It's true what they say about Tennessee's capital: it's a drinking town with a music problem. And the drinking part of that equation can be largely attributed to the brown booze that flows like water down South. And seeing as Kentucky's own Bourbon Country is just up the road, it's no surprise that many of Music City's best bars take whiskey very seriously. With that in mind, here are the best bars to find a glass of good stuff.
This intimate spot, housed in a shipping container in the heart of the Gulch, barely fits 40 diners, but that doesn't keep 404 from filling every nook and cranny with obscure brands and bottles ("you won't find Beam here", we were told). Chef Matt Bolus is a huge whiskey fan and an expert in brown liquor from all over the world, so you'll find more than 150 varieties, many hailing from lesser-known whiskey destinations like New Zealand or France. So grab a stool, put your tasting hat on, and order some bites off the menu while you're at it.
The Hermitage Hotel's long-standing bar has exceptional offerings and is where you'd go to splurge on, say, a bottle of Pappy if you're into that kind of thing. Due to the caliber of clientele it regularly entertains, Oak Bar is one of the most high-end drinking spots in town, so expect a more expensive -- not to mention, older, more mature -- collection of whiskeys here. (And don't forget to peek in the swank, Art Deco men's room, even if you're a lady -- it's got a global reputation thanks to its sleek interior and fancy-pants shoeshine stand.)
James Beard winner Sean Brock expanded his well-received Husk brand to include Nashville when he opened his second outpost in 2013. But while the food is definitely deserving of all its accolades, the bar is just as worthy as a stopover (some even claim it outshines the dining room). Housed downstairs, it's less formal than the restaurant and leads out into a spacious patio. In addition to an impressive variety of bourbons, ryes, and international whiskeys, Husk distinguishes itself with a cabinet full of vintage whiskeys that can be ordered by the ounce. Some of these rare brands haven’t been available for many years, so it might just be a once-in-a-lifetime taste.
You know a place is legit when the city's celebrity chefs frequent it as their local watering hole. (We've spotted Sean Brock of Husk, Philip Krajeck of Rolf & Daughters, and a handful of their fellow food-smiths here). It may be tiny, but No. 308 packs a punch with its roster of cocktails and dive-like ambiance. The bartenders mix up house-made syrups that they give a jolt of soda carbonation, then pair them seamlessly with the wide variety of whiskeys on offer. Recommended: the coffee soda swirled with a few slugs of bourbon.
You may get a kick out of the aesthetic of Rolf & Daughter's bar staff -- the handlebar mustaches and accompanying swagger could not be more pronounced if they tried -- but they sure excel at the mixology part of the hipster equation. They're known for taking classic drinks and taking them up a notch. Take heed and order Rolf's spin on an Old Fashioned, featuring Belle Meade bourbon, Laird's Applejack, smoked maple, and Angostura bitters.
There’s nothing pretentious about this East Nashville hang, tucked away between Main St and Woodland around the corner from Edley’s Bar-B-Que, but don’t let the simple exterior and decor fool you. This is absolutely the place to procure a properly mixed cocktail -- or a beer and a shot -- accompanied by great burgers, cheap sliders, and a tot-centric menu of side dishes. The whiskey collection is impressive, and you can occasionally even find a bottle of Pappy hiding on the top shelf.
Brandy served from a St. Bernard’s collar cask might seem like a more appropriate spirit to serve at this kitschy recreation of an après-ski lodge where you can cool down in the ultra-hot 12 South neighborhood. But whiskey is the focus of the impressive selection of bottles perched behind the birch log decorated bar with three pages of the menu listing more than 100 varieties of whiskeys from America, Scotland, Canada, Ireland, and Japan. You can even enjoy a “shot ski” of four shot glasses served up simultaneously for you and three friends.
In addition to a whimsical dining menu and a list of cocktails whose cheeky names are as much fun to read as they are to drink, this massive restaurant/bar in a converted theater is simply dead ass sexy. The offerings at the upstairs and downstairs bars vary slightly, but both offer an impressive variety of cocktails and whiskeys. Plus, either spot is the perfect place to enjoy a perfectly chilled Manhattan made with top-shelf ingredients and served up -- naturally -- in the proper glassware.
When it comes to the volume of whiskey consumption per capita, it’s tough to beat this East Nashville neighborhood favorite where locals bend an elbow at the bar and enjoy dozens of different whiskeys ranging from Kentucky stalwarts to exotic single malts from around the world. Management is committed to stocking both affordable bourbons and expensive rare finds, so there’s something for any budget at Mickey’s (plus a damn fine fried bologna sandwich).
Of all the Southern-inspired farm-to-table restaurants in Nashville with fantastic whiskey collections, Silo is another one. But seriously, Silo is a favorite Germantown destination for fans of fine corn whiskey thanks to their selection of rare bourbons like the Buffalo Trace Experimental Series and limited-edition single barrels from Four Roses and Colonel E.H. Taylor. There’s also plenty of Scotch and Irish whiskeys, but the domestics are the real highlights of the list.
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1. The 404 Kitchen404 12th Ave S, Nashville
2. Oak Bar231 6th Ave N, Nashville
3. Husk37 Rutledge St, Nashville
4. No. 308407 Gallatin Ave, Nashville
5. The Crying Wolf823 Woodland St, Nashville
6. Embers Ski Lodge2410 12th Ave S, Nashville
7. Sinema2600 Franklin Pike #102, Nashville
8. Mickey's Tavern2907 Gallatin Pike, Nashville
9. Silo1121 5th Ave N, Nashville
Housed in a downtown shipping container, this intimate spot barely fits 40 diners, but it's worth a visit if only for its 150-strong whiskey collection that features obscure selections and mainstream brands alike. The dishes emerging from the tiny kitchen -- like the peach and tomato salad, or the rabbit with dandelion greens -- use gamey meats and peasant ingredients like squash, cornbread, and red potatoes to create an assembly of homey flavors.
The Hermitage Hotel's Oak Bar maintains a high-octane offering largely thanks due to the caliber of clientele it regularly entertains. Expect a more expensive -- not to mention, older, more mature -- collection of whiskeys here, as well as a leather- and dark wood-heavy space that reflects its private gentlemen's club origins.
The Nashville outpost of Chef Sean Brock's Charleston-born restaurant, Husk changes its menu twice daily depending on the freshest finds in produce and protein. Self-described as “a celebration of Southern ingredients,” local ingredients (including herbs from a backyard garden) are at the forefront, and diners are encouraged to pair modernized Southern classics like shrimp and grits or a hot fish sandwich with a cocktail from the lauded whiskey list, over 60 bourbons on offer. But one thing that doesn't change: the Husk Burger. It's (one of) Brock's culinary masterpieces: two Tennessee-raised beef patties are ground with bacon, griddled with onions are tucked onto the patty then smothered by American cheese, topped with pickles and mustard on a squishy sesame bun.
It may be tiny, but No. 308 packs a punch with its roster of extensive cocktails and fun, dive-like ambiance. Apart from being knowledgable, the bartenders here mix up bespoke house-made syrups infused with soda carbonation that pair seamlessly with the wide variety of whiskeys on offer.
Featuring all the staples of a hipster haunt -- taxidermy animals, chevron bar top, sprawling patio designed for the consumption of cheap beers -- The Crying Wolf is a East Nashville destination. Burgers are definitely the focal point of the food menu, seconded by a tot-obsessed appetizer list. While you're sure to see plenty of trendsters sipping PBR, the bar also boasts a pretty legit collection of whiskeys (including a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle for good measure).
Aspen meets Nashville at Embers Ski Lodge, where gastropub fare and cocktails reign supreme. Guests can dine in cabin-like environs against a backdrop of Mt. Everest, snacking on everything from burgers, salads, and seafood entrées. The beer and wine offerings are solid, but the massive whiskey list is the true highlight here -- and besides, what better way to start Sunday brunch than with two ounces of rare rye by way of an actual shot-ski?
Situated in the former Melrose Theatre space, this trendy eatery serves New American fare and craft cocktails in a glitzy, Art Deco-inspired environs. Food offerings provide modern twists on classic dishes, with elegantly presented favorites ranging from truffle arancini to filet mignon. A stellar Sunday brunch menu attracts the masses, but it's a lively dinner spot as well thanks to the extensive whiskey list and corresponding specialty cocktails.
Mickey's Tavern is a dive bar by Nashville locals for Nashville locals. There's no wild DJ-induced raves here, or hooligans howling karaoke: there's a pool table (in addition to a few other classic bar games like darts and foosball), a jukebox, and one of the most impressive whiskey collections in the city. The mellow happy hour haunt features everything from Jameson to Pappy Van Winkle, single malts, and familiar and rare selections alike, with a respectable beer menu for those who can't handle their liquor. As an added bonus, there's killer pressed paninis from Nicolettos, the neighboring sandwich shop right next door.
This trendy eatery is a Germantown destination, beloved by locals for its chef-driven menu of Southern comfort food. Robust entrées like the seared pork chop are only more delectable when topped with blueberry, charred apples, and a beet-potato salad, and small plates like the three-way deviled eggs continue to be a fan favorite. Silo also boasts one of the most extensive whiskey lists in the city, particularly with respect to bourbon -- devout enthusiasts will swoon over the Buffalo Trace Experimental Series and imported selections like the Balvenie Sherry Cask 15 year, amongst others.