kentucky Bourbon Festival VIP action, tickets are $150 and include sweet swag like two KBF Glencairn glasses, easy access to the virtual sessions, and two three-day general admission passes to next year’s festival, which will hopefully be held in Bardstown.

You also get entered to win one of 14 bottles of bourbon signed by distillery pros that are featured in the sessions and also a chance to win a stay in Bardstown during next year’s festival as well.

VIP tickets are $150 and can be bought here; or you can just log on to this weekend’s sessions and watch for free.

Food & Dining Magazine

Last Call 2020: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here

In my latest column in Food & Dining Magazine, I discuss the last few crazy months and how I’ve managed to survive on Bud Light, bourbon and basic bitchery.

You can pick up the Food & Dining publication for free at our very finest locally owned restaurants and bars.

Or you can click on this link here and read it online.

Food & Dining issue

Here’s an excerpt:

I hereby declare 2020 the White Claw of years. 

It took us all by surprise, and it brought nothing to the table. Its vapid, virus-y flavors robbed us of all our joy, all our plans for an enjoyable summer and fall, and for a time, we couldn’t even find solace with our buddies at the neighborhood bar!

We had to grieve 6 feet apart as our worlds were turned upside down. Some, like me, lost employment. Everyone else had to transform their man caves and broad bunkers into makeshift offices while also playing teacher, preacher, chef, maid and count jester to those in their quarantine pods