For 18 long months, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. (aka Jim Beam Distillery) in Clermont, Ky., was closed to the public. The powers-that-be decided, in essence, that while the world dealt with the ensuing global pandemic, it would be best to shut down tours and renovate and expand the campus.
After all, this was part of Beam’s five-year expansion plan, which included constructing a new distillery (Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery); expanding and renovating the visitor center, which is now called The American Outpost; and adding a full-service restaurant and cocktail bar called The Kitchen Table; among other projects.
Turns out the Beam crew was quite productive in those 18 months, and now the distillery is open again for tours — as well as delicious meals and creative cocktails.
I recently visited The Kitchen Table as part of a media experience, and I can say — with all due respect to the other distilleries in Bourbon Country — that Beam has just one-upped every other distillery in Kentucky and beyond. The restaurant is not only approachable and welcoming, but it offers gorgeous views of the distillery grounds and spectacular cocktails that highlight each Beam brand — from Booker’s and Basil Hayden to Baker’s and Knob Creek.
The restaurant was inspired by the Noe family kitchen table, where generations of Beams have shared meals and, of course, lots bourbon! Beam partnered with QED Hospitality out of New Orleans on the project, and the food as well as the vibe of the place is Southern hospitality at its finest.
Here are a few things I was able to try, which are a great representation of the menu.
- Jim Beam Highball — I love a refreshing highball, and this was top-notch!
- Spiced Pork Rinds — Yum! Cajun-seasoned rinds were delish!
- Venison Poppers — I don’t usually eat venison, but I did, and it was pretty tasty.
- Pulled Pork Empanadas — One of my favorites of the day: The pulled pork was smoked on the premises.
- Lamb Ribs — A savory treat, with fall-off-the-bone meat.
- Golden Hour — This cocktail was made with Basil Hayden, Aperol and fillet blanc, and it was light and crisp.
- Hot Brown Pizza — Fun fact: The chefs use the same yeast for the pizza crust that is used in Jim Beam bourbon. This pizza is a best-seller so far.
- Smoked Pork Pizza — My favorite pizza of the bunch!
- Wild Mushroom Pizza — The smoked gouda on this one was a highlight.
- Smash — A cocktail made with Old Grand-Dad 114, lemon, mint and sugar. It was kind of hybrid of a mint julep and hot toddy, served cold over crushed ice.
- Burger — Wow! This was my favorite of the day, a double-decker fried burger that tasted like a Frisch’s Big Boy back when Frisch’s used quality meat.
- Smothered Catfish — I don’t usually eat fish, but I made myself try this because it looked like chicken tenders. It was pretty darn good! Fluffy and fried.
- Smoked Trout — I hate to say it, but I passed on this dish because of, well, fish.
- Basil Hayden Caribbean Cask — A neat pour, tried and true.
- Bourbon Balls — Can’t go wrong with these balls.
- Spiced Apple — This as a treat: vanilla pudding with caramel, granola and baked apple pieces.
- Chocolate Blackout Cake — Can I get a hell yeah!? This was my fav dessert because of the luscious hot fudge poured all over it, plus bourbon whipped cream and bourbon-soaked cherries.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of food here, and it’s all sourced locally (when possible). The table I sat at was patterned after a similar table in the Noe kitchen, and it’s reserved for VIPs, although you can request it when making reservations. Because everyone is a VIP at The Kitchen Table, right?! You better believe it.
And I also tried the Black Manhattan, which was made with Baker’s — one of my favorite Beam products.
Right now, The Kitchen Table is only open for lunch Wednesday through Sunday, and it’s recommended you just stop by and come on in. If you’re waiting for a tour or are killing time after a tour, it’s also recommended you sip on a cocktail or two from the oval-shaped center bar.
And lastly, I just love how the restaurant is all windows, showing the dazzling, serene sights of the distillery grounds. I could just sit there all day and look out onto the campus — as long as they kept my glass full, that is.
Here is a collection of photos from my experience. Enjoy!