Explore KY Food and Drink

Each culture, across all of humanity’s eras and habitats, develops its own unique, vibrant culinary traditions over time. These traditions arise from the diverse climates, regions, and technologies that people groups live with, and how their creativity inspires them to combine the ingredients they have on hand to create flavorful recipes and dishes that are passed on from generation to generation.

The Kentucky Historical Markers Program, created and managed by the Kentucky Historical Society, remembers and honors thousands of people, places, and events that shaped history as we know it. Among these markers, many tell the stories of Kentuckians who worked long hours in their kitchens and breweries—which they often built themselves—to delight friends, family, and customers with their delicious ideas. These are the stories featured in this tour.

Our state’s characteristic foods and drinks come from a long history of not only cooking, but also trade, industry, and settlement, that spans the course of centuries. This history has resulted in a colorful and fascinating array of home-cooked entrees, fun candies, and rich liquors.

This tour will guide readers to establishments such as the Old Stone Inn, the oldest stone building in Shelby County and a nineteenth-century stagecoach tavern that has survived and served customers into the twenty-first. It also highlights the illustrious career of entrepreneur and chef Jennie C. Benedict, who brightened the city of Louisville not only with her cooking, but also her dedicated public service.

The tour outlines Kentucky’s world-famous history of brewing and distilling as well. Whiskies and other liquors have been crafted in abundance throughout the state, including, of course, iconic Kentucky bourbon. The stories behind these distilleries and their distillers shine fascinating new lights on state and regional history.

But Kentucky’s culinary history covers not only the foods themselves, but also the industries and events surrounding them. The tour will inform readers about the Bullitt’s Lick Salt Works, the first salt works established west of the Alleghanies, which through the eighteenth century provided settlers and pioneers with bulk amounts of the seasoning that they used to preserve meats that fueled the growth of new frontier towns. Also documented is the history of winemaking in Bracken County, which few thought was possible until Swiss and German immigrants made the business boom.

The KY Food and Drink Tour chronicles nine stories of people and places in Kentucky that left significant, famous, and tasty marks on the state’s history and culture.

Evan Williams, 1755-1810

Historical Marker #2445 commemorates Evan Williams (1755 – 1810), an early Kentucky whiskey distiller in Jefferson County. A native of Wales, Williams came to Kentucky around 1780. He settled in Louisville, which had been established two years…

Ruth Hanly Booe

Historical Marker #2192, located in Franklin County, KY (Frankfort), commemorates the business and culinary achievements of famous confectioner Ruth Booe. Ruth Hanly Booe was born on October 28, 1891. Little of her early life is documented, as the…

Whiskey Row

Historical Marker #2104 in Louisville notes the historical significance of that city’s Main Street whiskey firms. Louisville’s rise to become Kentucky’s largest city in the nineteenth century was due in large part to its location on the Ohio River.…

Bottled Bourbon

Historical Marker #2103 in Louisville notes the significance of the “Old Forester” brand, which was the first commercially bottled bourbon. It will likely never be known who produced the first bourbon distilled in Kentucky. The spirits’ history…

Bullitt's Lick

Historical Marker #133, located in Bullitt County, KY (Shepherdsville), marks the site of an 18th-century saltworks, which was the first industrial effort in Kentucky. Salt, although a commonplace ingredient today, was highly valued by early…

Fancy Farm

Historical Marker #1682, located in Fancy Farm, KY (Graves County) notes the longstanding and ongoing tradition of the annual Fancy Farm Picnic, a colorful political convention and cookout. Out of the many rules of culinary etiquette, perhaps one of…

Old Stone Inn

Historical Marker #1889, located in Simpsonville, KY (Shelby County) notes the centuries of history underlying the Old Stone Inn restaurant. The Old Stone Inn’s construction began in 1817, at the behest of wealthy Virginian Fleming P. Rogers. Rogers…

Bracken County Wine

Historical Marker #2104, located in Augusta, KY (Bracken County) remembers the rich history and revived tradition of winemaking in Kentucky. In the early decades of America’s independence, a few primary concerns occupied the minds of the…

Jennie C. Benedict

Historical Marker #2142, located in Louisville, KY (Jefferson County) commemorates the enterprising spirit and devoted philanthropy of world-famous chef Jennie Carter Benedict. Jennie was born on March 25, 1860 in the wealthy farming community of…
Thank you to the KHS staff and to the sponsor of the University of Kentucky Daniel B. Rowland Community Internship Award, which made this project possible.