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    Eat & Swig

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    A few years ago, mixology and mixologists started getting lots of attention. Maybe we’re just far away enough from the nightmare of prohibition (and the subsequent popularity of horrible alcohol with strong mixers) for this renaissance of creativity and craft in cocktails to stick. It feels like you can’t open a restaurant or bar in Louisville without a stellar cocktail program, usually one built on bourbon, and if that sounds like a complaint, it’s because we’re just plain spoiled.

    These Louisville bars and restaurants are killing the cocktail game; but they are not the only places in town making a mean martini. If you’d like to vote for your favorite cocktail bar as The Best of Louisville, click here.

    Meta

    Where: 425 W. Chestnut St.

    Why: When you talk about cocktails in Louisville you have to talk about Meta. The floor is made of pennies, the drinks are on point, the bartenders are super-knowledgeable. META also once sold (delicious) Jell-O shots with Pappy Van Winkle. Ballsy.

    What: The Show ‘n Tell, with gin, chartreuse, lime, pie syrup (yes!) and Peychaud’s. The whole menu at Meta is beautifully crafted, but this one is sweet, complicated and pays homage to the location’s previous incarnation as a strip joint.

    8UP

    Where: 350 W. Chestnut St.

    Why: Guaranteed, summer 2015 will be the summer to see and be seen on 8UP’s patio. The inside is also truly swanky, so it’s worth a visit even in the rain.

    What: The Cherokee Triangle, with Copper & Kings brandy, Bulleit bourbon, aperol, and house-made pomegranate bitters, because it’s a wonderfully kicky way to sample Louisville’s own Copper & Kings.

    Joy Luck

    Where: 1285 Bardstown Rd.

    Why: Frankly, it takes a strong drink to stand its own against the “far-east faire” Tawainese flavors at Joy Luck, and these cocktails fit the bill.

    What: Chinese Currant-cy with Bombay Sapphire East gin, Bigallet China-China, black currant, lime, and orgeat: because it’s spicy, and the name is so darn clever.

    21C

    Where: 702 W. Main St.

    Why: If you’ve read about Louisville AT ALL you know 21C/Proof on Main is hyper- beloved. Also, the most interesting travelers stay at 21C.

    What: Honestly? The gin and tonic. 21C makes their own tonic water, and the difference in palpable and palatable.

    The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hilton

    Where: 500 4th St.

    Why: The history, for one thing (Al Capone + F. Scott Fitzgerald have major ties to the Seelbach) and the old-world charm for another.

    What: The Seelbach cocktail, which according to this recipe is Old Forester bourbon, Cointreau liqueur, Peychaud’s, Angostura, champagne and an orange peel. You know a place is legit when a widely-made cocktail bears its name.

    Decca

    Where: 812 E. Market St.

    Why: Drinking in Decca’s cellar makes you feel like you’re in the know about a special, magical sipping spot. Go on Monday nights when they (usually) have jazz.

    What: A Rosita, with Anjeo tequila, bitter Italian liqueur, curacau and sweet vermouth, though their large selection of “sober” cocktails is very tempting.

    The Silver Dollar

    Where: 1761 Frankfort Ave.

    Why: Because this place knows bourbon and bourbon cocktails. Because it’s covered in Christmas lights. Because it used to be a firehouse (it’s rumored to be haunted by a firefighter’s ghost). And because it’s just plain, good, old-fashioned, honky-tonk fun.

    What: The Gold Rush: Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, honey syrup, and lemon. The name doesn’t lie: this cocktail is GOLD.

    Loop 22

    Where: 2222 Dundee Rd.

    Why: Visit on Whiskey Wednesdays, when you get $1 well drinks all night long: that deal doesn’t include special cocktails, but they’re worth the extra dollars. Loop 22 also has one of the most underrated brunches in a city obsessed with brunch.

    What: The Kramer, from Loop 22’s brunch menu: Sailor Jerry spiced rum, kahlua, triple sec, cream and cold-brew coffee will put a spring in your step for the rest of the day.

    Garage Bar

    Where: 700 E. Market St.

    Why: Because of the patio, naturally, and the light-up ping-pong tables, and the fact that you can bring your dog, and the artfully smashing two-car installation in front of the re-purposed auto garage.

    What: Honey Lavender Lemonade with house-made honey lavender syrup, fresh lemon juice, club soda and vodka, it’s basically summer in a glass.

    El Camino

    Where: 1314 Bardstown Rd.

    Why: El Camino bring California surfer-coolness to the Highlands.

    What: The Mexican Firing Squad, El Camino’s margarita with pure Agave Blanco tequila, fresh-squeezed lime, in-house-made pomegranate grenadine, simple syrup and Angostura. Why order any old marg when you can get this one?

    Roux’s Voodoo Lounge

    Where: 1325 Bardstown Rd.

    Why: Never was there are more natural combination than the eager charm of Louisville and the lazy magic of New Orleans. Roux’s voodoo-themed bar is intimate. Call an Uber, because you’re leaving this place with a swagger.

    What: The Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, with Old Forester, Plantation rum, grenadine, guava and pineapple juices is HUGE and suitable tropical.

    Down One Bourbon Bar

    Where: 321 W. Main St.

    Why: There’s no place in town that does a better job of being bourbon-centric: the food, the cocktails, the name...

    What: Rosemary’s Baby Julep, (if you absolutely must order a julep) with Maker’s, orange curacao, and rosemary and orange bitters.

    St. Charles Exchange

    Where: 113 S. 7th St.

    Why: St. Charles not only looks impressive, it also has an decadent array of carefully curated cocktails.

    What: W.W.H.D. (#whatwouldhuitacado?) punch bowl with Novo Fogo Amber, lemon, cointreau, and Rainforest Mate tea –don’t try to drink the whole punch bowl yourself.

    Bonus: The Exchange

    Where: 118 W. Main St. New Albany, IN

    Why: It’s a bonus because it’s not in Louisville, but (as we are wont to say about many businesses in Southern Indiana) it’s worth the short drive over the bridge. Plus, when most Louisville bars will be slammed with Derby and pre-Derby traffic, you might be able to catch a quieter moment at The Exchange.

    What: Salt of the Earth sangria, or anything with their house-made ginger ale.

    Happy drinking!

    All images credited in the heading, with the exception of Joy Luck's photo, which is courtesy of Arielle Reyna Christian via Louisville.com's Instagram, and the cover photo, which is courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

    Elizabeth Myers's picture

    About Elizabeth Myers

    Big fan of bacon and bourbon, deep fried anything, sweet tea and sweet nothings.

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