Louisville, Kentucky is a city that’s famously known for a drink: bourbon. Sure, it’s technically Kentucky that invented Bourbon, but Louisville has embraced it, built upon it, and created a drinking scene honoring it. Whether you’re stopping in Louisville on your way to do the Bourbon Trail or just visiting Louisville because it’s the best city ever (though I’m slightly biased, as a local), you can’t skip out on tasting a few Louisville specialties. We spent a few weeks exploring my old Kentucky hometown and drinking a ridiculous amount, discovering everything from the best Louisville breweries to amazing Louisville bourbon bars and, of course, incredible Louisville distilleries. Of course we ate a lot, too: make sure to check out our foodie guide to Louisville! Whether you’re a bourbon drinker or you just haven’t spent enough time in Louisville yet to develop a taste for it (it’ll happen… give it time), there are tons of incredible places to grab a drink in Louisville, bourbon or otherwise. Louisville, KY is an must-visit booze tourism destination!
Here’s what you’ll find in this local’s drinking guide to Louisville, Kentucky.
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Psst: Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a FREE downloadable Google Map of the best Louisville bars, bourbon, breweries, and distilleries!
Here’s where to get the best drinks in Louisville, from craft beer to bourbon to cocktails and everything in between! But first, a quick primer on the most famous drinks in Louisville, Kentucky.
Famous Louisville (& Kentucky) Drinks
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but bourbon is a pretty big deal here. Even if you come to Louisville saying “I’m not a bourbon person,” first of all, how dare you, and secondly, expect that to change by the time you leave. With so many brands and varieties, there is truly something for everyone on the bourbon spectrum. Each of these drinks will be served at just about any Louisville bourbon bar!
The official cocktail of Louisville is The Old Fashioned – a spirit forward cocktail made with bourbon, sugar or syrup, bitters, and orange peel. This bittersweet king of cocktails varies from place to place, but it’s always delicious. I won’t blame you if you thought “Hold your horses,” (get it, cuz Kentucky?), “that’s the official cocktail? What about Mint Juleps?!” Well I’m getting there.
The Mint Julep is the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, not Louisville. I’m pretty sure that’s just an excuse to have multiple kinds of Official cocktails – very clever, Louisville government. No trip to Churchill Downs is complete without an ice cold Mint Julep. It’s the perfect cocktail to sip in the hot sun while you cheer your horse on while wearing a ridiculously fancy hat. Made with bourbon, simple syrup, muddled mint, and shaved ice, these boozy mint snow cones pack a punch. Oh, and of course they have to be served in a silver Mint Julep tin (or a Derby Glass).
Another famous Kentucky cocktail deserving of it’s own vessel is the Kentucky Mule, for those sweet drink lovers. A great summer cocktail, it is made from bourbon, lime, and ginger beer then thrown into a copper mule mug. Delicious!
The Best Louisville Distilleries
Let’s be real here. Going to Kentucky and not going bourbon tasting is like going to Mexico and never having a taco. Not only is it hard to actually pull off, but why would you want to!? As fun as it is to go out into Bourbon country and tour a distillery, sometimes the logistics can pose a challenge. But fear not! There are actually several bourbon distilleries in Louisville where you can enjoy tours and bourbon tastings without leaving the city. Here are our picks for the best Louisville distilleries.
Situated right in downtown Louisville is the Angel’s Envy distillery. These small batch bourbon distillers pride themselves on making a smooth sipping, unique finished bourbon. What do I mean by finished? After the usual aging process, Angel’s Envy bourbon is then aged in port barrels. The end product? A deliciously complex introductory bourbon, perfect for both sipping and mixing into cocktails. There’s also an incredible Rye Whiskey finished in rum barrels! Guests can take a full tour of the gorgeous Louisville distillery along with a bourbon tasting, or the speed round called the Sensory Tour, which also includes a bourbon tasting (and chocolate, too).
- Angel’s Envy | Address: 500 East Main St, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Two things Louisville loves – theater and bourbon – merge at another downtown Louisville distillery: The Evan Williams Experience. Visitors have the choice between two tours and tastings. The first is a film and unique historical walk through the founding of the distillery to today. We recommend this for anyone who hasn’t done a full blown distillery tour, as you’ll learn a lot about the process of bourbon making. The other option is a Speakeasy Tour, which takes guests through a safe and into a Prohibition era bar where you’ll sample the premium bourbons. Both tours include tastings, as well as a souvenir distillers glass.
- The Evan Williams Experience | Address: 528 W Main St, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Located next to Museum Row sits Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. Wanna talk credentials? The first bourbon this family made went into the barrel in 1889. You know what else happened that year? Montana, Washington, and the Dakotas became states. It’s pretty safe to say these guys know bourbon, y’all. Unlike some of the other bourbon distilleries in Louisville, Peerless Distilling does everything from milling to shipping all under the same roof. What does that mean to you? Well it means you can see every step along the way!
- Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co | Address: 120 N 10th St, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Located just 5 miles from downtown Louisville you’ll find The Bulleit Experience. Take a $10 tour and tasting and you’ll get a chance to explore the office where Pappy van Winkle himself used to work, later inspiring what is now one of the most loved and expensive varieties of bourbon available today (last time I checked, you can get a shot of Pappy Van Winkle for $100 at my favorite bourbon bar in San Francisco, so there’s that). Sadly, they aren’t handing out any sample-sized bottles of Pappy, but the tour is still fantastic and well worth a stop.
- The Bulleit Experience | Address: 3860 Fitzgerald Road, Louisville, KY
It’s not just bourbon you can taste in Louisville! Recently the Butchertown based Copper & Kings has been making waves in the brandy and absinthe arena. But hey, this is bourbon country, so you better believe bourbon plays a role. Their American style brandies and apple brandies are aged in bourbon barrels to give it a signature sweetness and smoothness. Even the absinthe is unique. Unlike most absinthes that get their green color from dyes or steeping plants, their absinthe is clear and comes in four flavors: regular, ginger, lavender, and citrus. Not only are the tours great, but they also host an event called Mixt&pe, where bartenders craft their own cocktails inspired by songs from an album. Check it out. It’s fire.
- Copper & Kings | Address: 1121 E Washington St, Louisville, KY (Butchertown)
The Best Louisville Bourbon Bars
Y’all didn’t think we were done with bourbon already, did you? In addition to Louisville distilleries, there are tons of Louisville bars that specialize in bourbon & whiskey. In fact, there are so many Louisville bourbon bars that they have their own name: the Urban Bourbon trail (cute, right?). To quality for the Urban Bourbon trail, bars in Louisville have to offer 50+ different varieties of bourbon – and a staff that can walk you through nosing each of them like a pro. You can even get a little passport to stamp, just like the real Bourbon Trail! Once you’ve filled up your passport, you can trade it in for a souvenir t-shirt. How awesome is that? I wish they gave out t-shirts for eating your way through Louisville, too. I’d have a whole wardrobe. To help you on your Urban Bourbon journey, be sure to download the app to help guide you to the nearest bourbon bar.
One of our fave Louisville bourbon bars is Doc Crow’s on Whiskey Row, which serves up delicious food alongside a plethora of bourbon. Try anything from the smoker, the mint julep lemonade, and for dessert order the Wilbur sundae with brown butter praline ice cream, candied bacon and cinnamon pork rinds.
- Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar | Address: 127 W Main St, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Historic Whiskey Row is also home to the speakeasy themed Down One Bourbon Bar. With over 160 bourbons, you’ll find whatever rare bourbon you’ve got your heart set on here, plus a few more you’ve never heard of – all alongside some absolutely fantastic food, of course. Consistently ranked and awarded as one of the best Bourbon Bars in America, Down One is an incredible bourbon bar that can’t be skipped when visiting Louisville.
- Down One Bourbon Bar | Address: 321 Main St., Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Bourbon, burgers, and beer: if you’re a fan of any of these things, you’ll definitely want to visit Sidebar at Whiskey Row. Local legend has it that their burgers are the best in town. Pair your burger with a barrel aged cocktail (yes, y’all) or an expertly crafted bourbon cocktail.
- Sidebar at Whiskey Row | Address: 129 N 2nd St, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Looking for a bourbon bar to celebrate a special occasion? Or just like any excuse to be fancy? We love Buck’s, an upscale bourbon bar in the beautiful historic Old Louisville neighborhood. Be sure to give yourself time to take a stroll around the neighborhood, which is one of our absolute favorite places to explore in Louisville
- Buck’s Restaurant and Bar | Address: 425 W. Ormsby Louisville, KY (Old Louisville)
When it comes to bourbon, we like to pair ours with brunch, which is our favorite excuse to visit Harvest, Butchertown Grocery, and Proof on Main – all excellent bourbon bars and restaurants as well. We’ve got more information about each of them, along with our other fave spots for the best brunch in Louisville, over at our Louisville food post.
- Harvest Louisville | Address: 624 E Market St, Louisville, KY (NuLu)
- Butchertown Grocery | Address: 1076 E Washington St, Louisville, KY (Butchertown)
- Proof on Main | Address: 702 W. Main St, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Looking for an enormous selection of whiskey, including 250 bourbons? How about a bourbon bar with a vintage arcade? Or maybe a bourbon bar that’s also a music venue? Or maybe you’re just looking for some rad themed events with free food? You’ll find all of that and more at Haymarket Whiskey Bar. The bar doubles as a place to pick up a bottle of whiskey, too, with a bottle shop that rivals the best liquor stores in Kentucky.
- Haymarket Whiskey Bar | Address: 331 E. Market St, Louisville, Kentucky (Downtown)
Now some of you might be wondering, “I don’t know where to begin. I don’t have a favorite bourbon! Can I do a tasting of a bunch of kinds of bourbon and figure out what I like?” This is Louisville, y’all! Of course you can! Head down to NuLu and check out Taste Fine Wines and Bourbon for a $7 tasting of Kentucky’s finest small-batch bourbons. It’s not a bourbon bar, but we thought it was fitting for this section anyway.
- Taste Fine Wines & Bourbon | Address: 634 East Market Street, Louisville, KY (NuLu)
The Best Louisville Breweries
I was under 21 when I moved away from Louisville, so I might be mis-remembering, but it seems there are a TON of amazing new craft breweries in Louisville! And yes – there’s plenty of bourbon barrel aged beer. Don’t worry. That was my first question, too.
I think a defining characteristic of craft breweries is placing quality over profit and output. While that’s evident at all of these Louisville breweries, it’s especially obvious with Monnik Beer, located in Germantown. Monnik Beer sources all of their ingredients locally and won’t put a single drop they don’t love in your glass. Their beer list is long and varied, making this a crowd pleaser bar for anyone looking to grab a beer in Germantown.
- Monnik Beer | Address: 1036 E Burnett Ave, Louisville, KY (Germantown)
“Like our namesake, the mighty Ohio River, we never stop moving forward” is the tagline for Mile Wide Beer, and it shows. The brewery was once a biscuit factory and the very first brewpub in Louisville, and Mile Wide has turned it into something truly special. They have food trucks, arcade games, pub games, and plenty of space for you and your friends to enjoy great beers. Be sure to check out the Wooderson, a mesquite smoked blonde ale. Any “Always Sunny” fans? You’ll get a kick out of the McPoyle, a nitro milk stout.
- Mile Wide Beer | Address: 636 Barret Avenue (The Highlands)
Tucked unobtrusively into a space on Bardstown Road in the Highlands neighborhood, Great Flood Brewing is much larger inside than it first appears from the outside. The taps at this Louisville brewery offer everything from Bourbon Barrel Aged beer – see, we told you – to excellent Saisons and dark stouts. In addition to their own brews, Great Flood serves up a few notable outside offerings, such as the delicious Beer X-Tacy (a play on a much-beloved, but now closed, local record store called Ear X-Tacy, RIP).
- Great Flood Brewing | Address: 2120 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY (The Highlands)
I do love me a bar that sticks to a shtick, and Apocalypse Brew Works certainly has a shtick: It’s the end of the world, might as well drink! This excellent Louisville brewery’s tasting room is called “The Fallout Shelter,” and it serves up small batch brews. The beers are all appropriately named: there’s Cream-ation, a cream ale, ashes not included; Sunspot Stout, an oatmeal stout; and Fallout Dust, a peppery specialty beer. One of my favorite things about Apocalypse is their dedication to sustainable brewing practices. Just because their theme is a dead planet, it doesn’t mean they can’t help prolong that fate.
- Apocalypse Brew Works | Address: 1612 Mellwood Ave., Louisville, KY (Clifton)
Old Louisville Brewery started as a passion project between two brothers and has grown steadily for the past few years. They are located in the heart of Old Louisville, one of my favorite (and Louisville’s most beautiful) neighborhoods. It’s proximity to University of Louisville makes this a lively spot, but not so much so that you feel old. They also feature the number one quality in any bar: dog friendly! With 12 rotating taps, there’s always something new and fun to try at this Louisville brewery. Grab a glass of their refreshingly crisp Raspberry Wheat, Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, or the tangy “Kentucky Common,” a throwback to the early 20th century when bourbon mash was reused to make beer.
- Old Louisville Brewery | Address: 625 W. Magnolia Ave. Louisville, KY (Old Louisville)
The Best Louisville Bars
In a town (and state) that is known for their pride in alcohol, you better believe that Louisville bars are second to none. In addition to the aforementioned craft breweries, you can find some unique bars to get a little taste of everything.
NuLu – aka New Louisville, a super hip up and coming neighborhood – is home to a number of fantastic Louisville bars. One of our favorites is Garage Bar, a bar slash restaurant with delicious brick oven pizzas and an amazing patio, all set in a converted mechanic shop! Personally, whenever I go I feel like I stepped into the Cars movie, except without Owen Wilson ruining his career (psst – remember when Owen Wilson was in Steve Zissou? His character was from Louisville. His accent, however, was not).
- Garage Bar | Address: 700 E. Market St, Louisville, KY (NuLu)
Down the street from Garage Bar in NuLu, fans of tacos and/or craft cocktails will love to see Galaxie Bar. Galaxie has a rad hidden patio area called Outer Space that’s open for dancing on the weekends, and hosts tons of awesome events. Every Wednesday they even have a Trivia Night, so get those know-it-all friends of yours down there (as you may have guessed, we’re a lot of people’s know-it-all Trivia Night friends).
- Galaxie Bar | Address: 732 E. Market St, Louisville, Ky (NuLu)
Mag Bar in Old Louisville isn’t the kind of Louisville bar you go to looking for a fancy craft cocktail. It’s the kind of dive bar where you go to have an amazing night that you may or may not remember fueled by cheap drinks and brand new besties that you’ll end up dancing with all night long while shouting the words to some song you barely know. Mag Bar hosts tons of eclectic events from trivia to themed dance parties to bingo to DJ’s and local bands that you’ve never heard of but will probably end up buying a CD of by the end of a night (are CD’s still a thing?). Simultaneously described as “old school” and “hipster,” Mag Bar is a much-loved local hot spot.
- Mag Bar | Address: 1398 S 2nd St, Louisville, KY (Old Louisville)
If you’re looking for a unique Louisville bar that caters to beer lovers (*raises hand*), head over to The Highlands neighborhood and check out Holy Grale. Its building was once a church – hence the clever name – but they serve you more than just a sip of communion wine. They’ve got 27 rotating taps, which include (to my delight) hella Belgian beers! Y’all know we love our Belgian beer.
- Holy Grale | Address: 1034 Bardstown Road Louisville, KY (The Highlands)
The Highlands is also home to the best Irish bars in Louisville, all conveniently clustered together. There are 3 Irish bars right next to each other, and everyone has a different opinion about which one is “best,” but our favorite is O’Sheas.
- O’Shea’s Irish Pub | Address: 956 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY (The Highlands)
If you like live music, be sure to stop by the Highlands Taproom and see who’s playing.
- Highlands Taproom | Address: 1058 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY (The Highlands)
Over in Germantown, a must visit Louisville bar for beer lovers is Four Pegs. With a dozen beers on tap and an incredible comfort food menu, this place is sure to fill you up. While you’re there, be sure to get the Kentucky Poutine and a Beer Burger – a burger topped with beer sauce and a fried green tomato!
- Four Pegs Beer Lounge | Address: 1053 Goss Ave, Louisville, KY (Germantown)
If you’re looking for a fancier Louisville bar, there’s 8UP in Downtown, a chic rooftop bar overlooking the city and serving up craft cocktails. 8up is the perfect place to bring a date and watch one of Louisville’s famously beautiful sunsets.
- 8up | Address: 350 West Chesnut Street Rooftop, Louisville, KY (Downtown)
Map of the Best Bourbon, Breweries, Distilleries, & Bars in Louisville
Use our handy map to locate the best places to drink in Louisville on the go!
Travel Tip: Download this map to your smartphone for offline browsing (click here for instructions).
Are you thirsty? After writing all this, we sure are. Have you ever been to Louisville? Are you a bourbon drinker? Or were you like “where the heck is Louisville?” before you clicked on this post? I hope you know now, right?! Leave us a comment below!
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Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Go To Louisville. All opinions, recommendations, things that we may have done or said while ~researching~ for this post, and poorly executed jokes are entirely our own and totally not their fault.