Looking for a new favorite watering hole in Louisville? Michter’s Bar at Fort Nelson is the spot for you.
Although watering hole may be too simplistic a way to describe this sophisticated lounge on the second floor of the downtown Fort Nelson Distillery.
A better way to describe it is a chic cocktail bar that uses bespoke glassware imported from the U.K. (and no, I don’t mean the school) and ice machines from around the world (find out if German ice tastes different from Japanese ice.)
It has a classic cocktail menu designed by David Wondrich, one of the world’s leading cocktail and spirits historians, and it pays tribute to a distilling tradition dating back to 1753.
“We always envisioned the Bar at Fort Nelson as a home-away-from-home for bar professionals whether they are coming from around Louisville or around the world,” says Matt Magliocco, executive vice president of Michter’s Distillery.
“At the same time, we wanted to create a place where anyone could come in and enjoy a great drink and appreciate bourbon culture, cocktail culture and community,” he continues.
That creation didn’t happen overnight. It took a total of eight years from the time they began sketching plans in 2011 to the grand opening in 2019.
It may have been a long time coming, but the Bar at Fort Nelson proved an immediate hit. As a member of both Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, it has become one of the coolest additions to the city’s bar scene.
So much so that its 36 seats are frequently booked, and disappointed drinkers have to be turned away.
“We hate doing that,” says Magliocco, “and we are constantly trying to grow our team and expand our hours of operation.
“We hope to announce extended hours later this year.”
What are the lucky customers who book a table drinking? They can always get signature drinks such as the Barrel Strength Rye Manhattan, and although it’s not on the menu, an Old Fashioned, if they ask the mixologist nicely.
The bar actually has two drink menus — the Classics and the Modern Twist. Drinks on the Classics menu were all designed by Wondrich, and focus on those cocktails that have stood the test of time, or in other words, the ones our parents loved as much as we do.
However, if you want to be a bit more adventurous, Michter’s creative bar staff has played yang to Wondrich’s yin by putting together the Modern Twist menu.
“By far, the most beloved drink on the Classics Menu is the Fort Nelson Crusta, which is made with Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon, yellow chartreuse, lemon, demerara honey and Creole bitters,” says Magliocco.
“On the Modern Twist side, the Banana Stand (Michter’s US*1 Bourbon, pineapple, banana, spiced gardenia and cacao) has been a standout hit,” he says.
I haven’t tried the Banana Stand, but it must be something if it outperforms drinks such as Long Walks in the Rain (Michter’s US*1 American Whiskey, Marti Dorado Rum, coconut rum, chai, pineapple. lime, coriander, allspice, absinthe and milk.)
Or the AM to PM, whose presentation resembles a liquid Oreo cookie, and whose ingredients include Michter’s US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Torino vermouth, Fante’s Michter’s Bourbon Infused Roasted Coffee, Faretti Chocolate Biscotti, black walnut and mezcal cream.
After a couple of these signature cocktails, you could be forgiven if you look out the window and think you’re seeing a 120-foot tall baseball bat. Don’t worry – it’s not the drinks. The bar is directly across the street from the Louisville Slugger Museum.
The Bar at Fort Nelson
Where: 801 W. Main St., Louisville
Hours: Wednesday & Thursday, noon to 8 p.m.; Friday, noon to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
This story was originally published August 24, 2022 6:00 AM.