LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Congress anointed bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit” in 1964, a designation taken seriously in Louisville, where one-third of Kentucky’s bourbon is produced. The Urban Bourbon Trail (www.bourboncountry.com/urban-bourbon) lists 19 establishments where bourbon takes pride of place in the glass and sometimes on the plate. Friends and I visited four; two more and I can claim an Urban Bourbon Trailblazer T-shirt.
BAXTER STATION BAR AND GRILL With more than 70 bourbons on the back bar, neighborhood hangout Baxter Station is a friendly spot to try a flight. “Take a sip first,” server Lacie Monno advised. “If the bourbon has a harsh back, add an ice cube to open it up.” Best accompaniment is John Barleycorn’s Cheese Spread of smoked cheddar, cream cheese, bourbon, red pepper, mustard, and celery seeds served with pretzel bread. The same spread tops a burger with hickory-smoked bacon. Bourbon from $5.50, food $6.95-$11.95. 1201 Payne St., 502-584-1635, www.baxterstation.com
BROWN HOTEL LOBBY BAR Built in 1923, the Brown Hotel quickly became a center of Louisville social life. Its signature Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce, debuted in the 1920s to satisfy hungry guests after nights of dancing and drinking. It’s still a fine accompaniment for the Lobby Bar’s cocktail of bourbon and local Ale 8 Ginger Ale, or for a mint julep served in a silvery cup. Food $8-$18, cocktails $10-$14. 335 West Broadway, 502-583-1234, www.brownhotel.com
BUCK’S RESTAURANT AND BAR Bourbon appears in a number of menu items at Buck’s, the elegant dining room in the 1926 Mayflower apartment building. Lunch sandwiches might include grilled chicken with bourbon blueberry barbecue sauce, while dinner might feature maple bourbon glazed pork chops or chicken stuffed with country ham, crusted in pecans, and topped with sage bourbon sauce. Buck’s signature cocktail is the Scarlett O’Hara of bourbon, Cointreau, lime, and cranberry juice. Cocktails $9-$12. sandwiches $10-$13, entrees $16-$39. 425 West Ormsby, 502-637-5284, www.buckslou.com
OLD SEELBACH BAR
This 1905 Beaux Arts hotel claims to have helped inspire F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.” The bar’s Seelbach Cocktail certainly evokes grand old days in Louisville. The blend of bourbon, Cointreau, and Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters is topped with champagne. “We use the original recipe from 1917,” said beverage supervisor Michael Anderson. “It had disappeared after Prohibition, but we rediscovered it in 1995.” The brass-tinted drink makes a perfect nightcap. Cocktails $6-$12. 500 South Fourth St., 502-585-3200, www.seelbachhilton.com