Kentucky politicians and visitors in town for the inauguration of Donald Trump Friday began their celebration at Wednesday night’s Bluegrass Ball, where about 1,000 guests enjoyed Mary Todd Lincoln’s white almond cake and a bevy of other uniquely Kentucky treats.
The ball, hosted by the Kentucky Society of Washington, featured bourbon from 10 distilleries, music from Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder, and chicken fricassee, reportedly the favorite dish of Kentucky native Abraham Lincoln.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase Kentucky,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association, which organized a bourbon tasting that featured master distillers and master tasters teaching guests the finer points of bourbon sipping.
“There’s no wrong way to sample Kentucky bourbon,” Gregory said.
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Chris Morris, the master distiller at Woodford Reserve, said he also attended Bluegrass Balls in 2009 and 2013.
“It’s so exciting to see the Kentucky bourbon industry, part of the Kentucky culture and part of the Kentucky’s face to the world, here in D.C.,” Morris said.
Woodford Reserve master taster Elizabeth McCall recommended the “Kentucky Chew” method, in which you take a sip and swish it around in your mouth, smacking your lips, so you can taste the complex flavors.
After the bourbon tasting, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Bowling Green, accompanied by their wives, made a grand entrance into the ballroom along with other elected leaders from Kentucky.
Products from farmers and food producers were incorporated into the menu by Midway chef Ouita Michel, executive chef at Holly Hill Inn and chef-in-residence at Woodford Reserve.
Kentucky has a long history of supplying Washington with distilled spirits, Gregory said.
“Henry Clay introduced the mint julep here,” he said. “He used to ship barrels of bourbon to Washington to ‘lubricate the wheels of government,’ as he said.”
“We’ve been blessed to have a lot of powerful statesman in our past come from Kentucky. From Clay or John Sherman Cooper and now Senator McConnell.”