Then, settle in to a dinner of real Kentucky fried chicken at Purple Poulet, opened inside a historic restaurant. The menu includes classic Southern dishes like shrimp and grits from Charleston, and turtle soup from New Orleans.
Cross the river to learn about Newport’s whiskey-soaked Prohibition era on the Newport Gangster tour. The city attracted bootleggers and casino operators, with Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martin performing here during the area’s heyday. The debauchery came to a close in 1961, but reminders are all around.
New Riff Distilling just outside of downtown Newport has gained notoriety for its rye whiskeys that incorporate heritage grains. Opened in 2014, the massive still is on display as you enter the distillery, which offers tours and tastings of its bottled in bond products.
In the small town of Ludlow, a ten-minute minute drive west of Newport, is Second Sight Spirits, a sideshow-themed distillery with a still that resembles a fortune teller. The owners worked together behind the scenes at Las Vegas shows, and now craft Kentucky bourbon and rum aged in bourbon barrels with infusions of cherry and hazelnut.
Return to Newport for dinner at The Baker’s Table, a prix-fixe dining experience focused on local ingredients (reservations recommended). Or pick up a pizza from Baker’s Table Bakery, the casual sister cafe.
Head an hour east to Maysville, located near the state’s first distilleries. The Old Pogue Distillery opened in 1876 and was given the third distilling license in Kentucky, continuing the legacy to this day. For a time it was owned by George Remus, a notorious bootlegger, but the sixth generation Pogues now distill the small-batch bourbon here. Tours are available by appointment.
Then, learn about the Ohio River Valley history at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in downtown Maysville, which includes a visitor’s center with rare bottles of Old Pogue. Another highlight is Kenton Stories with Spirit, a bookstore with plush leather couches and a menu of sandwiches and bourbon. Nosh on a cheese board from Kentucky’s own Cloverdale Creamery while sipping an Old Fashioned.
On your way back into Covington detour to Augusta, home of classic singer and film actress Rosemary Clooney (and where her nephew George—yes, that George—attended high school). B-Bird Distillery opened in 2018 on the site of a former distillery started by a Revolutionary War veteran in 1797. It uses original recipes, and includes a winery with America’s oldest wine cellar. Try the Whiskey Rebellion, named for a dramatic period of American history when distilleries were taxed to pay for the new government.
Your last meal of the trip should be at The Beehive, a legendary tavern that opened in 1796. It’s right by the ferry that shuttles cars across the river, with dishes like bourbon-glazed salmon and bourbon cocktails—the perfect finish on a boozy visit to bourbon country.