Food & Drink

Louisville's 8 best bourbon bars

Published On 08/20/2014 Published On 08/20/2014

The spirit of Louisville is bourbon, and Louisvillians will judge you (harshly, if necessary) both by your favorite bottle, and whether you think Early Times is bourbon (it’s not). We make it, we drink it, and we have been known to stand in line at the liquor store waiting for the release of a rare bottle. Just to be clear: we are really, really serious about the brown stuff here. Hence why picking the best spots in town to have it was not easy...

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Haymarket Whiskey Bar

Downtown
Haymarket Whiskey Bar more than earns its brown booze credentials thanks to more than 100 bourbons and almost 200 whiskeys thrown on top of that -- as well as putting on live music four-plus nights a week. Visit for the décor alone: '80s memorabilia, Star Wars posters, old pinball machines, and a frankly gorgeous green glass bar.

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The Silver Dollar

Clifton
Located in a renovated firehouse (they even kept the pole), Louisville’s most genuine honky tonk serves amazing bourbon cocktails like the standout Gold Rush (made simply with lemon, Old Fitzgerald, and honey) while spinning Merle Haggard, and generally making you feel like you just finished a shift at the ranch.

Bourbons Bistro

Bourbons Bistro

Clifton
Set in a building that dates back to 1877 (that's more than 130 years), Bistro's truly world-class selection boasts over 130 bottles, many of which can be sampled via their amazing flights -- the “Traditional”, for instance, hits you with Jim Beam White Label, Wild Turkey, and Ancient Age; while the “Wheated” lines up Old Fitzgerald Prime, Weller Special Antique, and Maker’s Mark.

Facebook/Proof on Main

Proof Bar

Downtown
The 21c Museum/Hotel and the attached Proof on Main restaurant are upscale bastions of modern art and culture in Louisville. Proof Bar -- sandwiched between the two -- has an incredible bourbon selection, including some numbers bottled exclusively for Proof on Main, including. both Woodford Reserve & Van Winkle. Also? The attached museum is open 24 hours a day, and the cocktail menu is regularly updated with new drinks inspired by the artwork.

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The Old Seelbach Bar

Downtown
Drinking at the Old Seelbach Bar feels like stepping into a scene from The Great Gatsby (the good one), which is fitting since the Seelbach Hotel literally served as inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The Seelbach’s signature cocktail is an appropriately decadent bourbon & Champagne combo (invented immediately before Prohibition almost killed it, and rediscovered in the '90s), but you'll also find dozens of rare numbers available by the glass.

Facebook/Down One Bourbon Bar

Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant

Downtown
Down One’s bourbon list is so large, with 120 bourbons alone, it is divided into eras (Pre-Prohibition, Post-Prohibition, and Modern), all of which find their way into their cocktail menu. At the top of that, you'll even find a Manhattan made with their own Down One Single Barrel bourbon; a proprietary bottling of 10-year-old Knob Creek, and a sure sign a bar is taking its bourbon seriously.

Facebook/Marriott Louisville East

Charr'd Bourbon Kitchen and Lounge

Jeffersontown
Louisville’s Marriott East is a bourbon-themed hotel, and their bar and restaurant, Charr’d, has bourbon barbecue sauce, bourbon butter, bourbon-smoked wings, a bourbon-marinated Portobello sandwich... the list goes on. Oh, and there's some liquid bourbon, too. Over 130 bottles of it.

Facebook/Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar

Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar

Downtown
The only establishment on this list with the distinction of being located on Whiskey Row, Doc Crow’s serves down-home Southern fare, raw oysters, and a wide selection of whiskey and bourbon. They also make excellent mint julep lemonade, and carry bourbon barrel-aged beers to boot.

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1. Haymarket Whiskey Bar 331 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Haymarket Whiskey Bar has more than 100 bourbons and almost 200 whiskeys, as well as live music four-plus nights a week. If the extensive liquor selection isn't enticing enough, visit for the décor alone: '80s memorabilia, Star Wars posters, old pinball machines, and a gorgeous green glass bar.

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2. The Silver Dollar 1761 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206

Perched inside a former firehouse, the redbrick Kentucky whiskey temple merges fine food, old-school country records, and craft cocktails. Their six-page spirit menu is laden with (obviously) a huge list of bourbons, which are sorted by distillery, plus moonshine, rye, and seasoned bourbon -- all from the Bluegrass State.

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3. Bourbons Bistro 2255 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206 (Clifton)

Bourbons has a truly world-class selection, and offers amazing bourbon flights: like the “Traditional” flight with Jim Beam White Label, Wild Turkey, and Ancient Age; or the “Wheated” flight with Old Fitzgerald Prime, Weller Special Antique, and Maker’s Mark.

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4. Proof on Main 702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Located in The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, a boutique hotel and art museum, Proof on Main serves up gourmet meals from Chef Levon Wallace, including a unique and scrumptious burger made out of bison and topped with a Jezebel sauce that gives it a fruity, earthy flavor, plus Tillamook cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. You'll want to throw in a side of the crispy cauliflower, and top it all off with the s'mores dessert. This trendy spot houses the Proof Bar, too, which offers an enormous bourbon list (we're talking upwards of 50 varieties).

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5. The Old Seelbach Bar 500 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Drinking at the Old Seelbach Bar feels like stepping into a scene from The Great Gatsby; which is fitting since the Seelbach Hotel served as inspiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The Seelbach’s signature cocktail features bourbon and Champagne, an uncommon but deliciously fizzy combination.

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6. Down One Bourbon Bar & Restaurant 321 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Down One’s bourbon list is so large it is divided into eras: Pre-Prohibition, Post-Prohibition, and Modern. And their “Get Splashed” wall is the perfect photo opportunity for the bourbon lover.

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7. Charr'd Bourbon Kitchen and Lounge 1903 Embassy Square Blvd, Louisville, KY 40299

Louisville’s Marriott East is a bourbon-themed hotel, and their bar and restaurant, Charr’d, has bourbon barbecue sauce, bourbon butter, bourbon-smoked wings, a bourbon-marinated Portobello sandwich... the list goes on. Naturally, a great bourbon and cocktail list accompanies this menu.

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8. Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar 127 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Located on the famous Whiskey Row, Doc Crow’s serves down-home Southern fare that celebrates both coastal and barbecue cuisines and focuses on bourbon in its beverage program. Starters include fried oysters, smokehouse mussels, and beef brisket tacos, while mains include baby-back ribs, blackened tilapia, and fried pork chops. Choose your poison from the drink menu’s anthology of whiskeys or imbibe a classic, like an old fashioned or mint julep lemonade.

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