Posted on Thu, March 29, 2012 at 4:03PM
From the Travel Editor: Horse races have long been a refined, elegant way to spend a day out. Think Gatsby: ladies in high fashion, men in tuxes and top hats, and cocktails and gossip as important as the races themselves. America’s biggest horse race, the Kentucky Derby, has maintained this refined tradition and we’ve got prime tickets and gala invitations for you to this May’s festivities in the unassumingly cool city of Louisville. If you ask us, the only way to explore this Southern-meets-Appalachian-meets-Midwestern city between races is through its famous bourbon bars. Whether you opt for the drink of the Derby, the mint julep, or prefer your spirit on the rocks, here are our top five bars in Louisville for sampling the local product. Proof on Main: Hidden in the highly-acclaimed 21C Museum Hotel, this restaurant and bar has been called a “Whiskey Temple” by GQ magazine, and we’re inclined to agree. In addition to seasonal cocktails and an extensive bourbon menu, the bar even offers bourbon and rye tasting flights, so you can really get in the Louisville spirit. 702 West Main Street, at S 7th St. Old Seelbach Bar: Set in the historic Seelbach Hotel―now the Seelbach Hilton―this stately mahogany-and-leather bar is rumored to have been a favorite haunt of the young F. Scott Fitzgerald during his time in Louisville. You can still sample a wide range of bourbons, or have them mix up the classic cocktails they helped make famous. 500 S 4th St., at W Muhammad Ali Dr. Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar: The name says it all at this historic bar offering over 150 different bourbons, the largest selection in the country. John Wayne drank here in the 1970s, so you know this low-key spot has street cred. 140 N 4th St., between W River & W Main Jack Fry’s: Today it’s considered one of the best restaurants in Louisville, but this classic Kentucky spot was once a hangout for bookies and bootleggers. Saddle up to the bar for a sip of bourbon, or pull up a chair for the the shrimp and grits. 1007 Bardstown Road, at Highland Ave Doc Crow’s: This smokehouse and oyster bar is housed in a former whiskey distillery, and serves up pulled pork and oysters on the half shell with bourbon mignonette. Consult with the seriously knowledgeable owner about which of their house-made bourbons to order. 127 West Main Street, at S 2nd St. Ready to sample bourbon and get lucky at the races? We’re offering seats at the finish line, lodging, and an invitation to the hottest party of the weekend―but hurry, as the sale ends Tuesday.