You know what we’ve always wanted to do? Explore an area guided by thirst alone. When you think about it, that’s one powerful motivator to get exactly what you want. So, let’s tour Lake Cumberland with the goal of wetting our whistle along its drink trail. Happily, from beans to brunch to brews, we see a whole lot of quenching in your future.
If you’re anything like us, your mind is screaming, “Coffee!” right about now. But if you’re also like us, not any coffee will do. Luckily, there is Baxter’s, the town’s darling when it comes to a cup of joe, independently owned by the Tuttle family, and named — as all things should be — after their beloved dog.
Baxter’s sources fresh Arabica beans from around the world and roasts them on-site at one of their three locations around town. The roasting location is drive-thru only, which is good news for you if you’re coming from the interstate because it also happens to be on the way to Lake Cumberland.
If you have more time to relax, head to the dine-in spots. The original location on the north side of town is complete with quaint corners and a sunny deck, and the south-side space is likewise charming. These are bustling havens of togetherness, where friends meet, students work on their laptops, and moms dutifully unwrap muffins (all of which are house-made) for their saucer-eyed kiddos.
Try the Somerset blend, a medium roast that marries beans from Central America and Africa. If you’re in the mood for fancy, Baxter’s can do it up right with all the syrups, espresso shots and whipped cream your heart desires. Our favorite guilty pleasure is the mocha blitz, part milkshake, part chocolatey coffee drink and part magic.
You’ve nearly made it until noon and doesn’t that, after all, mean it’s cocktail o’clock? It is if you’re at Over Easy Bistro, where owner Charlotte Ikerd is serious about celebratory brunch bevvies. The star of the show here is the Easy Does It Bloody Mary, made with house-blended vegetable and tomato juice. The garnish alone serves as an amuse-bouche and Ikerd makes sure your drink has a kick (you can also order a mini-Mary).
If you’re feeling like something lighter, try the Bellini, with peach purée and sparkling wine. And there is always the classic mimosa, featuring Chandon champagne.
For a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, you have two great options. First, you could head to Haney’s in Nancy, a lovely spot that will warm your heart. Here, they make hand-pressed cider from apples plucked from their giant orchard. Combining tart with sweet over ice, there isn’t anything quite as refreshing for miles around. And if you’re feeling peckish, by all means pair your cider with a fried apple pie (you won’t be sorry).
But if you’re in the mood for something creamy, head directly to The Goodie Shack, open March 1-Oct. 31 each year. It’s a great summer stop before or after boating from Burnside Marina and is famous for its milkshakes. Our fave is the vanilla shake — not too sweet, thick but not so thick you can’t suck it up the straw — but Goodie’s features all the classic flavors. We especially like to watch them pump the chocolate or scoop the strawberries into the malt cup, making it feel like you’ve landed in the sweet innocence of 1952.
“Would you like to sip and shop?” is often owner Tammy Hoehler’s question as you peruse The Mole Hole, a local gift shop filled with whimsical, unique and sassy finds (think: cheeky dish towels, fun serving ware, pretty homeware). Recently relocated to downtown, the newest iteration of this 25-year-old institution includes a bar, which Hoehler has named The Tipsy Toad in honor of the store’s Winds in the Willows-inspired name. Here you can sip on anything from a wide selection of highly-rated bourbons to your favorite domestic beer. Our hands-down fave here though is Hoehler’s gin and tonic, served in a pleasing lowball and accented with a lime slice. It’s the perfect ticket for a successful shopping spree.
It’s happy hour! And in Somerset, that means sipping craft beer. Tap on Main can be your first stop, known for carrying 20 always-terrific brews on tap, as well as wine and top-shelf bourbon.
Founded in 2017 by Bill Hamilton, who is almost always there chatting with customers, this little space was once home to a car wash. The cinderblock walls still remain but are now dressed up with neon signs and the space is anchored by a granite bar that attracts a professional after-work crowd. To choose your beer, get advice from the friendly bartenders or try a beer flight. Gather at one of the tables inside or head to the back deck to enjoy your pint (and maybe play a little Jenga). There, you can also enjoy a cigar you choose from Tap’s humidor.
End your day at Somerset’s microbrewery, Jarfly. We’re proud of this local spot, located downtown in a beautifully refurbished space that occupied Goldenberg’s Furniture for 150 years. Inside, you’ll find locally-crafted bench seating and tables, a view of the shiny (and giant) brewing equipment and, often, live music. There is everything from IPAs to ales to sours on tap — the 76 Falls and SixOhSix are the most popular picks — and the crowd is always hip.
There to serve everyone from Wednesdays to Sundays are owners Del Stephens and Daniel Stroud. Aside from the beer they brew, all the wine, liquor and non-alcoholic soda and kombucha are crafted in Kentucky.
Taking you full circle on your drink-discovery tour, one interesting and delicious selection is Baxter’s coffee stout, made with Baxter’s fresh-roasted coffee beans during fermentation. There is also a bourbon barrel-aged variant amusingly called Old Dirty Baxter.
Don’t forget our wineries, which are beautiful stops along our drink trail! Cedar Creek Vineyards, Cave Hill Vineyards and Sinking Valley Winery all have tasting rooms with scheduled hours or visits by appointment.