Weekly Cocktail #42: The Kentucky Royale

The Kentucky Royale Cocktail.

The Kentucky Royale Cocktail.

One of our favorite things about cocktails is that they allow you to “follow the Muse” a bit. For inspiration we look at the bar, read some cocktail books, browse some cocktail websites, shop the farmers market or pick fruit from the orchard. Most of the time we have no idea what’s coming, but we certainly enjoy the ride (mostly, a few drinks have gone down the drain). So while we would call this week’s cocktail a “happy accident”, we have come to expect pleasant surprises at the bar.

royaleroyale2The Kentucky Royale is a Manhattan variant that includes Bourbon (Elijah Craig 12), Cherry Heering, Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica), coffee liqueur (Kahlua Especial), Bittermen’s Mole bitters (chocolate bitters) and a cherry garnish. And while this may sound like a bit of a mess, it works beautifully. You get a sweet vanilla and cherry sip from the Bourbon and Cherry Heering, followed by the spice of the Carpano Antica vermouth (good vermouth really helps here) and with slight chocolate and coffee notes at the finish that slightly clean the palate. A very well-balanced sip.

royale3royale4So what do we mean by “balance”? Well, as you may know, we are not big fans of the term. Often “balance” seems to mean “what I like”. But we would define balance in a cocktail this way; you taste hints of all the ingredients and flavors, but the overall flavor of the drink works from beginning to end, nothing extra, nothing wasted. And the Kentucky Royale, even with a wealth of ingredients, certainly fits the definition.

royale5How did we find the recipe? We trusted the Muse. Last week we went to a single barrel Bourbon tasting at our local liquor store, and we left with a few bottles. And while the bottles sat on the bar, we opened Fred Yarm’s cocktail book “Drink and Tell”, we literally opened the book, flipped a few random pages and this was the first bourbon recipe we found. (The recipe comes from the Franklin Southie, a Boston-area bar. They developed the recipe for a bourbon-themed industry event.) We had all the ingredients (even the crazy bitters) so we made this cocktail, and enjoyed another “happy accident”.

royale8The Kentucky Royale:


  • 1 and 1/2 oz. Bourbon (Elijah Craig 12)
  • 1/2 oz. Cherry Heering 
  • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
  • 1 barspoon (1 teaspoon) Coffee Liqueur (Kahlua Especial)
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters (Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole bitters)
  • Brandied or Maraschino cherry for garnish


  1. Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail glass or shaker. Stir until very cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with the cherry. Serve.

24 thoughts on “Weekly Cocktail #42: The Kentucky Royale

  1. You had me at Kentucky:-) Huge bourbon fan–have a bottle of Elijah Craig (among others) on my shelf right now. Actually have everything for the drink save the chocolate bitters. What an insane idea–chocolate bitters:-) Recently had a drink (cobra kai 0-:) that had housemade habanero bitters. On my to-do list, as is the Kentucky Royale!

  2. Wow! I just made this (Bulleit bourbon was on hand) and–initially leery of it being too sweet–and it’s great! Chocolate covered cherries for grown ups. I used my own brandied cherries…Well done! This is a Keeper.

  3. Pingback: The Bill Murray Cocktail | The Liquid Culture Project

  4. This is really unusual. I can’t wait to share this with a friend who thinks there is only one way to drink a Manhattan. I think he’d find this very interesting! I’ll get my ingredients in order. I’ve never heard of Cherry Heering. I enjoy finding new labels!

    • Cherry Heering is very good stuff and plays equally well with gin and it does with Whiskey. It is an old-time ingredient that got lost and is now being rediscovered…worth picking up if you see it..

  5. I’ve only tasted that Elijah Criag 12-year and it was really distinctive.But I can see how that cocktail would work. I hope to finally get some Herring in a couple of weeks, so I could give it a go.

  6. Pingback: Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies « Putney Farm

  7. Pingback: Kentucky Royale | Gourmet Veggie Mama

  8. Pingback: SideBlog: The Best Written Definition of Balance in Cocktails I’ve Yet Seen | The Pegu Blog

  9. Pingback: Subtle Nuances; Vastly Different Cocktails | The Liquid Culture Project

  10. Pingback: Île Saint-Honorat | The Liquid Culture Project

  11. Pingback: Mixology Monday LXXIV Cocktail: The Baur Au Lac « Putney Farm

Please Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s