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Spirits of the South: A journey through some of the South's best distilleries and bars

The South knows its liquor. From world-class bourbon to some of the world's most unique terroir-driven amari, southern distilleries are on the rise.

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Southern spirits are on the rise: At the dawn of U.S. cocktail culture, imported liquor was king. American spirit-making, an original cottage industry, was long seen as an unpolished pursuit at best, and at worst the root of societal ills. That was the cornerstone of the Temperance movement, which helped usher in Prohibition. 

But Southern distilleries persisted. Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace, which produced so-called “medicinal whiskey” throughout Prohibition, has been operational for 200 years, making it the oldest continually operating distillery in the country. The South knows its liquor. 

The rest of the world is catching on. Our bourbon is in high demand. Our gin is world-class. And we’re making some of the country’s most unique spirits, like an Appalachian fernet that showcases the terroir of a mountain forest.

Here, Southern Kitchen, USA TODAY's Southern food vertical, takes you on a trip through some of the region’s most distinct spirits, with curated recipes showing you how to enjoy them.

The USA Today Network's Spirits of the South
Jeremiah O. Rhodes, Nashville Tennessean
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Bourbon 

A bourbon cocktail.
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Rye

A Sazerac rye drink
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Tennessee whiskey 

Bottles of Whiskey
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Amaro

A distiller samples a batch of Amaro
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Gin 

A gin cocktail
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Rum

A barrel of rum is sampled.
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Brandy 

Bottles of brandy
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Specialty spirits

Three bottles of liquor
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Vodka 

A bartender makes a martini
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Simple syrup & mocktails

A mocktail and a bottle of simple syrup
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