In a place like Kentucky, where there are more bourbon barrels than people, it’s a crime to leave without sampling the good stuff. Louisville’s bartenders and foodies never skimp when it comes to celebrating the glory of bourbon. However, not all bourbon bars are the same, and each offers a different experience to suit different tastes and drinkers.
Whether you’re a bourbon novice or connoisseur, whether you prefer to drink outdoors on a lazy Kentucky summer day, or a history buff who wants to rub shoulders with the past at a bar that has hosted celebrities like F. Scott Fitzgerald, there’s a bourbon bar among Louisville’s many that’s right for you.
8Up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
This bar offers a modern vibe one would expect in a metropolis much larger than Louisville. The rooftop patio is the real space, though, with its elongated fire pit surrounded by spacious seating and views of the city and the Ohio River. The bourbon cocktail is an updated classic, but you can’t enjoy the artificial array of bourbon itself without getting over with such ingredients.The 8Up Peach Julep is a refreshing blend of Maker’s 46 bourbon, honey syrup and fresh lime juice. However, sometimes it doesn’t get much better than bourbon and coke, and 8Up does a great job with Old Forester Signature bourbon, Mexican soda and vanilla bitters.
350 West Chestnut Street.
Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant
Located on Louisville’s Whiskey Row, Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant is part of the Urban Bourbon Trail and offers 170 bottles of bourbon and nationally acclaimed dining. The bar features an underground bar theme (including a “secret” phone booth room stocked with rare bourbon) and a magnolia tree shaded patio that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the past. Their signature 7 Across the Board cocktail draws on the sweet and smoky flavors of good bourbon – in this case, Angel’s Envy – supplemented by blackberry puree and raspberry sage simple syrup. Of course, no one would complain if you mixed a little bourbon with your champagne, right, and Celebration Punch does just that, with added hints of peach, vanilla and ginger.
321 Main Street.
For drinks in a totally eclectic (read: cool) environment, stop by Proof on Main. While the minimalist wood and leather seating and white circular countertops look innocent enough, the rest of the decor pushes the place over the top. The mismatched chandeliers, floral wallpaper, pink picture frames and slightly (or not) suggestive photos aren’t meant to be constricting. The cocktail menu changes with the seasons, but you’re sure to find a unique flavor that will surprise and delight your taste buds like you won’t find anywhere else in the city. There’s On Raglan Road, which boasts Woodford Reserve, espresso génépy des alpes, Sibona amaro, maple syrup and Angostura bitters. There’s also Smoke Rings, with Buffalo Trace, cura?ao, Ramazzotti amaro, Lapsang Shouchang tea and absinthe. Not a fan of bourbon? You can always get a bottle of hissing Kentucky Kombucha.
702 West Main Street.
The Old Silbach Bar
The Silbach Hotel itself is a magnificent, historic property with origins dating back to the mid-19th century. Now a Hilton, it still retains the glory and charm of its Prohibition-era heyday. In fact, the hotel – now known as the Old Silbach Bar – was once a favored watering hole for F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was there that the prolific writer met Cincinnati mobster George Remus, who is said to have been the inspiration for “Jay Gatsby. Another famous guest? Al Capone, who often dined at The Oak House. A mirror he hung in the room is still there today. For a decadent, sweet bourbon cocktail, try the signature bourbon ball, which combines Woodford Reserve with Godiva white chocolate, Buffalo Trace bourbon cream and cherries.
500 S. 4th Street.
Lola at Butchertown Grocery.
Butchertown Grocery is housed in an unassuming 19th-century brick building with a cozy atmosphere that seems designed for comfort. Once upon a time, the restaurant and bar was a grocery store, hence its name. Now, it’s an award-winning and self-sustaining addition to the nation’s Southern dining scene, and Lola Late Night’s cocktail menu is filled with fun names and drinks that are guaranteed to make you have a good time. The Happiness Does Not Wait, for example, is made with Maker’s Mark, Maurine Quina, lemon, honey, framboise and vermouth. There’s also Midnight Lady, made with Old Forester Signature, sherry, Becherovka, and Moore’s Bitters. You can even have a drink through a (very tempting) bone marrow sled if you’d like.
1076 E. Washington Street.
Bourbon Whiskey Original
Enjoy a more intimate, relaxed and upscale experience at Bourbon Raw, with a 57-foot marble bar stocked with 85 Kentucky bourbons. Guests can explore the bourbon range with one of their extremely affordable flights. Each bourbon has a specific theme, including four of the most popular local flavors. In addition to the bourbon, the food is just as impressive, with Southern classics like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and a raw bar.
446 S. Fourth St.
Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge
The award-winning Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge is helmed by Laurent Géroli, a chef with a long history in Louisville’s hospitality industry. The restaurant has received accolades from the Bourbon Review and the American Bourbon Society, among others. Of course, you won’t want to miss drinks, but you won’t want to miss dinner either, and the kitchen’s bourbon-themed menu features not only Southern favorites, but also Kentucky favorites like burgoo, a spicy Southern stew, and the classic hot brown, an open-faced turkey sandwich smothered in a delicious Monet sauce, often garnished with bacon and tomato slices.
1903 Embassy Square Boulevard