Five spots to grab a drink in Derby City

Originally written for America’s Best Racing:

Derby week is almost here. If you’re making your maiden debut in Louisville, you should go ahead and get some post-race watering holes lined up to soak in the celebratory spirits of the Derby City. Through my experience, there are really four major drinking areas that Derby goers should be aware of:

  1. Downtown
  2. NuLu
  3. The Highlands
  4. St. Matthew’s

With those areas considered, I’ll give you one spot to start in each:

8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen (Downtown)

8UpPhoto courtesy of 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen

I have yet to try 8UP because it’s fairly new, but I’ve heard only good things and, I mean look at that outdoor rooftop view. The indoor space apparently is pretty sweet too because its all glass. Even the kitchen is open, perfect for your upscale, “Progressive American” drinking and dining experience. They also boast a pretty impressive bourbon selection, carrying over 80 different products, from brands like Pappy Van Winkle, Elijah Craig, Blanton’s and Basil Hayden’s.

Also try in Downtown: Down One Bourbon Bar

Garage Bar (NuLu)

Garage BarPhoto courtesy of Garage Bar

The best way to describe NuLu would be as an older, historical area of the city that lost its flare somewhere along the way, as newer retail and industrial communities began sprouting up in more suburban areas of town. Then recently, city officials and community activists decided to revive and reinvent this historic district into a hipster-friendly, locally proud, sustainable culture filled with trendy retail stores, eccentric restaurants and places that sell craft beer.

Garage Bar is a perfect example of this, as it used to be an auto service garage on the outskirts of downtown. Garage Bar features a solid selection of about 30 bourbons, some interesting season cocktails (like the High Heat), affordable wines and of course, plenty of craft beers. They also have a pretty cool patio as you’ll see in the picture, complete with ping pong tables and oddly shaped block-built seating, covered in astroturf.

Also try in NuLu: Louisville Beer Store

El Camino (Highlands)

El CaminoPhoto courtesy of El Camino

Two years ago El Camino was included on Thrillist’s 33 Best New Bars in America, where they described it as “a monument to SoCal right in Kentucky.” Known for its “artisanal tiki drinks,” El Camino is a perfect spot when the weather is nice and you’re trying as hard as you can to pretend like you’re at the beach. Don’t believe me? Type in the hashtag: “#elfreakincamino” on instagram and see for yourself. They have an incredible patio and an atmosphere that inspires fun, no matter what kind of crowd you’re with. I won’t even try to describe their crazy cocktail selection, but you can check it out for yourself:

El Camino 2Photo courtesy of El Camino

Also try near the Highlands: The Monkey Wrench

Gerstle’s Place (St. Matthew’s)

GerstlesPhoto courtesy of Gerstle’s Place

Gerstle’s Place, or “Club G” as referred to by locals, is more of a late-night destination in St. Matthew’s. Known for it’s live music and cheap beer ($2 PBR’s all day everyday), they have a different musical act lined up every night from now until Derby, including local favorite 64 West taking the stage Derby eve. While not necessarily known for its elaborate drink selection, the open patio area and good tunes make for a meeting spot for you and your friends toward the end of your evening.

Also try in St. Matthew’s: The Tin Roof

Captain’s Quarters Riverside Grille

Captain's QuartersPhoto courtesy of Captain’s Quarters Riverside Grille

Although not located in one of the four aforementioned “drinking areas,” Captain’s Quarters is the perfect spot to grab a margarita and watch the sun set over the Ohio River. The view is definitely the coolest part, but they have a great wooded patio and tiki bar area too, where you’ll find live music Wednesday-Sunday. If you don’t feel like driving, you can also travel by boat, as they make dock space available for patrons. In addition to their refreshing beer and cocktail selection, they also serve pizza and excellent seafood entrees, like their Rajun Cajun Shrimp Pasta.

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