September is National bourbon heritage month, and bartenders in Northern Kentucky along the B-Line are having a cocktail competition to celebrate.
Their goal is to have all bars along the line make a cocktail and sell that drink to patrons of their bars during September, while explaining the heritage of bourbon and how they made their cocktail.
The B-Line, or the Bourbon Trail for Northern Kentucky, comprises bars, distilleries, and restaurants that are bourbon-themed and exude bourbon heritage. To be on the B-Line, restaurants must have 50 bourbons with a focus on Kentucky bourbon, and bars are required to have 100 bourbons.
Charlie Zimmerman, the owner of Three Spirits Tavern, a B-Line bar in Bellevue, said he came up with the idea for the contest after participating in Alchemy Fest—a Cincinnati cocktail competition.
The requirement for the cocktail creation is to use TAO Bitters— made by a small Cincinnati-based business and Kentucky bourbon. Otherwise, bartenders have free reign.
The sales of the cocktails throughout September will help to promote the drinks leading up to the event. The bartender who sells the most cocktails from their bar gets an invite to the classic.
Some of the participating bartenders are from Three Spirits Tavern, Smoke Justice, Wiseguy Lounge, and Bouquet Restaurant. The goal is to have 10 of them move on to the event.
The Cocktail Classic will be held Oct. 9 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Three Spirits Tavern, 209 Fairfield Ave.
People wanting to participate in the classic will buy a ticket that comes with a lanyard with a “sipping shot glass” to sample the cocktails in the competition. Participants will also receive a swag bag from participating vendors with the purchase of their tickets.
Taste testers will vote for their favorite drinks, and the top four bartender concoctions will advance to the finals and be voted on by a panel of judges.
The winner of the classic will get a cash prize, and the winning bar will receive a barrel head to signify their win.
The event will have live music from the Trailer Park Floosies and vendors like New Riff and Braxton, who will feature a new dark charge beer.
Zimmerman said he hopes for around 300 people to be involved in the event.
“The goal with this is to start small this year just to kind of get our feet wet, go through the motions and get all the logistics down,” Zimmerman said. “Then next year, do bigger and eventually do it at Turfway.”
He said he hopes to see the Cocktail Classic become part of a statewide event comprised of the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville and the Kentucky Distillers Bourbon Trail.
“What I would like to see is for the Northern Kentucky Cocktail Classic to represent all of Northern Kentucky,” Zimmerman said. “Louisville does theirs, Lexington does one, and then we have a state championship.”