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  • Writer's pictureNikki Edds

Holiday Happy Hour with Kentucky Liquor

Article written by Nikki Edds

Kentucky is world-famous for its bourbon. In fact, 95% of bourbon is produced right here in the bluegrass state.

The barrel-aged liquor brings complex, warm and spicy flavors to holiday drinks like bourbon mules, hot toddies or spiked ciders. However, many distilleries in the state produce more than just bourbon! Many boast seasonal gins, vodkas and even moonshine.

This holiday season, take a tour of some of Kentucky’s best distillers from the comfort of your own living room by trying these festive drinks!

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Woodford Reserve

7785 McCracken Pike Versailles, KY 40383

Distilling began on the site of the Woodford Reserve Distillery in 1812. The location is now a National Historic Landmark and Woodford Reserve crafts their products with that history in mind. The distillery is owned by Brown-Forman and is the Presenting Sponsor of the Kentucky Derby. Tours are currently booking out 3 months in advance and include a 70-minute guided experience of the grounds and tastings for guests 21 and over. For the holidays, Woodford Reserve is currently offering a Limited Edition Holiday Bottle of their Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. For more information, click HERE.

Holiday Espresso Manhattan

This recipe comes directly from the Woodford Reserve website as a featured cocktail! It is described as a “decadent twist on the classic manhattan.” Perfect for a little something sweet after dinner or even something to sip on while prepping for a girls night out.


2 oz Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

0.5 oz coffee liqueur

0.5 oz spiced brown sugar syrup

1.5 oz espresso


Step 1- Make the spiced brown sugar syrup: on low heat, mix 2 cups dark brown sugar, 1 cup water and 1 TBSP vanilla extract.

Step 2- Add all ingredients to a shaker tin and whip shake until chilled.

Step 3- Double strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with espresso beans.

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Maker's Mark

3350 Burks Spring Rd, Loretto, KY 40037

Maker’s Mark bourbon is impossible to miss. From the unique shape of the bottle to the famous dripping red wax that ensures no two bottles are alike; there's a reason Maker’s Mark is a world-renowned name.

Distilling began in 1953 when Bill Samuels, Sr. set out to create a bourbon to be enjoyed among family and friends. Using his family's 170 year-old recipe, which he promptly accidently destroyed, Bill ultimately ended up creating a bourbon using soft, red winter wheat as opposed to the traditional rye. This decision is what gives Maker's Mark Bourbon its signature taste today.

In addition to the traditional tours offered at Maker’s Mark, they also have several events specifically for the holiday season! These events include MadeAtMaker’s Mulled Wine and Wreath Making Workshop as well as Maker’s a Toast for the Holiday’s. For more information on tours and events click HERE.

Kentucky Bubbly

This holiday cocktail also comes directly from the Maker’s Mark site! Maker’s Mark and apple are often noted as a complementary pairing. This 3 ingredient drink is easy to make and to enjoy, making it perfect for entertaining.


1 part Maker's Mark

Chilled Martinelli's® Sparkling Apple Cider

Maraschino cherry for garnish


Add Maker’s to a champagne flute, top with sparkling cider and garnish

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Castle & Key

4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY 40601

Castle & Key is one of Kentucky’s most charming hidden historical gems. The Castle & Key website tells the story of Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. who originally built the distillery to feature a castle, a classical springhouse, and a sunken garden in 1887. Following Prohibition in 1920, the distillery closed and soon fell into ruin.

In 2014 Will Arvin and Wes Murray fell in love with the property and saw potential in what the brand could be. The two purchased Old Taylor Distillery and restored it to become what is now known as Castle & Key Distillery.

Castle & Key is open to the public and guests can visit The Boiler Room, which now functions as a gift shop; Counter 17, a bar and lawn chairs lining the creek or The Springhouse, the water source of the spirits. Tours can also be reserved. For more information click HERE.

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Spiced Pear Gin Cocktail

Each season, Castle & Key releases their Seasonal Gin in addition to their classic Roots of Ruin Gin. Last year's Harvest 2021 Seasonal Gin highlighted “the notes of fall with tart dark berries, sweet anise and soft pepper.” While awaiting the limited-release for this season, what better time to explore the flavors via a festive gin cocktail?

INGREDIENTS 1.5 ounces gin

1 ounce pear juice

0.75 ounce spiced pear liqueur

0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice

2 or 3 drops cardamom bitters

Slice of pear and sprig of thyme to garnish


Step 1- To a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the gin, pear liqueur, lemon juice, and a dash of cardamom bitters.

Step 2- Shake vigorously and strain into a glass filled with ice.

Step 3- Garnish with a slice of pear and sprig of thyme.

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Jeptha Creed

500 Gordon Lane, Shelbyville, KY 40065

According to the Jeptha Creed website, Joyce Nethery, Master Distiller for Jeptha Creed Distillery, earned a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville’s Speed Scientific School, and for 15 years worked as a process engineer in industrial scale distillation. She then spent a decade teaching high school chemistry and physics before her husband Bruce’s dream of opening a distillery reignited her passion for the distillation process. It is this passion that led them to open Jeptha Creed in Shelbyville, KY in 2016.

The distillery is on 64 acres and features its own bar and Creed Cafe for visitors. While Jeptha Creed is not currently offering tours, they do offer several experiences on the grounds of the distillery. These experiences include barrel tasting, mixology class and spirit tasting. For more information click HERE.

No Holiday Worries

Jeptha Creed stays true to Kentucky tradition in the creation of craft moonshines. Their cinnamon and apple pie moonshine are perfect for the holiday season and come with endless possibilities. The No Holiday Worries cocktail comes directly from the Jetha Creed site and utilizes that cinnamon moonshine to pack a punch amongst a comforting blend of sweet and creamy spices.


2 oz Jeptha Creed Cinnamon Moonshine

2 oz Horchata Liqueur

Graham Cracker Crumbs


Fresh Cranberries

Cream Soda

DIRECTIONS Step 1- Add Jeptha Creed Cinnamon Moonshine Whiskey and Horchata Liqueur to a Mason jar or preferred glass.

Step 2- Add ice to the glass and shake until the outside of the jar is cold with condensation.

Step 3- Add honey and crushed graham cracker to the rim of the serving glass. Pour the shaken mix inside.

Step 4- Top with Cream Soda, slight stir with straw and serve. Garnish with a few fresh cranberries floating on top.

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Barrel House Distilling Company

1200 Manchester Street, Lexington, Kentucky 40504

Barrel House Distilling Company is owned and operated by Jeff Wiseman and Pete Wright. The two released their first product, Pure Blue Vodka, in December of 2008. Barrel House is motivated by a “mission to make fine spirits with an old school approach,” according to their website.

Barrel House not only offers tours and tastings Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm but they also operate an adjacent lounge and taproom called The Elkhorn Tavern. The Elkhorn Tavern showcases inventive cocktails featuring liquor from the distillery as well as beer, wine and light regional fare. For more information click HERE.

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Christmas Martini

What better way to celebrate 14 years in business than creating a holiday cocktail featuring Barrel House’s inaugural product, Pure Blue Vodka? This christmas cocktail is the perfect blend of sweet and tart and boasts a gorgeous rogue color.


1 ounce (2 tablespoons) vodka

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) 100% cranberry juice (not sweetened)

½ ounce (1 tablespoon) Cointreau

½ ounce (1 tablespoon) lemon juice

2 teaspoons simple syrup or maple syrup

For the garnish: cranberries, rosemary sprig

DIRECTIONS Step 1- Place the vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, lemon juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Step 2- Shake 15 seconds until cold.

Step 3- Strain the drink into a cocktail or martini glass. Garnish with cranberries and rosemary and serve.


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