The Official Kentucky State Beverage Is Not What You Think

Most people associate Kentucky with horse racing and bourbon, as the "Bluegrass State" is home to the famous Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. You might assume the state beverage would be a mint julep, a refreshing concoction typically consisting of bourbon, sugar, crushed or shaved ice, and mint, and the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. However, that's not the case. 

Instead, the title belongs to a carbonated, non-alcoholic drink called Ale-8-One, a ginger and citrus-flavored soda that was invented in Winchester, Kentucky, back in 1926. Perhaps this is because it is the only soft drink originating in Kentucky that has survived up to the present day. 

Two previous Kentucky governors recognized the Kentucky-native drink in separate legislative moves that contributed to cementing its legacy. First, Governor Paul E. Patton declared July 13, 2001 to be "Ale-8-1 Day." Then in 2013, Governor Steve Beshear ensured Ale-8-One was forever immortalized when he signed House Bill No. 205, which made it the official state beverage.

It's not just a Kentucky thing anymore

Despite all the attention and accolades it was garnering on the home front, for 90 years Ale-8-One had only been sold within the state of Kentucky. Then in 2016, Ale-8-One took the leap into the big time when it struck a partnership with Cracker Barrel to make its original soft drink available in all of the restaurant chain's Old Country Stores nationwide, which currently encompasses more than 660 locations in 45 states. Part of the appeal was the old-timey vibe of Cracker Barrel's Old Country Stores, which then Ale-8-One president and COO and now CEO Ellen McGeeney said fit their 90-year-old homegrown Kentucky product perfectly.

While the Cracker Barrel deal focuses on the original ginger beverage founded in 1926, Ale-8-One has since expanded to offer cherry and orange cream varieties, as well as caffeine-free and zero-sugar versions of its different flavors. Even though bourbon isn't the official state beverage, adults can still mix and match their All-8-One and bourbon of choice to create the perfect representation of Kentucky in a glass.