Bourbon Industry

A Bourbon Summit? Kentucky distillers say neat!

When President Obama announced Wednesday that he would like to share "a little Kentucky bourbon" with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the idea of the Bourbon Summit was born.

Almost immediately, offers to host poured in from bourbon makers. By Thursday afternoon, the summit had a coffee mug design: "Keep Calm and Drink Bourbon, Obama & McConnell, Ky Bourbon Summit 2014." T-shirts are already for sale online: Kybourbontrail.com.

Will it really happen? Obama's press secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters to "stay tuned."

There is precedent for Obama sharing a cordial drink with a Kentuckian: He had a beer in the Rose Garden with former Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer before awarding him the Medal of Honor in 2011.

For soothing troubled political waters, the president might want something a lot stronger this time.

As a Louisville politician, McConnell was known to keep a bottle of Old Forester in his courthouse office, but the competition to get into the Bourbon Summit bar is getting stiff.

So if Obama and McConnell are serious about this, here are some ideas.

What to drink: If the likely new Senate majority leader is feeling magnanimous, maybe he'll show up with Kentucky Gentleman. If he feels like rubbing the GOP victory in a bit, perhaps Red Stag or Kentucky Fire.

■ Obama might send a subtle message that he's willing to work with the Republicans by offering Barterhouse or Forgiven. If not, maybe he'll pour Old Blowhard.

■ Whiskey writer Fred Minnick suggested they go with Parker's Heritage Promise of Hope, which raises money for a cure for ALS, so that something besides warm feelings can come out of this political group hug.

Where to have it: The Kentucky Distillers Association is dying to help with gorgeous venues and has offered, via Twitter, a half-barrel full of enough premium bourbon to juice a whole caucus of politicians. The association will probably suggest some place with a convivial atmosphere, but maybe stay away from the barrel warehouses. Just in case things get heated. Those warehouses are pretty flammable.

What to stock in the bar: McConnell reportedly favors Manhattans, so there'll be a need for vermouth, bitters and cherries. Might want some ice on hand, too, so everybody keeps their cool. But leave out the sharp bar instruments, just to be safe. No back-stabbing at the Bourbon Summit.

This is hardly the first time bourbon has had a role in politics: both George Washington and Andrew Jackson had distilleries, according to bourbon historian Mike Veach of the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.

Veach suggested caution for politicians: Whiskey taxes have paid for the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, but whiskey and taxes can be a dangerous cocktail: The Grant administration was rocked by the scandal known as the "Whiskey Ring." Tax collectors skimmed money to pay for Republican election campaigns.

There's even a pretty good bourbon named Larceny. So as the distillers like to say, sip wisely, Mr. President.

One to avoid: Filibuster Bourbon.

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