Food & Drink

Bourbon Trail Chili

Ouita Michel’s go-to chili recipe tastes like Kentucky in a bowl

Photo: Jacqueline Stofsick | FOOD STYLING: DACEY SIVEWRIGHT

“This chili was created by Sara Gibbs for Glenn’s Creek Café at Woodford Reserve Distillery (she often checked up on the cooks to make sure they weren’t altering her recipe). Using local ground beef, bourbon-smoked paprika, and Kentucky bourbon, this is a Kentucky Proud dish. It contains several flavor notes from the bourbon flavor wheel (herbal, citrus, wood, and spice). The chili can be served in a bowl, over tortilla chips with garnishes, or as the main component of Sara’s Hoot ’n Holler Taco Salad, composed of chopped iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, chopped onions, sour cream, and salty corn chips.” —Ouita Michel in her new cookbook, Just a Few Miles South. Read our interview with Michel here.

photo: Jacqueline Stofsick | FOOD STYLING: DACEY SIVEWRIGHT


  • Bourbon Trail Chili (Yield: About 2½ quarts)

    • 1½ lbs. ground beef

    • Salt and pepper for seasoning

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil

    • 2½ tsp. minced garlic

    • 1 tsp. dried oregano

    • 1 tsp. dried ground sage

    • 1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups)

    • 2 green bell peppers, diced

    • ½ cup orange juice

    • 3 tbsp. chili powder

    • 2 tsp. smoked paprika

    • 2 tsp. ground cumin

    • 2 tsp. minced chipotle pepper in adobo

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes

    • 3 cups water

    • 1 (15½-oz.) can black beans, well drained

    • 1 (15½-oz.) can great Northern beans, well drained

    • ½ cup bourbon

    • Sour cream, to garnish

    • Shredded cheddar, to garnish

    • Green onions, thinly sliced, to garnish


  1. Brown ground beef in a 4-quart Dutch oven and season lightly with salt and pepper. Drain off excess fat and set meat aside.

  2. Add olive oil to the pan, then add garlic, oregano, sage, onion, and bell peppers. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften, about 4–5 minutes.

  3. Deglaze with orange juice, then add chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, chipotles, salt, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Stir in water, beans, and browned meat. Simmer 15 minutes. Add bourbon and simmer another 15–20 minutes until the proper consistency is achieved. Taste for seasoning.

  4. Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheddar, and green onions. 

Recipe excerpted with permission from Just a Few Miles South by Ouita Michel, published by Fireside Industries.