Bourbon bars and Louisville go together like bourbon and bootlegging: a match made in history! Everyone knows that Kentucky is the world’s home of the delicious American-born whiskey known as bourbon, and Louisville is the beating heart of Kentucky. Within the state’s largest city you’ll find a huge number of bourbon distilleries in Louisville (yup, right in town!) and bourbon bars – so many that it can be overwhelming to figure out which one to visit. That’s where we come in! Whether you’re a bourbon connoisseur or just dipping your pinky in, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to the best bourbon bars in Louisville.
We compiled our list of bourbon bars by neighborhood because in our opinion there are two ways to drink bourbon in Louisville: either pick places in one single area based on level of convenience, or pick places all over the city and use it as an excuse to see different neighborhoods around Louisville. We recommend the latter if you can swing it – and swig it! Just, yanno, drink responsibly.
Check out a few of these other posts:
- Bourbon Tasting 101: A Kentuckian’s Guide
- The 10 Best Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky (With a Map!)
- Kentucky Bourbon Trail: The Perfect 3 Day Itinerary
The Urban Bourbon Trail
Many people visit Kentucky for its internationally known bourbon trail, but many of those same people likely haven’t heard about the other bourbon trail. The Urban Bourbon Trail takes place right in Louisville’s city limits and is made up of bars and restaurants rather than distilleries. In order to qualify, a bar or restaurant has to serve at least 60 unique bourbon varieties and prove that they have trained experts on staff who can explain the tasting notes of each – truly proving that they are one of the best bourbon bars in Louisville. And it’s not easy to get approved.
The Urban Bourbon Trail is perfect for people who prefer city culinary experiences over countryside excursions, or an alternative experience to touring Louisville bourbon distilleries.
Oh, and there’s a lil game, too! Like the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, there’s a prize for completion: you can download a digital passport and if you visit at least six official destinations on the list, you can redeem a prize at the Louisville Visitor’s Center. And by prize, we mean a cool t-shirt so you can show off that you really did the thing! You’ll enjoy a lifetime of impressed nods and people asking your opinion on bourbon – turly the gift that keeps on giving.
We’ve curated some of our favorite Urban Bourbon honorees below, along with a few other places that aren’t yet on the official Urban Bourbon Trail list (but we think should be!).
Best Bourbon Bars in Downtown Louisville
The beating heart of Louisville’s historic downtown is Whiskey Row, and it’s here that you’ll find some of the best bourbon bars in Louisville. Speakeasies flank the Old Forester Distillery just a few blocks away from Louisville’s cultural Museum Row and the flowing water of the Ohio River.
Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is a stylish and modern speakeasy in downtown Louisville that has been profiled by Thrillist, Playboy, Vogue and Food & Wine. Its 1920s decor is incredibly sexy, featuring leather sofas, a library, and many nooks and crannies to for your group to sip on some vintage bourbon.
If they still have it on hand, try the Bardstown Bourbon Co. Collaborative Series. Previous collaborations have included blending bourbon tasting notes with collaborators like Founders beer and using their stout barrels to add a new dimension of flavor.
Otherwise, order the Calling Card #1, a delicious bourbon cocktail that’s the perfect cross between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan.
Reservations are required, so make sure you don’t try to just barge in, ya big mug!
- Address: 112 W Washington St, Louisville, KY 40202
Psst: You’ll visit Hell or High Water on the Phantoms of the Prohibition tour, a cocktail and history tour by Louisville Food Tours! As you eat and drink your way down Whiskey Row, you’ll meet the resident ghosts of Louisville’s historic downtown, trace the footsteps of bourbon magnates and mobsters, see Al Capone’s secret getaway, discover hidden speakeasies in the belly of Whiskey Row, and learn the shocking truth about Prohibition. Use the code LGL10 for 10% off your booking.
8up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen
8up Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen‘s chic rooftop bar is in the heart of downtown Louisville, so you’ll get that perfect golden hour glow as the sun bounces off the surrounding skyscrapers (or, like, Louisville’s equivalent of skyscrapers). They have an extensive bourbon list with their own 8Up Private Select Bulleit bourbon, perfect for sipping and watching the sun set as the fire-pits send dancing reflections flickering off the glass surrounding the outdoor patio.
- Address: 350 West Chestnut Street, Rooftop, Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar
Located in the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville, Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar is one the originators of the Urban Bourbon Trail. The bar opened in 1972 but was newly renovated in 2019 look like a modern smoking lounge (without the smoke), with dark greens, blacks and wood accents.
With over 100 kinds of bourbons, the bourbon menu is organized by distillery name, with the exact mileage from Jockey Silks (now that’s convenient!). The most expensive bourbon on the menu is the Pappy Van Winkle 23yr at $135 a pour, but we recommend trying the Four Roses Small Batch.
- Address: West Tower, 140 N Fourth St 2nd Floor, Louisville, KY 40202
Pin + Proof
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, complete with a 10 pin bowling alley. Here you can get bourbon cocktails made with some great reserves, like the 1881 Old Fashioned made with Maker’s Mark private selection, demerara, and house blend bitters.
But if you’re willing to venture away from bourbon, try the Hard to be Humble, a floral gin cocktail made with lavender, lemon, green chartreuse, absinthe, and topped with foamed egg white. It tastes like spring in a glass and is a fantastic example of a Prohibition-era cocktail!
- Address: 400 South 2nd Street Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Proof on Main
Nestled inside the 21c Museum Hotel, Proof On Main is a gorgeous, artistic bar (and adjoining restaurant) that will indulge your whimsy and palette. Everything about Proof is classy – including their bourbons.
Here you can find a library of rare, small batch, and discontinued bourbons, as well as private sections curated by 21c themselves. Order a bourbon flight to really get acquainted with the bourbons they offer, and you can even wander around the museum afterward with cocktail in hand!
- Address: 702 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202
Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen
Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is nestled nicely into Whiskey Row on Main Street, and is a lively place to come sip some bourbon, listen to live music and enjoy some good eats.
You can try George’s Famous Old Fashioned made with Old Forester Signature, muddled fruit and agave and nectar bitters, or even dip into some of their handpicked barrels, from distilleries like Makers Mark, Buffalo Trace, and Old Forester that have been manipulated, tasted and selected just for Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen!
- Address: 122 West Main St. Louisville, KY 40202
Best Bourbon Bars in NuLu
Nulu is the trendiest neighborhood in Louisville. Centered around a historic stretch of east Market Street bordering downtown, here you’ll find locally owned restaurants, bars, and boutiques alongside hip galleries and colorful murals. This is the best place in town for nightlife! Check out our guide to the NuLu neighborhood.
- Local Travel Tip: Hands down the best way to taste bourbon in NuLu is on the Beyond the Barrel Bourbon Food Tour with Louisville Food Tours! Experience bourbon like never before through expertly paired bites, tastings, and cocktails. As you explore the vibrant NuLu neighborhood, you’ll discover hidden speakeasies, rooftop terraces, and cozy tasting rooms. Use the code LGL10 to save 10% on your booking.
Gertie’s Whiskey Bar
There are many things to love about Gertie’s Whiskey Bar but here are three: they have a center bar upstairs, a speakeasy downstairs, and one of the best bourbon and whiskey selections in the city. Also, their Old Fashioned is one of the best we’ve ever had, made with brown butter fat-washed bourbon. Mmmm. (We tried it on a Bourbon Food Tour with Louisville Food Tours – which we also HIGHLY recommend!)
If you can still get your paws on it, we recommend trying the Hancock President’s Reserve, distilled from Buffalo Trace. Also, if you want to move beyond bourbon to whiskey, Gertie’s organizes its whiskey menu by both state and country, so there’s plenty to explore!
- Address: 821 E Market St Suite 101, Louisville, KY 40206
Taj Louisville is a dive bar but in the best way. It offers everything you could want, like perfectly designed barstools, a perfect bourbon selection (with over 80 bourbons), and perfect bartenders. Taj also has a very nice patio if you need to step out for some fresh air.
It’s located in the heart of NuLu, so if you’re visiting Louisville, you’ll likely find yourself nearby at least once during your visit. If you need a break from drinking your bourbon neat, Taj is a fantastic place to get an Old Fashioned, the official cocktail of Louisville (you’re welcome, world). They make it with Four Roses, but are willing to customize it based on your taste. However, you might want to keep it as is since Taj is known to have one of the best Old Fashioned cocktails in the city!
- Address: 807 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
Frank’s Whiskey Place
Frank’s Whiskey Place is a local favorite that is known for its extensive selection of whiskeys and bourbons at very reasonable prices. This bar is dog friendly, features a pool table, and often has food trucks parked in the front.
On the weekends, you might stumble into the occasional late-night dance party. It has a laid-back atmosphere and a friendly staff that will make you feel at home. We recommend tasting the small batch bourbon from Door Knocker, a mostly secretive distiller located near Frankfort, that has been reviewed only a limited number of times but with rave reviews.
- Address: 331 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202
Best Bourbon Bars in Clifton
Louisville’s Clifton neighborhood runs alongside walkable Frankfort Avenue, lined with beautiful bars, restaurants and locally owned shops underneath lush trees. The neighborhood is bisected by a train track, so if you hear a train horn – or get stuck behind a line of cars – that’s why!
Check out our guide to the Clifton neighborhood for more ideas on things to do while you’re here.
The Silver Dollar
The 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. And since their website address reads “WhiskeybytheDrink.com” you know they’re serious about their whiskey and bourbon.
The bottle list is intimidating for even the most seasoned of drinkers, including vintage bottles, but it’s easy to chat up your bartender and you don’t have to be afraid to ask for some bourbon and whiskey guidance. If you need a cocktail rec, try their Kentucky Mule, Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Lime, and housemade ginger syrup.
- Address: 1761 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Bourbons Bistro was recently named Bar of the Year in the America region by the 2023 Whiskey Icons competition. It is a cozy and intimate establishment that specializes in bourbons from small-batch distilleries and offers a unique menu that showcases the flavors of Kentucky’s cuisine.
At Bourbon’s Bistro, you can get some the highest end bourbons out there. They have a wide range of Pappy Van Winkle, but you might want to also try some of the higher end Michters. The Michters 10yr is always a sure bet, but if money is no issue for you, why not try the 20yr at $250 for a 1oz pour?
- Address: 2255 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Frankfort Avenue Liquors & Wine
Frankfort Avenue Liquors & Wine is not only one of the newer liquor stores on the scene, but one of the best bourbon bars in town! Here you can sip bourbon, do a tasting, and if you decide to purchase, they have over 700 bottles of bourbon in stock.
On the weekends they have live music and a lively atmosphere and they are dog friendly, so be sure to check out one of the coolest new stops on the Urban Bourbon Trail.
- Address: 2115 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Bourbon Bars in Shelby Park & Germantown
Germantown and Shelby Park are bordering neighborhoods located between the Original Highlands and Old Louisville. But unlike those lush, historic neighborhoods, Germantown and Shelby Park are a little grittier and more modern, with a ton of cool new developments transforming old, unused buildings into hip marketplaces, restaurants, and bars.
Check out our guide to Germantown and Shelby Park to learn more about this area!
North of Bourbon
North of Bourbon has a world-class bourbon and cocktail menu in an upscale setting in the relaxed Germantown neighborhood. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike not only because of its bourbon selection but also because of its food, which include dishes like duck gumbo and a country ham plate.
It is not an exaggeration to say that their gumbo is as good – if not better – than what you’ll get in Louisiana. In fact, their entire menu transports you to New Orleans but saves you a plane ticket – it’s truly some of the best food in town!
When it comes to bourbon, North of Bourbon has one of the more well rounded current era bourbon menus with options from labels like Knob Creek and Blanton’s, and also Louisville favorites like NuLu’s own Angel’s Envy.
The best part yet is you can actually eat in drink in a booth that’s actually a giant bourbon barrel – if that ain’t good theming, I don’t know what is!
- Address: 935 Goss Ave, Louisville, KY 40217
Trouble Bar was named one of Esquire’s Best Bars in America in 2021. It’s incredibly welcoming and inclusive, but not only that, they have some of the best bourbon flights in the city.
Trouble Bar offers 13 different bourbon flight choices, all selected by friends of the bar. Each flight is served with 1oz pours and comes with cups of water and ice to use as you like.
Our pick would be the “For the ladies, by the Bosses,” a flight curated by some of the top women distillery owners and master distillers. To top things off, Trouble Bar is also a women-owned, Black-woman-led bourbon bar.
- Address: 1149 S Shelby St, Louisville, KY 40203
Best Bourbon Bars in The Highlands
The Highlands neighborhood is actually made up of 11 micro-neighborhoods, all comprising this quirky, historic part of town that puts the “weird” in “Keep Louisville Weird.” At the heart of the Highlands is the walkable Bardstown Road corridor, lined with locally owned businesses and splashed with colorful murals.
Psst: Explore the stunning Original Highlands Neighborhood on the Highlands Food & History Tour with Louisville Food Tours! As you walk along some of Louisville’s oldest and most iconic streets, you’ll sample (and drink) local specialties; taste how immigrants and refugees have shaped Louisville; visit the final resting place of Muhammad Ali and Colonel Sanders; try a dish inspired by the Hot Brown at Muhammed Ali’s former boxing gym; and admire the opulent architecture of Louisville’s beautiful Victorian homes. Plus, a guided bourbon tasting at the oldest bar in Louisville. Use the code LGL10 for 10% off your booking.
Neat Bourbon Bar and Bottle Shop
Neat Bourbon Bar and Bottle Shop is located in the Highlands neighborhood. It’s a self-proclaimed vintage bottle shop because they have vintage bourbon and because of the owners’ passion for vintage furniture.
The menu features a number of incredibly rare bourbons, some of which date as far back as 1934 with the Kentucky Tavern BiB. There’s also several elusive pours like the Very Olde Saint Nick, which frequently sells for thousands of dollars a bottle. Sip bourbon, learn bourbon history, and speak with the super helpful staff in this very chill and ambient setting.
- Address: 1139 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204
Bonus Bourbon Bars in Louisville
While many of the best bourbon bars in Louisville are clustered together, these bars are worth a trip on their own!
Old Louisville Tavern
Old Louisville Tavern located in – you guessed it – Old Louisville is a historic bar serving cold drinks and good times since 1933. This Old Louisville neighborhood tavern has become somewhat iconic in the city. It offers a great selection of bourbons, beers, and made-from-scratch food.
Here, you’ll likely find some incredibly local bourbons from local Louisville distilleries like Kentucky Peerless.
- Address: 1532 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40208
Watch Hill Proper
Watch Hill Proper is located in the beautiful, walkable Norton Commons neighborhood of Prospect -about 15-20 minutes drive outside of Louisville, but worth the trip. It’s technically a speakeasy: upon entry, guests arrive at The Fermenter, a bar that serves as the holding area in a well-planned experience on the way to the main speakeasy lounge.
Once inside Watch Hill Proper, you’ll find one of the best bourbon selections in the city with the ambiance to match. Pick anything you like from the floor to ceiling shelves lined with bourbon – so tall there’s a huge ladder to navigate the selection, like if Belle’s library in Beauty and the Beast were actually bourbon instead of books!
The menu features whiskeys from nearly every state, and is arranged based on the year each state was admitted into the union. All pours are 1.5oz, and you’ll discover some hard to find options like the Very Old Fitzgerald.
- Address: 11201 River Beauty Loop, Prospect, KY 40059
About the Author: Andrew Zarick is a native of Louisville and a current Los Angeleno by way of Brooklyn. He’s a technology executive, entrepreneur, foodie and avid traveler. His favorite country in the world is Spain. He also owns the website Geography of Cool, writing travel guides for “wannabe digital nomads, travelers, foodies, and culture seekers”.
What questions can we answer about bourbon bars in Louisville? Drop us a comment below!
Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts:
- Bourbon Tasting 101: A Kentuckian’s Guide
- The 10 Best Distilleries in Louisville, Kentucky (With a Map!)
- Kentucky Bourbon Trail: The Perfect 3 Day Itinerary
- Where to Get Tacos in Louisville, Kentucky: The 8 Best Tacos in Louisville
Psst: Did you find this post informative? Save it for later on Pinterest!