Arts & Entertainment

Southern bistro pays tribute to Bourbon Heritage Month

The Twisted Tail, a bar and bistro, focuses on educating people about whiskey—not just serving it.

In 1964, Congress declared bourbon whiskey “America’s native spirit.” Decades later, the Twisted Tail, a bar and bistro on 2nd Street near Lombard, pays tribute to the national spirit by running a series of special events in honor of Bourbon Heritage Month.

Bar-goers can experience the Tail’s exclusive deals throughout the month, along with the bar’s atmosphere that blends urban flair with tones of southern hospitality.

George Reilly, the Twisted Tail’s owner and a master craftsman, began celebrating the heritage of Bourbon at his bar because he feels it’s an important part of the nation’s history.

“It’s actually a story in history, a lot of the bourbon distilleries pre-Prohibition were up in this direction in Pennsylvania, definitely in the Philadelphia region,” Reilly said.

Though the history of whiskey and bourbon is widely contested by historians, Philadelphia is pioneering the spirits’ rebirth.  According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, distillers made their way to Philadelphia during the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s.

When Prohibition swept the United States in the 1920s, many distilleries and whiskey-makers fled to backwoods areas in the South to avoid the authorities, prompting the bourbon culture to begin once again in Kentucky after Prohibition ended, Reilly said.

Ordinarily, the bar offers more than 120 different whiskeys. During September, the Twisted Tail is offering a variety of events catered to helping the public fine-tune  their whiskey palettes.

Every Friday this month, the bar will offer a free Distiller Series Happy Hour, an informative tasting designed to give guests a chance to taste different spirits, learn each drink’s history and how it is crafted.

The bar’s most anticipated event is Whiskey Bonanza on Sept. 17, an evening showcasing 70 different whiskeys, as well as a bartender competition with contestants from New York City and Philadelphia.

Whiskey-novices and enthusiasts alike can vote on their favorite Bourbon cocktails as well as enjoy live music and food trucks.

Sophomore business major Zach Grau learned about bourbon and whiskeys through his uncle, who brews his own beer and whiskey.

“I appreciate all the art and science that goes into making whiskeys,” Grau said. “Some are aged for longer than I have been alive, and I think that’s something to admire.”

Dan Leiby, a junior business major, spent his summer in Ireland and had the opportunity to tour a number of breweries and distilleries. Although he had some prior knowledge of bourbon, his trip to Ireland helped him gain a deeper appreciation for spirits and how they are made.

“I was turned on to sipping it straight, and I’ve gained an appreciation for whiskey versus the thicker, more syrupy bourbon,” Leiby said.

Despite having a taste for the spirit, Leiby feels his opportunities to drink whiskey are limited due to a tight college budget, but would love the chance to hone his palette.

Reilly said Bourbon Heritage Month is a good time for college students and whiskey novices to taste samples for free and determine their preferences.

“It’s a good educational time,” Reilly said. “We’re not just serving the whiskey, we’re also taking the time to explain things and teach about it so people can enjoy the product and be a little bit more involved with what they’re drinking. It helps the enjoyment of consumption when you know the effort being put into it.”

Logan Beck can be reached at

Video shot and edited by Harrison Brink.

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