Although mixers are an instrumental part of building a delicious cocktail, the wrong mix can turn a good spirit into a bad cocktail.

When I speak about cocktails, I always emphasize balance because you want to let the true flavor of the spirit shine through. During prohibition, bad mixers and sugar were heavily used — and needed — to mask the poorly or illegally produced spirit. Now, with so many high quality spirits available, balanced tastes are essential.

We can be Kentucky Proud to have several local producers making great products to help enhance our cocktail crafting. Matt Jamie of Bourbon Barrel Foods is making some of the best bitters on the planet, aging his concoctions in used bourbon barrels. Kilimanjaro Foods makes some of the best exotic and enjoyable syrups that add flavor and sweetness to round out our cocktails. I love our local Kentucky farmer, Dan Holloway, who has developed a Bloody Mary mix that is delicious with vodka and even better with bourbon! Way to go Dan for thinking “out of the barrel” and finding another way to use bourbon. I have included several recipes for you to try with these Kentucky-crafted artisan products. Try these and experiment on your own with great locally produced brands. Cheers!

Bourbon Barrel Foods Woodford Reserve Bitters

Bitters started out as a medicinal ingredient that was supposed to cure many ailments. Then, enterprising mixologists worked them into cocktails and bitters became part of the definition of what a cocktail is. The first definition of a “cocktail” found in print, in 1806, described the cocktail as made with a spirit of any kind, water, sugar and bitters. Bitters were the quintessential ingredient in the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. Today bitters, in an array of flavors, are being used more than ever. Bourbon Barrel Foods makes several types of bitters aged in used Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, which truly help make these bitters a delight. Matt Jamie currently produces bitters in three flavors — Spiced Cherry, Sassafras & Sorghum and Aromatic. Here are a couple of cocktails to wet your whistle. For more recipe ideas go to

Classic ManhattanDD2_6133
In a mixing glass with ice, add:
2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon
½ ounce sweet vermouth
3 dashes Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters

Stir for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

The Sassy Pom
In a shaker with ice, add:
1 ½ ounces Old Forester Bourbon
2 ounce lemonade
1 ounce pomegranate juice
Squeeze of lemon
2 dashes Woodford Reserve sassafras & sorghum bitters.

Shake and strain into rocks glass with ice. Garnish with lemon twist.


Kilimanjaro Foods Artisan Cocktail Mixers

A sweetener in a cocktail is a must. Note: it is the sugar that brings out the flavor of fruit. Think about a strawberry. Taste it on its own, then add a little sugar, then taste it again. The sugar makes the strawberry taste more like a strawberry. Kilimanjaro has developed several wonderful cocktail mixers that make it easy to add flavor and sweetness to enhance a cocktail — Ginger, Brown Sugar, Orange Ginger and Pumpkin. The cocktails featured below are unique and delicious! For more cocktail inspirations, check out

DD2_6102Kilimanjaro Ginger Snap (pictured)
In a shaker with ice, add:
2 ounces Bourbon
¾ ounce Kilimanjaro Brown Sugar Syrup
½ ounce Kilimanjaro Ginger Syrup
Squeeze of lemon
Splash of ginger ale

Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Ginger à l’Orange
In a shaker with ice, add:
2 ounces gold rum
1 ounce Kilimanjaro Ginger Syrup
4 ounces orange juice
Splash of soda water

Shake and strain into a tall glass with ice.

Pumpkin Pie à la Mode
In a shaker with ice, add:
2 ounces spiced rum
1 ounce Kilimanjaro Pumpkin Spice Syrup
1 ounce cream

Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Bloody Kentucky Mix 

The number one drink enjoyed universally during brunch is the Bloody Mary. Farmer Dan Holloway has developed one of my favorite Bloody Mary mixes of all times. Note that F&D photographer, Dan Dry, is a Bloody Mary aficionado and he loves this mix. That says a lot! What I love about Bloody Kentucky and its creator is that he wanted a Bloody Mary that would complement Bourbon. That, in my world, is a BIG idea. Bourbon has a lot of flavor and I was always wondering how to bring it to the brunch occasion. Thanks Dan for finding the solution. The Village Anchor has created some wonderful Bloody Marys using Bloody Kentucky. I suggest you ask for the bloody menu and try one for yourself. Sorry to my British friends for the bloody pun. Enjoy the Kentucky Proud Mary.

Kentucky Proud MaryDD2_6078
In a tall glass with ice, add:
1½ ounces Old Forester bourbon
4 ounces Bloody Kentucky
Good squeeze of lime

Stir and garnish as you wish. I like bacon, blue cheese stuffed olives, shrimp and lime.