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    According to State Senate Bill 93, which passed in 2005, “milk production and the manufacture of dairy products are major contributors to the economic well-being of Kentucky agriculture.” Then there’s some other stuff in there about dietary recommendations and milk’s health benefits.

    The then-senator who proposed making milk the state drink, Joey Pendleton from Hopkinsville, owns a dairy farm. (Bet that surprises you.) By the way, milk isn’t unique to Kentucky as a state symbol. Nineteen other states also recognize milk as their official drink.

    “People never think milk when they think Kentucky,” says Ryan Valentin, who teaches legal research at the University of Kentucky College of Law. He wrote an article in the Northern Kentucky Law Review that questioned the decision to adopt milk as a state symbol. “If you’re going to bother to spend the time and money (to go through the legislative process to adopt symbols), you should be adopting things that are unique to your state, that will promote your state and will further the economic growth of your state,” Valentin says. While he’s all for drinking milk, he thinks bourbon would be a much more appropriate state drink. “We don’t have a Dairy Trail,” he says. “We have a Bourbon Trail.”

    Nobody has ever introduced a bill to get bourbon adopted as an official state symbol, but state lawmakers did consider making Kentucky-made Ale-8-One the official state soft drink once. “Lobbyists from Coca-Cola interfered in that,” Valentin says. “So now the language says that Ale-8-One is named and designated as an original Kentucky soft drink. I don’t even know why they bothered.”

    As a compromise, Valentin says he’d like to see Kentucky do what South Carolina did and adopt a native beverage as a symbol in addition to milk. (South Carolina’s other official state drink is tea made from leaves that grow there.) “Maybe there’s room for milk and bourbon at the capitol,” he says. 


    This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
    To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, please click here.


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