Whiskey Ambassador Corner: Brown-Forman’s Tim Laird

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Tim Laird is best known as “America’s Chief Entertaining Officer.” He’s written books on the subject (check out That’s Entertaining with Tim Laird), he hosts a weekly television show in Louisville about local chefs, and he travels the world educating people about bourbon on behalf of Brown-Forman.

Tim Laird

image via Brown Forman

The Whiskey Wash recently caught up with him to learn more:

1. Your official title is “America’s Chief Entertaining Officer.” What are some tips you have for entertaining with bourbon?

When entertaining, I like to offer a signature cocktail with bourbon for my guests to enjoy. To make it easy on yourself as the host/hostess, you can make this drink ahead of time and let everyone serve themselves. You can then enjoy your party as much as your guests and not be stuck playing bartender all night. As a responsible entertainer, I always include an alcohol-free version too.

One of my most popular cocktails is the Bourbon Breeze, as it appeals to both bourbon and non-bourbon drinkers. In a pitcher, simply add:  1½ parts Old Forester bourbon, 2 parts lemonade and 1 part cranberry juice. Serve in a rocks glass over ice with a squeeze of lemon and dash of bitters. For an alcohol-free version, leave out the Old Forester and bitters. Another fun idea for a smaller group of people is to have a comparative bourbon tasting.

2. At Brown-Forman you are responsible for promoting Woodford Reserve and Old Forester, among other brands. Where are some of the places you’ve traveled to spread the good word of bourbon?

I travel the globe and no matter where my travels take me, there is a great interest in bourbon. When I first started traveling with Brown-Forman, people would ask, “Where are you from?” When I told them Louisville Kentucky, they would always want to talk about the Kentucky Derby.

Now they say, “Kentucky, home to all the great bourbons.” The bourbon trail is resonating globally, which is great for tourism in Kentucky. People are really excited to visit and see the actual distilleries in to experiencing the Urban Bourbon Trail. Our food scene and is also gaining popularity and notoriety.

3. What’s your favorite bourbon cocktail?

I love them all!  But, if I have to pick a favorite, the Old Fashioned is my go-to cocktail.  Here is the classic building approach:

In an old-fashioned glass, add:

  • 1 ounce Simple Syrup or one sugar cube
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Two-inch disk of orange peel

Gently muddle (not pulverize) to release the oils. Add 2 ounces Woodford Reserve bourbon. Stir, add a large ice cube, and garnish with an additional orange peel.

4. Louisville has a wealth of bourbon bars. Which ones do you most often recommend to visitors and why?

I always promote the Urban Bourbon Trail and tell visitors to pick up a passport book and visit as many as possible. They are all very different, have a wide variety of bourbon selections and each have their own personality, which makes it fun.

5. How did your career path lead you here?

I started in traditional sales and marketing positions and had the opportunity to work with great beverage companies including Anheuser Bush, The Stroh Brewery, Gallo Winery, and now have spent over 25 years with Brown-Forman. I was making media appearances on entertaining in addition to working in my sales and marketing role. The media appearances led to a full-time position known as America’s CEO – Chief Entertaining Office, which is truly my title at Brown-Forman.

Before it was established, we did get approval from our real CEO, Paul Varga. Over the past 10+ years we have been featured on many financial networks and in the media as the only company in America with two CEOs.