Located on 331 East Market Street, at the place where downtown and Nulu meet, there is a little building that used to be Derby City Espresso and is now Haymarket Whiskey Bar, signaled by an impressive neon sign that proclaims "Whiskey by the Drink". Proprietor and bartender Mathew Landan was quite clear on the fact that Haymarket Whiskey Bar does not serve cocktails. As an avid lover of girly drinks, I knew I had to bring in reinforcements to sample the plain bourbon, whiskey and beer that I so rarely touch. My dear friend Teacup volunteered herself for this honor and together we visited Haymarket Whiskey Bar on a Thursday evening.
Teacup and I sampled a Dark Chocolate Stout beer, an Evan Williams Bourbon, and a Whistle Pig Straight Rye.We appreciated the wide selection of craft beers, whiskeys and the promise of other unusual drinks like grappa and absinthe served the proper old fashioned way, in a fountain with ice water dripping into the liquor. The selection of alcohol was impressive and the pricing was incredibly reasonable. The alcohol may have been relatively simple, but the space was...not. The dark red walls are littered with paraphernalia, everything from a Boba Fett figurine, to local fliers for events long past, to peacock feathers piled in a vase atop a cluttered shelf. There is minimal seating, an old pinball machine and a broken espresso maker behind the bar. Landan knocked out a wall and replaced the copper bar with a green glass bar to make over his coffee shop. On the night we visited, three bands were lined up to play and the bar had a reasonable crowd sipping whiskey and shooting the breeze. Haymarket has potential as a venue, and the combination of live music and whiskey may prove to be a winning one, especially for the Hipster crowd.
Haymarket Whiskey is ambitious, no doubt. But there is a certain adolescence about the place, from the Star Wars paraphernalia to the uncertainty of a drink list shown to us on a single ipad rather than a menu. Matthew Landan was the sole bartender, and his quirky sense of personal flair was evident in his services in that role--rather slow services, actually. The grand opening of Haymarket Whiskey Bar is February 4th, and The Whiskey Bent Valley Boys and The Shovel Bums are performing. Haymarket is not quite sure whether it is a coffee shop, a bar, or a venue. The eccentricity and vision of the owner is rather magnificently manifested, but a clearer vision is needed to ensure the success of the business.
Photos: Max Sharp