Sazerac House logo

You must be legal drinking age

It’s no coincidence that bourbon has the same name as Bourbon Street. Or is it? Debates have raged for years about how bourbon got its name. A small county in Kentucky, a royal family in France and, yes, our very own Bourbon Street all lay claim to the name. But which one was the drink named after? Let’s all fix a pour of bourbon and find out once and for all.

Theory #1: Named for the Bourbon Family

Before Bourbon was a drink, it was a dynasty. The House of Bourbon was a noble family that dates back to 13th century France. At the time, lots of companies attached the Bourbon family name to all kinds of products including Bourbon Coffee, Bourbon Sugar and so on. Having Bourbon in the name gave the products an aura of sophistication and allowed them to fetch higher prices. Not a bad business strategy.

It’s entirely possible that when barrels of bourbon started to make its way into places like New Orleans, they used the name Bourbon as a branding strategy like the coffees and sugars that came before it. The French roots of New Orleans give even more credence to this theory, but others are just as strong.

Verdict: It’s possible, but inconclusive

Theory #2: Named for Bourbon County, Kentucky

Bourbon County is a relatively small area of land outside of Lexington, Kentucky. But it used to take up most of what is now the northeastern part of the state. It’s also the place that makes and barrels tons of bourbon. Today, almost 95% of the world’s supply comes from Kentucky, much of it from this very county.

Need even more proof for Bourbon County’s claims? In the 1800s, a lot of spirits were named after the places they were made (we’re looking at you, Monongahela Rye from Pennsylvania). So, it’s easy to see that distillers might use the term bourbon as a catchall for a certain spirit that came from Kentucky—especially Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Verdict: It’s likely, but inconclusive

Theory #3: Named for Bourbon Street in New Orleans

Okay, this must be it, right? After all, Bourbon Street was one of the first places to enjoy bourbon in all its glory. And it’s where the spirit gained popularity like never before. Legend has it that before people called it bourbon, they referred to it as, “That whiskey drink on Bourbon Street.” Now, everyone associates Bourbon Street with imbibing and good times. So, Bourbon Street is what bourbon is named after. Right?

Actually, probably not. When bourbon was first getting its name, Bourbon Street was mostly residential. All of the lively festivities were happening a few blocks away on Royal Street and Gallatin. It wasn’t until later that Bourbon Street became a mainstay of drinks, dancing and everything else.

Verdict: It’s doubtful, but inconclusive

Final Verdict

So, what’s the real answer? In short, no one knows for certain. Most experts believe Bourbon County has the strongest claim to the founding of the drink’s name. But a lot of the references of bourbon still date all the way back to the House of Bourbon family. And Bourbon Street is practically synonymous with the drink nowadays.

Whichever theory you believe for how bourbon got its name—we can all agree that we’re glad it’s around to be enjoyed.


Strike Down Social
Signature Events

Strike Down Social

Monday, December 5, 2022
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Historical celebration of Repeal Day with a Prohibition-era cocktail tasting.

Sips and Slices

Sips & Slices: Cocktail and Pie Pairing with Windowsill Pies

Tuesday, December 6, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Pie and cocktail pairing hosted by Sazerac House cocktail experts and Windowsill Pies.

Barrel to Bottle

Barrel to Bottle

Friday, December 9, 2022
5:00 pm - 5:45 pm

Bottle your own Sazerac Rye hosted by Sazerac House Distillery Team.

Creole Holiday Tradition
Signature Events

Drink & Learn: Creole Holiday Traditions

Tuesday, December 13, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

New Orleans History Discussion and Cocktail Demo Hosted by Drinks Historian Elizabeth Pearce.

Sip and Shop
Signature Events

Sip & Shop

Tuesday, December 13, 2022
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join us for our annual Sip & Shop event: a night of music, complimentary gift wrapping, cocktails and light bites. Our Sazerac House experts and local New Orleans vendors will be on hand to help you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list!

Cocoa Rum

Cocoa & Cocktails: Holiday Gatherings

Thursday, December 15, 2022
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Holiday inspired chocolate and cocktail pairing hosted by Sazerac House cocktail experts and Piety & Desire Chocolates.

Cheers Headdress

Crafting & Cocktails: Cheers Headdress

Tuesday, December 20, 2022
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Join us for a spirited afternoon of crafting and cocktails! Follow along during a headdress making workshop as you sip on seasonal cocktails and prepare to ring in the new year. Add flair to your holiday outfits and discover creative techniques under the instruction of a local New Orleans artist. Session includes all materials, however guests are invited to bring items from home that they would like to incorporate into their design. Cocktails and snacks will be served. Hosted by The Sazerac House and Elizabeth Zibilich. $50 per person.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information