If there’s one thing we Louisvillians know how to do – it’s how to drink! The bars in Louisville are open later, and our whiskey just tastes better. Bourbon flows through the city as freely as the Ohio River, and, depending on the day, in a similar color. But don’t feel pigeon-holed to only Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Mint Juleps, we’ve got all the spirits covered.
Alcohol-free? You’re in luck, most bars in Louisville are stocking non-alcoholic and mocktail options! And you can even ask for a Kentucky 74 substitute at select bars. It’s a non-alcoholic distilled bourbon, so you never have to miss out on an Old Fashioned.
We have compiled our list based on whether you are searching for a bar for a date night, speakeasies, activity bars, neighborhood dives, and late-night bars. and So let’s check out some of the best bars in Louisville, Kentucky!
- Best Date Night Bars in Louisville
- Best Speakeasy Bars in Louisville
- Best Activity Bars in Louisville
- Best Neighborhood Bars in Louisville
- Best Late Night Bars in Louisville
Check out a few of these other posts:
- 9 Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky: from Bourbon to Brandy
- The Best Louisville Breweries: the Ultimate Local’s Guide (& Southern Indiana, too)
- The 45 Best Places to Eat in Louisville, Kentucky
Best Date Night Bars in Louisville
Sometimes finding a great date night bar is just as hard as finding a great partner. You want to swipe right on tasty food, delicious drinks, and great ambiance. And hey, no judgments if your longest-lasting relationship turns out to be one of my fabulous recommendations because you’ve become a weekly regular – because these Louisville bars are kinda amazing!
When you step inside the former church-turned-bar Holy Grale, you might feel like you’ve found, well…the Holy Grail.
It’s beautiful, the food is fantastic, and the beer menu might lead to your own personal religious experience. The craftsmanship of the curved cement bar top and the glow of stained glass arches will whisk you away to romantic old-world Europe.
Maybe your evening includes a full dinner – in which you should definitely order the Pan Roasted Trout with crispy potatoes and ramps topped with a lemon-caper brown butter. Or maybe you’re just looking to grab a few drinks before your next stop. The Grale only makes three cocktails – The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost (they really like leaning into a good theme).
But the real weekly offering is the extensive beer list. You may not be familiar with all the beers (or even how to pronounce them) but the entire staff is trained to help guide you through the entire menu.
However, if you just want something classic, go for the house beer Orval. It’s a Trappist brewed beer (yup that means made by monks) from Belgium made with funky Brettanomyces (a kind of yeast) and dry hopped for a refreshing finish.
Tucked to the side of NuLu, Nouvelle is the little wine shop and bar with romantic views.
Whether you sit inside the deco brass dining room or outside around the landscaped waterfall, Nouvelle is one of the prettiest bars in the city. Jewel tone molding, marble top tables, and bold wallpaper shines as a nice change of pace from the dark and moody bars around town.
But Nouvelle is not just a pretty face, their wine program is as elegant as the curved glass chandelier. Owner John Grisanti is a certified Master Sommelier (in addition to some other fancy certificates, like a cicerone and WSET) with a passion for showcasing small producers, and an even bigger passion for pairing the perfect bottle with guests.
Wine not your thing? I’m not saying we can’t be friends – but we’ll just call that strike one. However you are spared at Nouvelle, because they also have a small but respectable beer and cocktail menu, in addition to a pretty extensive bourbon list.
Although Nouvelle does offer some light fare, like charcuterie and conserva plates, they do not offer a full dinner menu. Don’t worry though, while in NuLu you’ll be surrounded in good company like Decca, La Bodeguita De Mima, and Everyday Kitchen. So just visit Nouvelle Before (and maybe again after) your dinner reservations.
When their website address reads “WhiskeybytheDrink.com” you know they’re serious about their whiskey and bourbon. And I’m talking REAL SERIOUS about their whiskey and bourbon. The bottle list is intimidating for even the most seasoned of drinkers, including vintage bottles.
Which is just one of the reasons this little renovated firehouse on Frankfort Ave is something special. Silver Dollar is like a beautiful modern-day honky tonk, with colorful hanging lights and a massive bar top perfect for sliding a mug after a long day.
It’s easy to chat up your bartender and you don’t have to be afraid to ask for some bourbon and whiskey guidance. They’re well versed on the menu and know how to offer a great recommendation based on what you’re looking for.
Reading through the menu, you will feel the charm of all the best southern flavors in one spot. Buttermilk fried okra, cornmeal chicken livers, and spicy collard greens, just to name a few southern staples.
Although, the Fried Chicken Sandwich is really where it’s at! A crispy chicken breast, slathered in Nashville hot sauce, and topped with cooling lettuce, pickles and ranch. I always pair it with a Kentucky Mule, Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Lime, and housemade ginger syrup.
Alex&nder sits on the rooftop of the Copper & Kings Distillery in the heart of Butchertown. The rooftop views are stunning, but the drinks are stunning-er (I know it’s not a word, but it should be!).
In a city full of bourbon, Copper & Kings is paving the way for all the brandy fans. The distillery prides itself on its incredible brandy, in addition to its incredible selection of apple brandy, gin and absinthe.
Unlike most distillery bars in the city, access is open to everyone, not just the tour groups. Which is perfect because one visit is not enough to enjoy all the spirits and food Alex&nder has to offer.
Starting off with the Grilled Caesar Salad is a must! It’s grilled (yes grilled!) romaine lettuce, garlic croutons, crispy Kentucky country ham, drizzled with apple brandy caesar dressing. And for the real culinary journey, you’ve got to pair it with the Drops of Jupiter. It’s a draft cocktail that drinks like a sweet tiki drink. Made with Copper & King’s Moons of Jupiter gin, Falernum, passion fruit, orgeat, and lemon juice.
Best Speakeasy Bars in Louisville
Dark atmospheres, secret locations and mixologists who understand a delicate balance of flavor- it’s easy to get swept up in the moment. You might find yourself referring to your favorite bars as “Juice Joints”, and ordering “Hooch” on the rocks, and using other Prohibition-era slang.
Pin + Proof
If you’ve got cash to burn, and I mean like A LOT of cash to burn have I got the place for you! That’s right Let’s Go Louisville is not just a savvy best bang for your buck travel guide. We’re also happy to help you plan your evening if you’ve won the lottery, or inherited a fortune from a long lost rich uncle, or if you’re dating a millionaire- we cater to all!
Inside the posh Omni Hotel (which starts around $350 a night, no big deal), through the lobby past the portrait of the finger to lips quiet pose, and then down the hall past the “Shh..” neon sign down to Pin + Proof.
The sleek wooden bowling lanes shining under the dimly lit cellar room give this prohibition era inspired speakeasy a real moody vibe. It’s easy to transport yourself to a time of flappers and coke bottles for a nickel. Just don’t get too swept away with the old timey aesthetic, because this 10 pin alley is priced on the luxury side.
Lanes are rented at $125 an hour and cocktails start at $16. Now that rental fee does include shoe and ball rental- and to think all these years my peasant lanes have been forgetting to charge me a ball rental fee! So if I bring my own ball, is there a ball corking fee??
Now all jokes aside this intimate speakeasy is cozy and beautiful and is definitely equipped to cater to a more luxury experience. So if it’s a special occasion enjoy yourself and have fun, especially with a 1881 Old Fashioned, made with Maker’s Mark private selection, demerara, and house blend bitters.
Hell or High Water
Now as much as I would love to report that this mysteriously beautiful cocktail lounge, Hell or High Water, is a hidden secret shielded only for those worthy enough to be in-the-know, the truth is the cats out of the bag on this one. Reservations are required, and you’re gonna want to make a reservation as far in advance as you can, because this swanky bar fills up quickly.
At first it may seem that this moody speakeasy cocktail bar is a little too hoity toity for you. But just take a closer look and you’ll spot the rather cheeky wallpaper pattern, and realize maybe they don’t take themselves too seriously after all.
But once you make it past busy reservations, an unassuming equestrian memorabilia waiting room, down to the noire library lounge, to the lush tufted red velvet booths, get comfortable and choose your menu- Hell? Or Highwater?
If you’re feeling wild, go for the Hell menu and order the Bottom of the Barrel. It’s a mezcal base with Irish whiskey, Cynar 70, Velvet Falernum, and Mole Bitters. Definitely for the more daring of drinkers.
Not feeling particularly adventurous? Take a look at the Highwater menu and go for the Savoy Spritz, bubbly champagne, St. Germaine, honey, grapefruit and contratto bitters. Refreshing with complexity.
Hell or Highwater is only open Wednesday through Saturday.
Best Activity Bars in Louisville
Sometimes we all just need a little liquid courage to do our best. I’m always a little looser after a few beers, and I’m actually able to get in a strike or two on my bowling average. Or sometimes I can take a shot of whiskey and gain laser focus to hit a high score on double ball pinball bonus. But most of all if I’m ever feeling shy, I know tequila will help me sing better at karaoke. Okay, maybe it doesn’t actually help me sing better, but it sure is more fun.
If you secretly have the silver ball skills of a modern-day pinball wizard, Rec Bar is here to release all your hidden talents to the world. Packed with classics like skee ball, and newer arcade staples like Killer Queen, Rec Bar is an abundance of fun.
However the real high score here is the massive pinball room. It’s about the size of a warehouse, and is packed with pinball machines from every major franchise imaginable. Men in Black, Lord of the Rings, Terminator – they’ve got ‘em all!
When all those double ball bonuses work up an appetite, be sure to indulge yourself with their selection of draft beer and tater tot “Totchos.” The Always Sunny Totchos, are a mountain of crispy season tots smothered in queso, and topped with shredded steak, grilled onions and peppers.
And if you’ve found you’ve claimed the high score on them all, you’re in luck because they’ve opened a new location in New Albany, Indiana. With two floors of games and machines, digging for quarters will become your new hobby.
We all have that guilty pleasure song, and I’m just going to admit this right here and right now. Because this is a safe space, right?? When I’m living my secret Hannah Montana fantasy of getting on stage and belting my heart out I’m singing Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart- and yes I can juggle both parts. But usually my audience only consists of my shampoo and body wash bottles while I’m in the shower.
That’s why I was so excited when Noraebar opened. It’s a karaoke bar in NuLu that features 9 private song rooms! Finally I can graduate from the shower to showcase my undiscovered talent in front of 8 of my drunkest friends. Dare I say, it’s the best of both worlds.
I love that I can totally curate my experience. The entire song library can be browsed ahead of time – perfect to build a set that shows off my range. And rooms are very affordable starting at $40 an hour for 8 singers, though I should note there is a 2-hour minimum to book the private rooms. And if your backup singers are a little larger than 8, there is a Large room rental that can fit up to 15 for $60 an hour (again you have the 2-hour minimum.)
But hey, maybe you’re not shy and guarded and you’re ready to hit the main stage, sing your signature, drop the mic and go. The communal main stage is just $2 a song.
If you’re thinking about Noraebar for a special occasion, you’ll be happy to know they are totally okay with you bringing in outside food and decorations to add to your private room (just double-check the guidelines first).
The other reason I love Noraebar, they did not skip out on the cocktail program. Currently I love the Bidi Bidi Bom Bom (and if you don’t know Selena, we cannot be friends!) It’s Viva agave Tequila (obviously tequila makes everyone sing better), ancho chile liqueur, tamarind syrup, lime, and dressed with a spiced rim. Just what you need when the crowd shouts encore!
Guys, we are so excited that Vernon Lanes has reopened! The neon-lit lanes, and music venue are a Louisville staple. (The space is so loved by locals, Jack Harlow spent his birthday here during their reopening.)
I love that the entire bowling alley bar is authentically vintage. The 8-lane alley is the oldest in Louisville, and according to Leo Magazine, is one of the oldest in America, which is not hard to believe when you sit on the bright orange and beige striped benches to bowl down the real wooden lanes. Now, the new owners did refurbish the lanes, so unfortunately any gutter balls will be all on you- no lane tilting excuses here.
Chef Zach Henderson has really run with the new menu, making twists on nostalgic classics. Corndogs, Sloppy Joes, and Fried Pickles are just a sampling of things that just taste better under neon stars. But nothing can beat the Butchertown Schnitzel. A tenderized pork loin, breaded in panko crumbs, with house pickles, shredded lettuce, topped with a lemon- herb aioli on a sesame seed bun. The perfect thing to pair with a local brew, like the Against the Grain Citra Ass Down, a delightfully citrus bitter IPA.
Best Neighborhood Bars in Louisville
I’m probably aging myself when I say, Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…..Cheers? Anyone remember Cheers? No, just me? Cool.
But really, sometimes you wanna go somewhere familiar with a casual vibe and reasonably priced drinks. Well here are some of the best neighborhood bars in Louisville.
What was once a mechanic garage, has now transformed into an inviting and eclectic bar and boutique shop- hence the name ShopBar. The shop portion is packed with lots of vintage pieces, local art, and plenty of handmade goodies. The bar section of ShopBar is like a bohemian watering hole, stocked with fun cocktails and draft beer.
The patio is wide with multiple covered seating areas perfect for rainy, snowy, or extremely sunny days (Kentucky weather is crazy y’all.) And did I mention they’re dog friendly? Like aggressively dog friendly! Like, bring your dog or pretend you don’t have one, because these owners love dogs.
While they don’t really have a kitchen, they host a variety of food trucks weekly. Rotating weekly you can get poutine from The Celtic Pig, tacos from Happy Belly Bistro, or even sushi from the Louisville Sushi Truck.
However the best deal is on Mondays, when you can order a pizza delivery from Lupo to ShopBar for 30% off. All you have to do is order a drink and the bartender will give you the discount code. We recommend getting The Shutdown, it’s a tequila base, with hibiscus, ginger ale, and candied ginger, with a black lava salt rim. It pairs really well with the Milk & Honey sourdough pizza!
The Pearl of Germantown
Sister bar to the famous Silver Dollar restaurant, The Pearl of Germantown is like a hipster Stranger Things basement stocked with draft beer and vinyl records. Colored Christmas Lights and an old jukebox fill this small but mighty bar with true dive bar energy. The bar is cozy with well-worn seats and retro man cave beer signs.
This bar is basically instant nostalgia, so it feels super natural to just sit back and relax. I don’t get hung up with anything crazy when I’m at The Pearl, I tend to dive right into something like a local draft, like the West Sixth IPA. It’s bitter with a hint of floral hops, and is a perfect pairing to the laid-back vibes.
Now Galaxie may not look like your typical neighborhood bar. The artfully exposed light bulb installation and the glow of the blue and pink neon light make this bar look cool and very party-worthy. But for the NuLu neighborhood, it’s a perfect place to relax after work or with friends.
And drink deals like the Breakfast of Champions, a can of beer and shot of whiskey for $5, remind me that this is a spot I like to frequent when I’m in the neighborhood, especially on a great weather day where you can hang out on the Outer Space patio in the back.
The space is open and fun, and towards the weekends you can find a lot of guest DJ’s and live music. Whatever you do, do not leave Galaxie without having a Galaxie Margarita – preferably the spicy marg! These are seriously the best margaritas in the city, and I love the signature curly bendy straw that comes with it – it’s delicious and fun.
And you can’t have Margs without tacos! I love the Wakatakas. They are flatbread tacos that come in a variety of fillings, but my favorite is the Chipotle Chicken with arugula, pico de gallo, and topped with aioli & cilantro.
Just follow the mural of a parade of dancing Frankenstein animals, and you’ll find the beloved neighborhood watering hole – Hilltop Tavern. Now if you’ve never been here before, you might get a little confused because there is a building across the street with lit-up letters that spell “HILLTOP”. Unfortunately that is the wrong spot and you might find yourself in the company of some over-eager real estate agents. Just look for the mural and outdoor picnic tables and you’ll be in the right spot.
Hilltop is an ideal spot for friend meetups and casual outings. Arcade cabinets, a mega connect four game, projector screen for whatever game is on, and a giant 2×4 Jenga tower in constant play. Just be warned – that Jenga game is LOUD when someone loses.
But all in all Hilltop Tavern is a good time. And for a bar, they have a pretty large food menu with a lot of variety. Indulgent items like the Meatloaf Sandwich, housemade meatloaf on texas toast with swiss cheese. Not quite how your mom may have made it, but it’s what you’ll be craving after a few brews with friends.
Best Late Night Bars in Louisville
There’s nothing more bohemian than a good late-night bar. When you find a place with a great mix of positive vibes and good cheap drinks, it’s easy to feel like this is the real party (kinda like the lively party floor of the Titanic, but with a much happier ending).
In Louisville, many bars are allowed to stay open until 4am, but usually only the dive bars take advantage of the late night 4am license. This is helpful if you’re jet-lagged or in need of a nightcap before your return to the hotel. Here are the best late-night bars in Louisville.
If underground punk rock hired a bartender and opened up a bar without making a sign (because they’re too cool for that anyway), that bar would be Expo. This bar specializes in craft cocktails hidden behind an unmarked door downtown.
Who says excellent craft cocktails have to be fancy and beautiful?
Expo bar doesn’t have fancy furniture or decor, but what it lacks in design they make up for on their menu. This one may be a little tricky to find, because it is so unassuming. But just look for the light blue door that says “114” between Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen and the public parking lot, and you’ll be in the right spot.
Expo has probably the most interesting bar program in the city. Each cocktail is carefully designed, often with specialty ingredients or uncommon liquors. The best part about Expo is they use so many unique ingredients they are used to even seasoned professionals asking questions. So no question is dumb here!
Ask their recommendation if you get lost, but we recommend starting with the Acid Cat Spirit Guide cocktail (yes it’s actually called that – they’re punk rock, remember?) The Acid Cat is one of the few cocktails that stays on the rotating menu because of its popularity. Now they won’t tell you what’s in it, but it’s garnished with a tiny edible flower – you’re gonna want to remember to save this flower! This flower will completely alter the way this cocktail tastes after eating it, so drink about half of your drink, eat your flower, then sip again! You will be amazed at your taste bud journey
The Merryweather is at its core a tiki bar, complete with a rotating tiki drink on tap. This bar is eclectic and regularly hosts pop-up dinner vendors weekly. And if you visit in the summer, you’re likely to hear them spinning records on their covered patio.
What should you order, you ask? Well you can’t go wrong with the cocktail on tap. The Merryweather always keeps a rotating tiki cocktail on the bar tap line. And if you’re in the mood for something a little stronger, order the PB&J shots. They infuse the tequila themselves, so you can even ask for the peanut butter and jelly portion side by side.
Tucked in between the Germantown and Highlands neighborhoods, Kaiju is a Japanese monster-themed sake bar. Lined with intimate red lantern-lit booths & neon signs, Kaiju is instantly enchanting.
What to order here? Kaiju has tons of sake to choose from, including a sake flight and sake masu box (a pour of sake that overflows into a rice box.) If sake is your thing, you’ll definitely be in great company.
Sake not your thing? No worries they still have a great selection of craft beer and mixed drinks. And did I mention late-night sushi and noodle cups? Kaiju is the sister bar to local sushi restaurant Dragon King’s Daughter, so fresh sushi is stocked daily.
It is almost impossible to decide what the best part of Kaiju bar is. Late-night sushi? The paper lantern-lit booths? Or the Nintendo 64 nook?
What did you think of this post? Which of your favorite bars in Louisville did we not include? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- 9 Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky: from Bourbon to Brandy
- The Best Louisville Breweries: the Ultimate Local’s Guide (& Southern Indiana, too)
- The 45 Best Places to Eat in Louisville, Kentucky
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