WASHINGTON – Kentucky politicians and visitors in town for Inauguration Day began celebrating two days before Donald Trump will be sworn in as president with Wednesday night’s Bluegrass Ball. The approximately 1,000 partygoers enjoyed some of the things that make Kentucky great: Mary Todd’s Famous Almond White Cake, good bourbon and – of course — bluegrass music.
The ball, hosted by the Kentucky Society of Washington, features bourbon from 10 distilleries, music from Ricky Staggs and the Kentucky Thunder and chicken fricassee, reportedly Kentucky native Abraham Lincoln’s favorite dish, followed by his wife’s famous dessert.
“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 ins and outs of whiskey-tasting.
“There’s no wrong way to sample Kentucky bourbon—except responsibly, of course.” Gregory said.
Chris Morris, Woodford Reserve master distiller, attended two other 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 all the complex flavors.
After the bourbon tasting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator, and Sen. Rand Paul, R.-Ky., and their wives along with other elected leaders from Kentucky made a grand entrance into the ballroom.
Local 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 the Woodford Reserve.
Kentucky has a long history here in Washington, according to Gregory. “[President] 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.”