The Nashville Predators just keep finding new ways to offer fun festivals indoors on hot summer days to benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation. This past weekend, they hosted their first annual Hot Shots: Hot Chicken, Whiskey and Bourbon Festival at Bridgestone Arena. Hot chicken, a Nashville original, has continued to gain even more popularity over the past few years as the city’s “It” status rises. Not only can the spicy dish be found in Nashville, but other cities around the country are beginning to feature their version of Nashville hot chicken. With the craft beer festival usually held in June already very successful after its third year, the Foundation wanted to add another event a little later in the summer.
“There’s talk of hot chicken being the featured food of Nashville,” said Rebecca King, Senior Director, Community Relations for the Nashville Predators. “We have a lot of local bourbon and whiskey distilleries around town and in Kentucky, so it just seemed like a natural fit. We have a building and a great fanbase, so it was just a matter of creating another even that could benefit the foundation that fans would like to attend. We wanted to do it indoors so it didn’t matter if it was too hot or raining. Unlike beer fest, we decided to do it on the floor like our wine tasting so people mix and mingle, enjoy the music and have a good time.”
For an event in its first year, it was quite popular. Hot Shots sold out with a set ticket limit of 1,500, because that’s how much chicken each vendor prepared. Present at the event were staples like Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish along with some newer restaurants such as Party Fowl and Tenn Sixteen.
“A lot of our restaurants are already saying they’re back on board for next year,” said King. “Frugal MacDoogal is a great partner, and they helped us in getting all the distributors on board in providing over 90 different types of liquor for people to try. It’s a big team effort. It keeps hockey top of mind that we’re still around and getting ready for the season. Like the beer fest, attendees get a hockey ticket with the event as well.”
Hot chicken wasn’t the only draw to the event, but as King mentioned, a good sampling of local and regional liquor was very present at Hot Shots. One of the featured local distilleries was Corsair Distillery, located just off Interstate 65 in downtown Nashville. Not only did Corsair bring some unique tastes to the event, but also high gravity beer. Their table had a steady line throughout the entire event.
“We are here in town, and there aren’t many whiskey distilleries here downtown, so any time there’s a whiskey event, we like to be there,” said Emily Kendall, Bar Manager for Corsair Distillery. “Our beer is all high gravity now, and it’s a new thing we’re doing. It’s kind of exciting to be able to put the beer and whiskey on the same table and share both items.”
Not everyone may think that hot chicken would pair well with whiskey and bourbon, but those that bought the combination ticket to include tastings both beg to differ. Every table was packed with patrons wanting to sample not only chicken, but unique libations throughout the afternoon.
“When I first read it was hot chicken and whiskey, I at first didn’t think it sounded like a good combination because hot chicken makes you want to drink milk or something,” said Kendall. “I was happy to get involved and bring the beer in addition to the whiskey. One of the beers we brought was an applewood smoked wheat beer sourced with local applewood, and it paired perfectly with hot chicken. We made a few cocktails as well with our whiskey, so overall the drinks went well with the chicken.”
With attendees staying the entire four hours, the event was a tremendous success. Not only did patrons enjoy some of Nashville’s best hockey chicken and liquor, but they also helped the Nashville Predators Foundation. Throughout the event, all attendees were invited to vote on their favorite hot chicken at the festival. It was close, but the winner by three votes was Tenn Sixteen, who featured a hot chicken tender on a baguette and topped it with some very flavorful pickle chips. Go ahead and get ready for next summer, as King already confirmed that Hot Shots will be back next year.
More events are always happening to benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation. You can find more of those events here.
Header image courtesy: Nashville Predators