Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Bourbon Cocktails

Kentucky Maid

Kentucky Maid cocktail / Tim Nusog

You’d be hard-pressed to walk into a cocktail bar worth its bitters and not find a Sam Ross cocktail on the menu: The co-owner of Attaboy and a partner in the recently reopened Temple Bar has a long list of modern classics on his C.V., including the Paper Plane, a bourbon-and-Aperol Last Word variation, and the Penicillin, a scotch sour spiced with honey-ginger syrup. In the early days of the craft-cocktail renaissance, Ross spent seven years as the head bartender at the late Sasha Petraske’s seminal New York City bar Milk & Honey, where in 2005 he developed the Kentucky Maid, a refreshing bourbon drink made with muddled cucumber, mint leaves, and simple syrup. 

In creating this drink, Ross riffed on the London Maid, which he first shook up for bar pro and Speed Rack co-founder Lynnette Marrero when she was a customer at another Petraske bar, East Side Company. That version had gin as its base instead of bourbon, and was originally called the “Ol’ Biddy,” a name Petraske vetoed. Ross changed the name, and a new drinks category, the Maid, was born. “The same drink can be made with any base spirit; just change the first part of the name to align with the origins of the spirit used—in this case, bourbon,” he says in Petraske’s 2016 book Regarding Cocktails. Add tequila and you have a Mexican Maid; the Polish Maid uses vodka, while the Irish Maid swaps in Irish whiskey for the bourbon and adds St-Germain liqueur for floral notes. 

The Kentucky Maid is somewhat like the Mint Julep, but the muddled cucumber and fresh lime juice temper the sweetness and add an even more refreshing flavor profile. You might also find the drink similar to a Whiskey Smash, which calls for muddling lemon wedges with simple syrup, then topping with bourbon. 

For this cocktail, Ross reaches for Elijah Craig Small Batch, a high-proof bourbon that is known for its warm spice notes. But of course, with a drink this riffable, you can use whichever bottle you prefer. Feel free to take liberties with all of the ingredients, following the tried-and-true formula of spirit, citrus, mint, and cucumber. You might just have to come up with a new name for your creation.


  • 8 mint leaves

  • 2 thin cucumber slices

  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup

  • 2 ounces bourbon (preferably Elijah Craig Small Batch)

  • 1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed

  • Garnish: mint sprig skewed through a cucumber slice


  1. Place the mint leaves in a shaker and top with the cucumber slices. Add the simple syrup and gently muddle, making sure to break up the cucumber skins.

  2. Add the bourbon and lime juice, plus ice, and shake until well-chilled.

  3. Strain into a double rocks glass over one large ice cube.

  4. Garnish with the mint sprig skewered through a cucumber wheel.