|Midway Cafe owners, Erika Kraus and Staci Edmonds. Phil Armstrong, Fort Thomas Matters.|
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by Robin Gee
It’s National Bourbon Heritage Month and as a part of the celebration, The Bourbon Review has released its list of best bourbon bars for 2021.
Midway Café in Fort Thomas is on the list as are the nine other Northern Kentucky bars and restaurants that are stops on the very popular "B-Line" experience. The B-Line offers bourbon enthusiasts the opportunity to create their own bourbon trail by combining two area distilleries, two bourbon-centric bars and two restaurants that offer bourbon.
Also included on the list were Prohibition Bar in Newport, Tousey House Tavern in Burlington and several Covington establishments: Bourbon Haus 1841, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, Wiseguy Lounge in Goodfellas, Libby’s Southern Comfort, Rich’s Proper Food and Drink, The Globe and Smoke Justis.
Midway Café, a bourbon culture
Staci Edmonds and Erika Kraus, co-owners of the Midway Café, said they are thrilled to be included on the list.
"Staci and I are truly humbled to a part of this list," said Kraus. "It’s been a crazy bourbon ride that just keeps progressing and getting better."
Edmonds credits Kraus for bringing bourbon to Midway. "When we first opened Midway we were happy to be a bar with good food and craft beers on tap. We were excited to be there for regulars to come and have a good time. It was Erika who really found bourbon for us at Midway."
The journey to becoming a bourbon destination was exciting, she said. "We started out small, and then little by little we took every bottle off our walls and replaced them with more and more bourbon each week. It was beautiful to see, and now our shelves are covered in bourbon. Even our slushee is filled with bourbon."
The Select Six
Midway Café is among a group of bourbon-focused establishments, known as the Select Six, who work with an area distillery to choose a single barrel of bourbon that is then bottled and labeled as a "barrel pick."
"We could not be more thrilled to have Midway Café recognized as one of the Best Bourbon Bars in America," said Julie Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of meetNKY. "Midway does bourbon right with their commitment to an incredible selection of America’s Native Spirit and with their unique partnership with six other local venues, aka the Select Six, one of the best single barrel selection programs in the region."
"We are super fortunate to link up with the bars in the Select Six to create an on-premise barrel picking group. As well as being surrounded by great bourbon bars, distilleries and, of course, the B-Line, Northern Kentucky has quickly become a destination place for people wanting to partake in the bourbon culture," said Kraus.
"Bourbon to us is more than just alcohol, it’s a culture. While we love our private barrel picks, it’s more about who we get to share them with. Staci and I are so thankful for the friendships we have cultivated through bourbon. Friends that support us every single day, friends that helped us survive Covid, friends that promote us out into the community."
Both owners wanted to also thank their staff. Said Kraus, "Aside from an amazing bourbon support system, we wouldn’t be who we are without the support of our staff. Our staff has truly embraced the bourbon culture as well. They have been willing to learn and willing to teach others about bourbon."
The Northern Kentucky bourbon scene
"The bourbon scene in Northern Kentucky continues to grow and expand,"said Kirkpatrick. "The success of our signature bourbon experience, The B-Line, has introduced many visitors to their first sips of Kentucky bourbon but it has also tied us closer to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, where 95 percent of the country’s bourbon is produced. I would definitely advise making a b-line to Northern Kentucky as your first stop on a Kentucky bourbon visit and maybe take advantage of our new partnership with Bardstown and Frankfort called Come Find Bourbon, an authentic Kentucky bourbon road trip."
Midway Café is part of a strong and growing tourism trend in our area, she said.
"Research has shown us that visitors want to experience the small town charm of places like Fort Thomas," Kirkpatrick said. "The city has a unique feel and truly welcoming spirit that we are excited to promote along with great local places to eat and sip like the Midway Café and other gems in The Fort."
Other establishments on the B-Line include The Beehive Augusta Tavern (Augusta), Three Spirits Tavern (Bellevue), Second Sight Spirits (Ludlow), Coppin’s (Covington), Neely Family Distillery (Sparta), The Purple Poulet (Newport), Old Pogue Distillery (Maysville), New Riff Distilling (Newport), Bouquet Restaurant (Covington) and Boone County Distilling Company (Independence).