The 2014 HerKentucky Valentine's Day Wish List for the Guy in Your Life

The other day, I ran across the perfect little Valentine's Day present for my beau. I mean, how cute is this Hadley Pottery coaster? It's collectible, it's something we can use year after year...

...And it would totally be a gift from me to me. My fiancé doesn't exactly share my affinity for Louisville's artisanal blue-and-white pottery.  So, I started thinking of gifts that he'd actually like. And thus, the 2014 HerKentucky Valentine's Day Wish List for the Guy in Your Life was born. Here are some presents that are as quirky, fantastic, and uniquely Kentucky as the guy in your life.

Balls of Steel Whiskey Coolers
A few weeks ago, I got an email from the Balls of Steel company. Yes, that's the product's actual name. I mentioned it to my fiancé, and his immediate response was: "We must have some of those. Now." It turns out that Balls of Steel are stainless steel whiskey coolers that allow you to enjoy your beverage at the perfect temperature without diluting it.  Not only do they have a name you can't forget, but they fund a great cause.

15% of the purchase price of every set of Balls of Steel will go to testicular cancer research. What a great idea! The name will certainly catch your guy's attention, the donation is much needed, and the coolers can chill a variety of beverages, from a run-of-the-mill soda to the finest glass of Pappy.

Pappy & Co Flask
Speaking of the finest glass of Pappy, this Smathers & Branson flask will wow any bourbon drinker on your list. It's just gorgeous, and it sends the message that your guy only drinks the best.

Kentucky for Kentucky Ball Cap

Of course, I could just list "Everything in the Kentucky for Kentucky collection" as a must-have, but this vintage-style cap is just so fun!

Maker's Mark Label Upcycled Bow Tie
I saw this bow tie in a gift basket at a silent auction this weekend, and was just smitten. How fun for the Maker's lover or bow tie aficionado in your life! It's by artist Melissa Sinkovic and available via her Etsy store or at Revelry Boutique in Louisville.

J. Peterman 1903 Badger Hair Shaving Brush

A morning shave seems like the most miserable enterprise a man must undertake. Peterman's shaving brush adds elegance to the proceedings.

What are y'all getting your beaux for Valentine's Day?

National Hot Toddy Day

Today is National Hot Toddy Day!

The Hot Toddy is my go-to cold-weather cocktail and fix-everything cold medicine.

The recipe is pretty simple. Use the bourbon of your choice (I prefer Maker's Mark!)

  • 1 oz bourbon 
  • 1 oz steaming-hot water 
  • honey 
  • 1 lemon 

    Put a kettle of water on to boil. Drizzle honey in the bottom of coffee mug. Pour in one ounce bourbon, or to taste. Squeeze juice of 1/4 lemon into mug. Pour in hot water. Add additional bourbon and/or hot water to taste.  Warm up. Feel better.

Why Not Throw a Bourbon Cocktail Party?

Don and Pete.  Mint Juleps. That is all. via AMC.
It's Friday, and it's Bourbon Heritage Month.  Why not celebrate the gloriously crisp autumn weather with the warm, smooth notes of a bourbon cocktail? This weekend, you should throw a bourbon cocktail party!

Now, here at HerKentucky, we're always looking for a reason to throw a good party. Kentucky's very own whisky is a better reason than most.  In just four simple steps, you can put together a fun and elegant bourbon cocktail party.
Bourbon tasting bar, via Garden & Gun
Step One: Choose Your Bourbon
I'd suggest picking up three whisky labels that fit the distinct mashbill profiles -- one high rye content brand, like Basil Hayden's, one high corn content like Buffalo Trace's Old Charter, and a wheated bourbon like Maker's Mark or Pappy Van WinkleThis article from Bluegrass Threads, and this one from Epicurious, do a great job of describing the different taste profiles.  Pick up one of the small batch labels for true sipping, and remember your beer-loving guests with Bourbon Barrel Ale.

Step 2: Choose Your Blend
Most Kentuckians are pretty easy to please.  We take our bourbon neat, with a splash of water or, heaven forbid, with a little Coca-Cola.  (Bourbon and Coke tastes good, but don't ever admit it!)  It seems that bourbon is nationally trendy again, with all these speakeasies popping up in major cities.  You get things like the Bacon Old Fashioned, from Nashville's Patterson House, or the Kentucky Rose from Atlanta's Southern Art and Bourbon BarIf you want to get that fancy, your guests will love a sip.  This bourbon and ginger sounds interesting. Of course, nothing beats a Maker's Manhattan. Nothing.

Step 3: Choose Your Glass
A variety of lowball glasses, Manhattan glasses and julep cups help you enjoy in style.  I love these stemless martini glasses from Maker's Mark and these Fleur de Lis julep cups from Louisville Stoneware

Step 4: Choose Your Friends
Make a few calls, pour a few drinks, and enjoy.

Cheers, y'all!

This is the first installment in a series of posts called "The Bourbon Files", which will showcase the history, culture, and distinct taste of Kentucky's signature spirit.

Smathers and Branson Needlepoint Flask giveaway!

Sometimes Football Wishes really do come true!

To get us all in the tailgating mood, the kind folks at Smathers and Branson have graciously offered to give one of their adorable needlepoint flasks to a lucky HerKentucky reader!

One winner will be awarded a Needlepoint Flask from the Smathers and Branson collection.  You can choose the Maker's Mark design, straight from our Tailgating Wishlist...
... or maybe the Mint Julep design, to get yourself in a Derby frame of mind.

Every Smathers and Branson design is so cute, it'll be hard to choose!

You can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  The contest ends Thursday, August 30, and the winner will be announced on Friday August 31. The winner can choose from any in-stock, non-monogrammed flask in the Smathers and Branson collection. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now You're Cooking with Bourbon...

Image via Southern Living.
A few Sundays ago, my beau and I had just sat down to a patio brunch at one of our very favorite Downtown Lexington spots when we happened to notice the folks at the next table.  They were clearly a family, a mother, father, and a twenty-something son.  Their rapid accents and references to Westchester County easily identified them as upstate New Yorkers.   As we finished deciding on our order, we happened to hear the lady at that table wondering about dessert selections, so my beau handed her his menu.  A moment later, she asked us whether the restaurant carried "something called Derby Pie", which she'd been told to try on her trip to Kentucky.

Now, it was a sunny, lazy Sunday morning -- kind of a picture-postcard day -- and we decided it would be a lovely time to play "native Kentuckian" for these folks. (Later, my beau would jokingly say of the encounter, "This is so going in HerKentucky, isn't it?")  So, I gave our new friend a mini lesson on Derby Pie -- how nearly every Kentucky restaurant sells a variant of Derby Pie, but are bound by trademark restrictions to call it something else, how she definitely wanted to try it before she went home, etc.  As she asked more questions about the pastry and its preperation, I went into the basic instructions of how to make a Kentucky pie-- chocolate, walnuts, and a heavy splash of Maker's Mark.

"Does it have to be Maker's Mark, or can you use any bourbon?" the lady then asked. 

Image via Maker's Mark.
Now, as I've said before, Maker's is the bourbon of choice at our house.  We just love its caramel notes and its smooth drinkability.  We know that any time I cook with chocolate, I add a splash of Maker's for balance.  We know that any time we want to undwind with a nice cocktail, it's Maker's and Coke or a Maker's Manhattan.  But, the truth is, it has been ages since we thought about  or explained the reason.  Needless to say, we jumped into Maker's Mark Ambassador mode and gave our Knickerbocker friends a little lesson in bourbon.

I first explained to our fellow diner that I always use Maker's Mark in baking because the three distinct notes -- smokiness, caramel, and a hint of vanilla -- provide a complex counterbalance to chocolate.  This flavor profile compliments the chocolate flavor deliciously.  My beau then took over from there,  noting that Maker's is distilled in a very unique manner, using red winter wheat instead of rye, which creates a smooth and caramel-textured bourbon. 

By this time, the youngest member of the dining party had returned from paying the check.  His mother asked us to repeat a few details for his benefit, to which he replied "Do you work for Maker's Mark?'

"No," my beau and I said, almost in unison.  "we just really like bourbon."

Bourbon: of Love Notes and Legal Opinions

Earlier this week, Sarah blogged about Derby Pie, the Louisville-based pastry that is so unique and wonderful that it warrants trademark protection.  While the nut-and-chocolate pie springs up under many names across the Commonwealth, there is only one pastry that can be called Derby Pie.

Image via ABC News.
Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals similarly found that there is only one brand of booze that can feature a seal of dripping red wax -- Loretto's own Maker's Mark.  The truth is, you don't need the Court of Appeals to tell you that the Maker's trademark is "extremely strong"; the distinctive wax-sealed bottle is unmistakable even to teetotalers.  Now, here at HerKentucky, we've spent more than our fair share of time reading legal opinions.  And, most of us have been known to mix up a bourbon cocktail or two.  Needless to say, this story stoked the geek fires around here. 

Even if legal documents aren't your thing, Judge Martin's opinion is kind of awesome. Before going into the intellectual property issues at the heart of the case, he takes a lot of time to just talk about whiskey. It reads like a love letter to bourbon.  In describing the process that yields Kentucky's signature spirit, he waxes poetic.  In establishing bourbon's role as the greatest of all spirits, he evokes imagery from Harry Truman to James Bond.  Even the footnotes are lyrical, pointing out that  "the spelling of the word “whiskey” has engendered impassioned debate." While Judge Martin and his law clerks clearly had a blast researching this issue, they also got me thinking about the uniquely Kentucky character of bourbon.
Image via KY ABC.
As every Kentuckian knows, bourbon is created from a blend of sour (corn) mash which is aged in charred-oak barrels.  The sweet caramel and vanilla notes are produced by natural sugars occuring in the wood. The process began in the Central Kentucky region known as "Old Bourbon." And, while bourbon can technically be produced outside the boundaries of the Commonwealth, most of us consider Kentucky production a key.  It's been estimated that 97% of all bourbon is produced in Central Kentucky.   (And, really, who would want to know what that other 3% is, let alone drink it?)

Most Kentuckians have a favorite bourbon, whether we use it for drinking or cooking.  I'm a Maker's girl myself; I love the smooth, smoky caramel taste in a cocktail or to provide a complex note in chocolate desserts.     But, whatever flavor profile you prefer in your bourbon,  it's a taste that's wonderfully unique to Kentucky.

What's your favorite bourbon?

Twin Spires

In chocolate.

Up close

On my cocktail
Happy Almost-Derby, y'all!