Louisville is certainly a special place, and one of the more interesting pieces of its culture and history surrounds a very special spirited bourbon concoction. Old Fashioned Fortnight shines as an example of what it looks like when people come together in the name of appreciating common interests.
So, what can you hope to gain by reading all this? Well, you’ll come to understand the significance of the Old Fashioned to Bourbon City, how the event is celebrated, and more. Don’t be surprised if you want to take a trip next June!
What Is “Old Fashioned Fortnight?”
Clear your calendar for the first two weeks of June, because that’s how long the celebration goes on for. Louisville’s official cocktail, the Old Fashioned, is the center of attention during this time.
The Pendennis Club in downtown Louisville is where the legendary cocktail originally came to be. Today, as you probably know, the Old Fashioned is enjoyed all over the world.
Interestingly enough, June 1 happens to be the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s birthday. How is that for a time of joy? The whole thing culminates on June 14th, which is National Bourbon Day.
So, what kinds of things do the wonderful people of Louisville do to mark the occasion that you can get in on? The city’s official cocktail can be appreciated in many ways, but here are 14 to look forward to. That’s one for each day!
Top 14 events to celebrate Old Fashioned Fortnight in Style
- Take on the Urban Bourbon Trail – Sure it’s a night meant to celebrate a drink, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some delectable delights to go along with the Old Fashioned. Hopefully, you go with an empty stomach, because dozens of restaurants are just waiting for you to try them!
2. Do you like a Speakeasy kind of vibe? If so, then you may find the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience to be right up your alley! You’re going for the ideal bartender experience, which is like a blast from the past. Who needs a time machine, when the legacy of the legendary Tom Bullock is so well preserved? A bourbon-tasting extravaganza that ends with a signature version of the Old Fashioned? Do you need to hear anything more?
3. Next, you can turn your attention to the Hermitage Farm. Sure, tasting the city’s official cocktail from others is nice, but what if you want to try your hand at making one? Well, you have a host of master mixologists who are there to help you get your creative juices flowing with your very own Old Fashioned. All the ingredients come directly from the farm!
4. Maddox & Rose-Nulu is the destination here, and you’re gonna need your creative cap once again. How do bourbon-scented candles sound? What a fragrance to give your room the perfect kind of vibe! What’s the best part? Well, you’re the one picking and mixing the scents! It gets no better than that!
5. The Cambria on Market Street is where you’ll find Jackdaw, and you’re gonna want to stop in. Have you ever heard of Kentucky Coffee before? Whether you have or not, how can you resist coffee with all the Old Fashioned makings?
6. Yet again, you can get a blast from the past at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. This is where you get a feel of the 1800s and you get to leave your mark too! Picture your own whiskey that you created, bottled, and named! Refine it to your tastes and take it home to use in your unique Old Fashioned cocktail, then brag to everyone!
7. You can’t really have the Old Fashioned Fortnight experience and not get a selfie with Tom Bullock, right? So, why not head to the Sway restaurant at the Hyatt Downtown? Local artist Kacy Jackson’s beautiful work shines in the form of a mural of the legend, and you simply must capture the moment!
8. It’s time for Old Fashioned with a new twist, and for this one, you’ll need to head over to Copper & Kings Rooftop Bar. Here, American Brandy is in the mix. You’ll want to get a tasty meal to pair with this delight.
9. Atop the Galt House, you’ll find Swizzle, and this is where you’ll be taking part in the Angels Envy Bourbon Dinner. Bring your entire appetite, because there’s a five-course meal coming your way. A special Old Fashioned will be paired with your meal, for the icing on the cake!
10. It’s time for cocktail crafting again, and this time, it’s at the Frazier History Museum. Jackie Zykan, a master taster, is on deck, and with the help of Frazier’s Certified Bourbon Stewards, you’ll be making the traditional drink with your own twist. Of course, it’s a museum, so you’ll be learning history along the way.
11. Paristown is next on the agenda, and this is where you will keep things on the chill side. Live music, culinary delights, and local distilleries are all around.
12. Mint Julep Tours has you covered with interesting options such as a two-distillery trip, complete with guided tasting and neat details about the delightful drinks!
13. In Norton Commons, you’ll find Watch Hill Proper where you can enjoy the “Proper” Old Fashioned. Even with all the bourbon you’ve likely had by now, you’ll find this one unique. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a member to pay a visit.
14. Moss Hill is the final destination, and it’s fittingly relaxing. The limited-release Old Fashioned fragrance line was one of the attractions in previous years that featured a ton of goodies. Who knows what you’ll see in the future?
History of Old Fashioned Cocktails Inception in Louisville
Now you know what Old Fashioned Fortnight is and what kinds of things people get up to when they take part in the festivities. That still leaves the question of how this all started.
For that, you’ll need to take your mind over to the Pendennis Club. It still operates in Louisville, so feel free to stop by. According to legend, one of the bar’s guests ordered a cocktail but let the bartender know that he wasn’t into bourbon.
The Bluegrass is Bourbon County, so serving a non-bourbon drink didn’t feel right. So the bartender got creative, and in the process, exceeded the customer’s expectations.
No one can say that there may not have been similar drinks or variations at the time, but master distiller and club member, Colonel James E. Pepper, is said to have popularized the cocktail.
New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel is where the first documented version of the Old Fashioned was introduced.
In 2015, Mayor Greg Fischer would name the Old Fashioned as the city’s official cocktail.
What Did the Original Recipe Look Like?
Sure, it’s great to be able to make your own version of the Old Fashioned during all the celebrations, but you may also be interested in what the original was like. Wonder no more, as the ingredients are below:
- 2 ounces fine Kentucky bourbon
- 1 lemon twist
- 1 cherry with stem
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1/2 lump of sugar or 1 teaspoon simple syrup
- 1/2 slice orange
What do you do with them? Well, you want to start by grabbing an Old Fashioned glass and mixing the Angostura bitters, water, and sugar. Through in the orange and cherry. Using the back of a spoon or a muddler, muddle into a paste.
Next, pour in your bourbon, put in some ice cubes, stir the mixture, and garnish it with the lemon twist.
What Is National Bourbon Day?
June 14th is National Bourbon Day, which appreciation is shown by the entire nation to America’s official spirit. It’s only fitting that Old Fashioned Fortnight culminates on such a day when the entire country can raise a commemorative glass.
Now, for a little history lesson! Back in the mid-1700s, there were Scots-Irish settlers in what’s now Virginia and Kentucky. They distilled corn, which thanks to its sweetness, made great whiskey.
It helped that the low iron and high calcium water was perfect for moonshine making. Elijah Craig put the final piece of the puzzle in place in the late 1780s when he stored his spirits in old fish barrels.
Of course, they didn’t do any wonders for the taste and so he charred the insides to purify the white oak barrels. Charred oak, plus three-day trips to New Orleans meant a smoke, smooth, and oaky flavour! “That whiskey from Bourbon” became a hit with the New Orleanians and that’s where the name and spirit originate.
How Can You Celebrate National Bourbon Day?
How you celebrate the day depends on your idea of fun and relaxation. You could relax the evening away with a glass if that’s your style. Alternatively, you could host a bourbon-tasting party or check out the hour-long Kentucky Bourbon Tales documentary.
With that said, there’s probably no experience like taking on the full Old Fashioned Fortnight experience.
Old Fashioned, the official cocktail of Louisville has a quite simple but interesting history. It’s simply amazing to see the different ways in which people pay homage to a drink that is ingrained in their culture.
Even if you’re not from there, you can enjoy the festivities too, by indulging in some or all of the activities you saw above. Just remember to have fun and savour the moments!
If Old Fashioned Fortnight has wetted your appetite. And keen to learn more about Bourbon and all things American Whiskey, check out our selection of articles here.