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The Kentucky Mint Julep

May is definitely a month full of celebrations. There’s Cinco de Mayo (hello margaritas!), Mother’s Day (where would we be without the women who raised us?), and most importantly to Kentuckians (sorry margs and moms), the Kentucky Derby.

On Saturday, May 3, the 140th run of the Kentucky Derby will take place at Churchill Downs in Louisville. But the real questions that everyone seems to have on their mind are; what will everyone be wearing and what will everyone be drinking?

In regards to people’s outfits, the hats are a given. We can’t wait to see some of the crazy things that people come up with this year! These are just a sample of the dozens of fantastic and creative hats guests have made over the years.

In regards to drinking, many would argue that the only acceptable refreshment on Derby Day is a Mint Julep. This refreshing and delicious drink will go down smooth and leave you feeling great. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the infield or one of the owner’s boxes—the Mint Julep doesn’t discriminate!

If you don’t want to take our word for it, check out UPK’s book The Kentucky Mint Julep by Colonel Joe Nickell.

It looks at the origins of the julep, offers a brief history of American whiskey and Kentucky bourbon, and shares some classic julep tales. Information on julep cups, tips on garnishing and serving, and reminiscences from the likes of Charles Dickens, Washington Irving, and General John Hunt Morgan give a fun, historic look at Kentucky’s favorite drink. The book also includes recipes for classic juleps, modern variations, non-alcoholic versions, and the author’s own thoroughly researched “perfect” mint julep.

So celebrate the Derby by buying Nickell’s book on our website and drinking a Mint Julep. May the betting odds be ever in your favor!

The Early Years of Whiskeymaking

Believe it or not, the history of making bourbon in Kentucky isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.


what gif

Image via Google

Many theories have been developed over the years to suggest who really invented one of Kentucky’s most distinctive products. But what is the real story?


One of the University Press of Kentucky’s very own authors, Henry Crowgey, asked himself the same question when he wrote Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking.

Kentucky Bourbon by Henry Crowgey

This book tells the story of bourbon’s evolution by looking at a variety of subjects: from the role of alcohol in colonial America and in the lives of frontiersmen to the importance of the Kentucky product in the Revolutionary War.

Crowgey claims that distilled spirits and pioneer settlement went hand in hand; Isaac Shelby, the state’s first governor, was among Kentucky’s pioneer distillers. Crowgey traces the drink’s history from its beginnings as a cottage industry to steam-based commercial operations in the period just before the Civil War.

Image via Google

Image via Google

From “spirited” camp meetings, to bourbon’s use as a medium of exchange for goods and services, to the industry’s coming of age in the mid-nineteenth century, the story of Kentucky bourbon is a fascinating chapter in the state’s early history.

This book would be the perfect gift for any history or—dare we say—bourbon buffs out there. Check out our website for details on the book!

If Crowgey’s fascinating read got you in the mood for more bourbon knowledge, check out the History Channel’s documentary on “The Birth of Bourbon” at the link!


We’re Poets and We Didn’t Even Know It

It has been a real treat for us at UPK to share with our followers some of our favorite poems from our authors including Joe Survant, Frank X Walker, and George Ella Lyon for April’s National Poetry Month. I think we can all agree that their amazing talents make writing poetry look easy. Our English professors will tell you on our behalf that it is not.

bourbon poetry

     Images via Google

That rhymes, right?

Today we are spotlighting a Hopkinsville native who has made a profound impact on the country as one of the nation’s leading intellectuals: bell hooks. As an author, activist, feminist, teacher, and artist, hooks’ works reflect her Appalachian upbringing and feature her struggles with racially integrated schools and unwelcome authority figures.

In Appalachian Elegy, bell hooks continues her work as an imagist of life’s harsh realities in a collection of poems inspired by her childhood in the isolated hills and hidden hollows of Kentucky. At once meditative, confessional, and political, this poignant volume draws the reader deep into the experience of living in Appalachia.

Appalachian Elegy

Keep reading for excerpts of this sensational book and collection of poems!


hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the way
guide us
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay dirt
rock upon rock
charred earth
in time
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
native flowers
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection


all fields
of tobacco
growing here
gone now
man has made time
take them
this harsh crop
to other lands
countries where
the spirit guides
go the way
of lush green
leaving behind
the scent of memory
tobacco leaves
green yellow brown
plant of sacred power
shining beauty
return to Appalachia
make your face known

If you’re interested in reading more from the captivating bell hooks, you can buy the book on our website or check out her Facebook page!

Feeling Thirsty?

If our last recipe post from The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book wasn’t enough of a teaser for ya, check below for some tasty treats! Whether you’re a fan of sweet or savory spirits, this book has something for everyone.


Kentucky Derby Pie

1½ ounces Kentucky bourbon (80–90 proof)
¾ ounce Nocello (walnut liqueur)
½ ounce Tuaca
¾ ounce Godiva chocolate liqueur
¾ ounce Baileys Irish Cream

Combine ingredients, shake over ice, and strain into a chilled glass. Sprinkle
cocoa powder on top.

Kentucky Sunshine

2 ounces Kentucky sourwood honey dissolved in 2 ounces hot water
2 ounces Kentucky bourbon (80–90 proof)
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 ounces fresh orange juice
1 ounce medium dry sherry
1 ounce sparkling wine

Dissolve the honey in the hot water; otherwise it will not dissolve in the liquor.
To an ice-filled glass, add all ingredients except the sparkling wine; shake. Add
more ice if needed and the sparkling wine. Garnish with a drizzle of undiluted
sourwood honey, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and a lemon wheel on the rim. Serve
with a long straw.

Feel Better Kentucky Bourbon Toddy

6 ounces boiling water
2 ounces Kentucky bourbon of your choice
1 ounce brown sugar syrup or undiluted Kentucky sourwood honey
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice

Pour boiling water into a heat-proof mug, add all other ingredients, and stir
well. This is the perfect drink if you feel a cold coming on. If taken just before
bedtime, use a high-alcohol, barrel-proof bourbon. Sweet dreams!


It’s 5 O’Clock in Kentucky

April is a special time of year here in the Bluegrass for several reasons. Keeneland, a favorite in UPK’s hometown of Lexington, is finally open for their Spring Meet. The Derby is right around the corner. That vicious winter has hopefully been permanently laid to rest. Tailgate season isn’t too far away.

All of these reasons culminate in the heartwarming truth that it is once again acceptable to drink bourbon before 5 o’clock (thanks in part to Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson). We at UPK are fortunate enough to have dozens of bourbon recipes at our disposal from some of our most talented authors and their various works.

'Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book' 30% OFF: $10.47

In The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, Joy Perrine and Susan Reigler provide a reader-friendly handbook featuring more than 100 recipes including seasonal drinks, after-dinner bourbon cocktails, Derby cocktails, and even medicinal toddies. See below for a fun twist on an old classic!

Dark & Bloody Bourbon Mary

This is the perfect drink for a Derby brunch. I relished rising to the challenge from those who said a bloody Mary couldn’t be made with bourbon. Ha!

1 teaspoon salt/pepper/paprika mix
2 ounces Woodford Reserve
2 large lemon wedges
1 tablespoon Bourbon Barrel Aged Worcestershire Sauce
1 can (6 ounces) Campbell’s tomato juice

To prepare the seasoning mix, combine in a mortar one part each smoked sea salt and smoked pepper and two parts smoked paprika, all from Bourbon Barrel Foods ( Finely crush with a pestle and shake together in a jar.

To a pint glass or large mason jar filled with ice, add the bourbon, squeeze and drop in the lemon wedges, and add the teaspoon of seasoning mix and the Worcestershire sauce. Shake. Add more ice and the can of tomato juice. Shake again. Garnish with a long straw, baby corn, a large pitted black olive, and a cherry pepper, all on a stick.

If you’re interested in this recipe and more like it, head over to our website to buy the book.

Stay tuned to our blog for posts about all things bourbon for the next couple weeks!


Got A Knack For Nature?

Despite the snow that this wonderful Kentucky weather has bestowed on us yet again, it is still about time to step outside and get your daily dose of sunshine. If you are in the Louisville area, then there is no better place to do this than at one of the five beautiful Olmsted Parks located all around the city. The Olmsted Parks of Louisville are self-proclaimed for being designed for three types of recreation: 1) recreative or individual use, such as walking or running, 2) gregarious or social use, such as picnics, and 3) exertive or athletic use, such as ball games. See the map below to see which park is closest to you.

There are so many things you can do to be active outside this season! Here’s a list of our favorites:

1)      Go for a run. Grab your running shoes and even your dog, and set out on a trail.

2)      Throw a Frisbee, football, baseball, etc.

3)      Fly a kite.

4)      Have a picnic.

5)      Read a book.

6)      Relive your childhood by playing tag, hide and seek, red rover, etc.

7)      Draw, sketch, paint gorgeous scenery.

In all of these parks, you will find yourself among gorgeous landscapes filled with thousands of flowers. Be sure to pick up a copy of The Olmsted Parks of Louisville: A Botanical Guide in order to maximize your nature experience within these parks!


Calling All Mushroom Hunters!

Now that warm weather is finally here, it’s time for one of America’s favorite pastimes to begin again. That’s right, I’m talking about mushroom hunting. This year, when you go around gathering the most succulent morels you can find, be sure to try out this recipe and send your tastebuds on a spree!

Stuffed Matsutake Triangles

3-4 Large Matsutake Caps
Green onions
Minced garlic
Cream cheese
Bacon bits
Salt & pepper
Bread crumbs

Step 1) Chop onions, then put in bowl with garlic and cream cheese.

Step 2) Cut mushroom caps into triangles, and place in baking dish, gills up. Spread cream cheese mixture over caps, sprinkle bread crumbs over mixture, then add bacon bits, salt, and pepper to your liking.

Step 3) Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve as an appetizer or enjoy as a snack or side dish.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians to aid you in all of your mushroom hunting endeavors this coming season!