In honor of their 5th Year Anniversary, the good folks at The Bourbon Review have chosen what they feel are the 55 Best Bourbon Bars in America.
Five regions were then selected for representation: Bourbon Country, Northeast, the South, Midwest and West. If you’re wondering if the Bourbon Country region held an advantage based on its proximity to where 95% of all Bourbon is produced and its long tradition of harboring the spirit, well that would have been a good assumption as it came in with the most Bourbon-centric watering holes.
Without further ado, here are the 55 best bourbon bars in America courtesy of The Bourbon Review:
BOURBON COUNTRY REGION
Jonathan’s at Gratz Park, Lexington, KY: Great selection of Bourbon, which usually includes Willet Family Reserve and a steady supply of Pappy Van Winkle vintages. Barreled-aged cocktail program is very solid here. JGP is also known to do special Bourbon-themed dinners at least every other month with Master Distillers. – J.T.
Bluegrass Tavern, Lexington, KY: With over 230 Bourbons in stock, this could be considered Bourbon Country’s premier Bourbon bar. The collection includes past vintages of the Four Roses Limited Single Barrel and Small Batch Bourbon and the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon collection to name a few. The limited Bourbons that are no longer produced don’t come cheap, but you might not be able to find some of these bottles outside of an auction house. – J.T.
Paulie’s Toasted Barrel, Lexington, KY: The Mezzanine level is where you’ll want to go to sample their selection of over 101 Bourbons. Check out live bluegrass music on Wednesdays. – J.T.
Arcadium, Lexington, KY: New to the Lexington bar scene, the beefed up Bourbon menu gives its patrons some of Kentucky’s finest nectar to enjoy along with craft beers on their rotating tap handles. If you’re an old school gamer, throw the barkeep an Abe Lincoln to change out for some quarters and enjoy some arcade classics like Contra and Double Dragon. – J.T.
Parlay Social, Lexington, KY: Well over 50 Bourbons to choose from. But if you finish off a bottle of Kentucky’s favorite redhead, you can be a part of their Maker’s Mark Bottle Club and get your name permanently on the wall. – J.T.
The Silver Dollar, Louisville, KY: Fans of Bourbon, traditional Southern cuisine and classic country music like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash will love The Silver Dollar. If the Bourbon selection that is approaching 100 doesn’t do it for you, then try one of their hand-crafted cocktails from their seasonal menu. If you don’t want to take our word, then perhaps listen to GQ who just named put it on their “10 Best Whiskey Bars” in America list. – J.T.
Down One Bourbon Bar, Louisville, KY: Conveniently located in downtown Louisville, this laid-back bar boasts over 100 Bourbons to sample after you’ve finished a day of distillery hoping. – J.T.
Old Seelbach Bar, Louisville, KY: For those who are caught up in The Great Gatsby mania of 2013 the Seelbach Bar is a must visit. F. Scott Fitzgerald used the hotel for inspiration and as the backdrop for Tom and Daisy’s wedding in his famous tale. The bar is also well stocked with Bourbon, which is also used for its namesake classic cocktail, The Seelbach, along with champagne. – J.T.
The Brown Hotel Bar, Louisville, KY: Like the Seelbach, The Brown Hotel Bar is a time-capsule to the “golden era” of the roaring 20’s. The bar anchors the famous lobby, where guests and bar patrons alike can enjoy their libations in over-sized leather chairs while listening to the musician behind their grand piano. – J.T.
Proof on Main, Louisville, KY: The only thing that outshines the vast selection of premium-Bourbon at this bar is the contemporary art that spills over from the 21c Museum Hotel in which Proof is connected to. You might need an “open mind” to appreciate the art at times, but the Bourbon (whether neat or in a cocktail) and cuisine they serve are consistently nothing less than superb. – J.T.
St. Charles Exchange, Louisville, KY: Located directly across the street from Proof on Main, SCE serves up some of the best cocktails in the nation, via the creativity of their bar manager, Colin Shearn, formerly of Philadelphia’s famous cocktail bar The Franklin Mortgage Investment Co. Great American inspired fare rounds out the experience here of this newly renovated spot located in an 180 year-old building. – J.T.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar, Louisville: The Haymarket Whiskey Bar is a throwback to your childhood. With old video games, vintage movie posters and Star Wars figures all around, you forget you’re in a whiskey bar. But the undeniably fantastic Bourbon collection, spread across three shelves and a refrigerator, shines like a freshly polished penny. With more than 80 Bourbons, Haymarket is also home to local music. If you’re looking for the perfect Bourbon dive-bar, then you’ll find it at Haymarket. – F.M.
Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar, Louisville, KY: How do you improve on a menu that focuses on BBQ and great seafood (remember, the main UPS hub is located in Louisville so fresh seafood is delivered there first)? Give your customers over 100 Bourbons to choose from while they’re dining, that’s how. – J.T.
The Miller House, Owensboro, KY: Nestled in a mansion in the historical downtown area, The Miller House is part upscale yet comfortable restaurant, part Bourbon bar. You’ll have to travel down to the basement to take in there Bourbon collection, that features several one-of-a-kinds, since they have selected their own barrels to bottle from major distilleries. – J.T.
The Old Talbot Tavern, Bardstown, KY: Originally built as a stage coach stop in 1779, the tavern still serves as a place of reprieve for visitors in the Bourbon Capital of the World. Sample one of the Bourbons from their vast collection in the same building that has seen Abraham Lincoln, Jesse James and General George Patton pass through. – J.T.
The Rick House, Bardstown, KY: With more than 130 Bourbons to choose from, Rich House claims to have more Bourbon options for their customers, than any other bar in Bardstown. They also offer several flight options so patrons can satisfy their diverse palates. – J.T.
Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen and Lounge, Louisville, KY: Housed in the only Bourbon-themed hotel (Marriot Louisville East) Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen offers folks over 80 Bourbons to go along with their dinner menu that is dedicated to using locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy the start of your meal, with their cheddar rolls and smoked Bourbon butter. – J.T.
Brandy Library, Manhattan, NY: Located in the posh Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, the Brandy Library is where you go if you’re looking to drink some of the world’s rarest whiskies. Boasting over 900 bottles of spirits and 100 cocktails to choose from their legendary menu, the Brandy Library has one of the best collections of vintage and new whiskies in the world on display in their sophisticated location. – J.T.
Char No. 4, Brooklyn, NY: The name of this Brooklyn establishment is a reference to the term that describes the most intense char level the inside of the Bourbon barrel can receive. That same intensity for Bourbon is seen throughout the entire building, with the exterior and interior veneer inspired by Bourbon barrels and the fare focusing on smoked meats to compliment the 150+ American Whiskies featured on the drink menu. – J.T.
Maysville, Manhattan, NY: Opened this past November, Maysville is named after the port city in Kentucky where the owners (and some historians) believe Bourbon may have been founded. This restaurant boasts one of the best collections of Bourbon in New York City. New Yorkers are famous for being critical, but one of the biggest critics in town, The New York Times, recently had nothing but praises when it said, “The charred barrels in which Kentucky distillers age fresh corn liquor are the obvious reference point. And it’s true that the smoke makes Maysville’s food a more-than-willing companion to one of its 170 or so American whiskeys, or to a solidly constructed Bourbon cocktail.” – J.T.
Employees Only, New York City: This is a hip, fun bar with great whiskey cocktails and big hair band music. All you really need to know is: It’s bartender approved. “This is a bartenders bar, so the name is very appropriate,” says Larry Rice, owner of Silver Dollar in Louisville. “The whiskey list isn’t the largest but its well thought out and their whiskey cocktails are well executed.” – F.M.
Flatiron Room, New York City: Nothing like the Flatiron Room exists in the world. Broadway and renowned jazz singers perform here, but the music is not the star of the show. Whiskey sommelier Heather Greene, a former musician and William Grant brand ambassador, leads the highly educated staff in educating guests about the Flatiron Room’s 80 Bourbons and 400 other whiskies. Greene and guest professors teach “Whisky School,” a series of beginner-friendly and savvy enthusiast classes. – F.M.
Death + Company, New York City: We think Larry Rice might have a crush on Death + Company: “One of the best cocktail bars in the country,” the Silver Dollar owner says. The bartenders are classically trained, edgy and filled with passion. Our pick for best Bourbon cocktail is the “Guns & Rosé,” a brilliant mix of Old Grand-Dad 114 Whiskey, Lillet Rosé, Sugar Cane Syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters. – F.M
Citizen Public House, Boston: In between stuffing your face with fresh oysters and considering the joining the Citizen Public House’s “Whiskey Club,” you may need to pinch yourself. This modern neighborhood tavern is near legendary Fenway Park and showcases more than 100 whiskeys and wonderful cocktails. It’s certainly one of the best spots to order a proper Mint Julep. – F.M.
Village Whiskey, Philadelphia: In one of the most important U.S. whiskey cities, Village Whiskey pays homage to its roots—whiskey. The overall list is quite impressive and the cocktails remind one of yesterday, but this may be the best food in a Bourbon bar. Their chef is a bestselling author and American Iron Chef winning contestant Jose Garces who is one of hottest chefs in the world right now. – F.M.
Bourbon, Washington D.C.: With a name like that, how can you go wrong? With 300 whiskies (over 150 of them Bourbon) we’re pretty sure you’re going to enjoy one of their two D.C. locations. – J.T.
Big Star, Chicago, Ill: Looking more like a dive bar in West Texas, than perhaps the hottest spot in the Wicker Park neighborhood, Big Star uses a unique combination of tacos, $3 Bourbon shots and 1950’s country music to drawl in its standing room only crowds at night. It also offers only American made whiskies and at one time, offered 11 private barrel selections to the Bourbon geeks that visit. – J.T.
Sable, Chicago, Ill: Behind the watch of head-bartender Mike Ryan and his partner in crime Freddie Sarkis, Sable has established itself as one of the best spots in the country to enjoy a cocktail. You should have no problem finding an elixir that suits your palate on their 15-page cocktail menu or just enjoying one of 60 plus Bourbons the bar carries. – J.T.
Longman & Eagle, Chicago, Ill: Talk about a joint dedicated to Bourbon. According to Longman & Eagle Chef Jared Wentworth in a 2011 interview with The Bourbon Review, “I don’t think there’s a staff member here, that doesn’t drink a shit load of Bourbon, including myself.” The 50 plus Bourbons are not the only thing that brings in patrons. The food here put them on Esquire Magazine’s “Best New Restaurants” in 2010. – J.T.
Delilah’s, Chicago, Ill: They have pool. They have punk rock. They have Bourbon. Welcome to Delilah’s where owner Mike Miller is a legend not only in the Chicago bar scene, but in several Bourbon-circles and claims friends like Master Distillers Parker Beam and Jimmy Russell of Heaven Hill and Wild Turkey respectively. The 88 Bourbons on their menu, might only make up half of what is actually available behind the bar a collection that includes and Old Taylor that was distilled in 1972 along with their own private labels with vintages of 10, 13 and 15 years-old. – J.T.
Sanctuaria, St. Louis: Move over Anheuser-Busch, Sanctuaria is turning St. Louis into a Bourbon city. The spirits program is ran by Bourbon nut Matt Seiter, who regularly buys his own barrels from Kentucky distilleries. Although Sanctuaria tries to sell itself as a dive cocktail bar, Larry Rice says it’s no dive bar. “One of the first bars in the country to offer cocktails on tap and barrel aged cocktails,” says Rice who is a respected bartender in Bourbon Country. “This place is a gem in any city.” – F.M.
J.O.B. Public House, Springfield, MO: Saloon-style bar with a selection of Bourbon that is approaching 100 varieties. Their friendly and educated staff can help you choose from their vast selection, although they might be biased to suggest a serving of their most current private barrel selection. – J.T.
Century Bar, Dayton, OH: In what could be the most underrated Bourbon bar in the country, the Century Bar takes you back to 1862 with its 150-year-old back bar. The home of the former Kette & Sons Rye Whiskey Distillery, Century Bar packs 87 Bourbons and regularly holds blind tastings. It’s the sort of place every Bourbon drinker should visit at least once in his or her life. – F.M.
Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, Miami, FL: If we told you that one of the hottest restaurants in South Beach uses Bourbon as a backbone to its menu would you believe us? Any doubters can head over to the Bourbon oasis known as Yardbird to enjoy one of their Bourbon flights, or cool down with their signature drink, Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade. – J.T.
The Standard Pour, Dallas, TX: Ever had a cocktail prepared table-side? At The Standard Pour, try the Brimstone; it’s made with a Texas Bourbon using peated moss and smoked woodchips. Their cocktail list includes a Kentucky Mule (play on the Russian favorite) and a Mint Julep, in addition to Dallas-themed Bourbon cocktails like the Oswald & the Lost Harvey. – J.T.
Bourbon Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel, Atlanta, GA: It doesn’t get much better for a Bourbon aficionado to see a wall of Bourbon that reaches the high ceiling inside the lobby of the hotel they’re staying at. The Bourbon Bar offers that sight, along with personal select barrels of Four Roses Bourbon. – J.T.
The Crunkleton, Chapel Hill, NC: With over 80 Bourbons behind the bar to along with an impressive cocktail menu of both classics and proprietary recipes, this is the perfect bar to go cheer against Duke when they take the court (although any bar is a perfect place for that). – J.T.
Husk, Charelston, SC: You’re probably aware of the food their in-house celebrity chef overlooks (if you’re not, welcome out of the coma) but what you might not know is that the once almost-collapsing-on-itself structure that sits adjacent to Husk Restaurant has been renovated and is filled with Bourbon and is overlooked by weathered cocktail masters. If you’re searching for Pappy, this is the place to get it as Husk is one of the few places in the world to have had the honor to select their own barrel of the fabled juice. – J.T.
Holland House Bar and Refuge, Nashville, TN: Located in one of those “transitional neighborhoods” Holland House really is a Bourbon refuge. Choose a Bourbon from the whiskey pyramid located at the center of their square bar, and be prepared to discuss the family trees of the Kentucky Bourbon barons with bar manager Jeremiah Jason Blake. – J.T.
Whiskey Kitchen, Nashville, TN: Plenty of Bourbons to pair with great Southern fare, such as the Fried Green Tomato BLT and the Southerner, a giant biscuit topped with gravy, a fried egg and cheddar cheese with fried chicken as a side option. – J.T.
The Patterson House, Nashville, TN: Only 30 thirsty patrons can belly up to the bar, but if you can find the speak-easy inspired Patterson House (they don’t hang a proper sign/shingle to let you know you’re at the right place) and looking for some of the best cocktails you’ve ever tasted, this place is worth seeking out. – J.T.
Capitol Grille at the Hermitage Hotel, Nashville, TN: Farm-to-table dinning (and when they say “farm” they’re referring to the Glen Leven farm located four miles away, where part of it is managed by their chef) prepared by an award-winning chef, that can be paired with an in-house cocktail or CG’s own barrel of Jefferson’ Presidential Select 18-Year Bourbon. – J.T.
Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, New Orleans, LA: With almost 100 Bourbons to offer, this certainly is a house of Bourbon. Coupled with the service and culinary standards you expect from the Brennan name, this place is a must stop the next time you’re wondering through the French Quarter. – J.T.
Hard Water, San Francisco: Celebrity Chef Charles Phan knows his way around Bourbon Country. He’s visited Willet, Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace Distilleries to select personal-barrels. Phan says, “The hardest part is not to drink it all.” The James Beard winning chef recently opened Hard Water in San Francisco, which boasts more than 200 Bourbons, one Tennessee whiskey and zero gins or vodkas. The list includes seven private barrel selections and a secret 12-year-old Old Rip Van Winkle private barrel selection. Well, it’s not secret anymore. – F.M.
Pour House Sacramento, CA: Sitting right next to the railroad tracks, Pour House is a throwback to the Prohibition era. With period-appropriate clothing (including newsboy caps), the bartenders will make you a great drink using one of their 175 whiskeys. Or, enjoy happy hour in one of the booths; each table providing its own beer and whiskey taps.
Shady Lady Sacramento, CA: With its relaxed, throwback atmosphere, live jazz, and great food, Shady Lady is a perfect place to end your evening. Bringing back pre-prohibition cocktails, the bartenders craft drinks long forgotten as well as new twists on the classics.
Pope House Portland, OR: Consider yourself Bourbon aficionado? Visit Pope House in Portland to prove it. By entering their “Bourbon Derby,” you can try 50 of their different Bourbons. Upon completing the derby, you get a lucky horse shoe with your name on their “Bourbon Derby Wall of Fame,” and more importantly, 10% off your Bourbon for life.
Produce Row Portland, OR: Produce Row offers good food, great beer, and a wide range of events and entertainment. One of their specialties, however, is their beer and whiskey pairings. Enjoy combinations such as their “Dead Roses” – a pairing of local craft beer Boneyard Diablo Rojo and Four Roses.
Rob Roy Seattle, WA: Visit Rob Roy for the award-winning cocktails and décor, stay for their famous Old Fashioned. After selecting from a long list of Bourbons, you’ll watch as the bartender saws off a cube from a large piece of ice, whittles it down to fit your glass, then mixes the cocktail and pours over your custom ice.
Zig Zag Café Seattle, WA: Tucked away and very difficult to locate, it’s worth the extra effort to find yourself at Zig Zag Café. You may or may not find yourself extra impressed with their atmosphere, but they have received countless accolades for their drinks. Legendary bartender Murray Stenson will make you an authentic, amazing cocktail no matter your craving.
Liberty Bar Seattle, WA: Liberty Bar combines whiskey bar and sushi restaurant. They boast an impressive 85 Bourbons and Ryes (along with hundreds of other whiskies), but what makes them stand apart is their “scratch cocktails.” Order any cocktail and it will be made with fresh juice at the time of the order – no canned or pre-made juices.
Seven Grand Los Angeles, CA: Seven Grand offers over 50 Bourbons and Ryes, including some very hard-to-find selections. By joining their Whiskey Society, you can join Master Distillers and other whiskey experts in monthly tastings of rare whiskies from around the world.
The Edison Los Angeles, CA: Visiting The Edison is like stepping into a portal to the 1920’s. Built inside an old power plant (with the old generators still on display to prove it), it retains the old-time industrial feel while offering modern twists on great cocktails. Try to plan a visit on Wednesday evening for the burlesque circus.
Acme Bar & Company Berkeley, CA: With over 160 whiskies (including Evan Williams on tap!), Acme Bar & Company boasts extremely rare selections you won’t find on any store shelf. If you’re feeling adventurous, sit down and try one of their featured Bourbon flights to expand your whiskey taste buds.
Rickhouse San Francisco, CA: Walking into Rickhouse is like walking into a Bourbon barrel. The oaky décor and textures compliment their drink selection. While being known for their infamous “punch bowl,” they offer an absurd amount of Bourbons and whiskies, and their bartenders are well-known in the Bay area for their craft cocktails.