Bourbon Country: Local Spots to Sip Kentucky’s Finest Spirit

Pull up a stool at these Greater Cincinnati joints pouring up the good stuff.

Welcome to Bourbon Country. As the popularity of Kentucky’s famous spirit grows in our region and across the country, step inside some of the local bars and restaurants serving the finest whiskey (and more) for you to enjoy.

Photograph by Catie Viox

Revival Vintage Bottle Shop

It may look like an extremely small liquor shop with a wee bar in the corner, but Revival Vintage Bottle Shop is really a time machine. The inventory is vintage—these are the dusty bottles from the back of grandpa’s liquor cabinet, like a 1955 bottle of J.W. Dant or a 1971 flask of Evan Williams. Brad Bonds finds and sells these bottles; he also lets you try some. There’s a rotating selection of tasters, ranging from $5 a half ounce up to $25. It’s not all bourbon, either—we saw vintage rum and even banana liqueur when we visited.

5 E. Eighth St., Covington, (859) 479-2676

The Monkey Bar

Back in the 1970s, Train Stop Inn owner Ken Harris kept a chimpanzee named Sam that drank beer and smoked cigarettes, and the place got nicknamed “The Monkey Bar.” Sam’s long gone now, but the name remains. In the summer months, the huge patio along the Little Miami River and the Loveland Bike Trail–adjacent location make this a popular hangout for locals and trail riders. When the weather turns chilly, it’s time to head downstairs to the bourbon room. The large bar features leather-backed stools, two stone fireplaces, and a wide selection of Kentucky’s finest.

7837 Old 3C Hwy., Maineville, (513) 781-4246

The Purple Poulet

In 1947, The Green Derby opened at the corner of Ninth and York in Newport, serving generations of diners before it closed in 2018. In February, a new color took over when The Purple Poulet moved from Dayton to this fully revamped space. A small, six-stool bar topped with purple-flecked granite sits on one side of the main dining room, the gateway to a swell collection of bourbon, including some vintage bottles. Easygoing prices make this a worthwhile visit. And if you’re hungry, the popular fried chicken or one of the other Southern specialties will fix you right up.

846 York St., Newport, (859) 916-5602

Photograph by Catie Viox

Smoke Justis

Walk all the way through the large, high-ceilinged dining room and you’ll come to the Smoke Justis Bourbon Lounge, where a large bar surrounds towering shelves stocked with bottles—bartenders use library ladders to access the upper reaches of the collection. This is a swanky space (you’re inside the historic Citizens Telephone Company headquarters) with real presence, but it’s far from pretentious. Newbies and aficionados alike can enjoy the spirits at weekly Wednesday bourbon socials. Pro tip: Ask for a pour based on what you like and your price point, and you might just discover a new favorite.

302 Court St., Covington, (859) 814-8858

The B-Line

Five distilleries. Eight bars. Six restaurants. All of them in the Northern Kentucky region, all of them making or serving Kentucky’s finest. Bars must keep at least 100 labels in stock at all times (including all available labels from the five member distilleries) and each establishment must complete Moonshine University’s Stave & Thief Society certification. We’ve shared a few of the Line’s spots with you, but there’s much more to explore at The Beehive in Augusta; Three Spirits in Bellevue; Libby’s Southern Comfort, Rich’s Proper Food and Drink, Coppin’s, Wiseguy Lounge, The Globe, Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, and Bouquet in Covington; and Tousey House in Burlington.

The Littlefield

There are hundreds of bourbons to try at this eclectic Northside hangout, and the cocktail menu is killer, too. The Cherry Street Manhattan is a sweet concoction of Redemption Rye, vermouth, and Angostura bitters, barrel aged for 37 days and served over a massive ice ball and a cherry garnish dripping with sugar syrup. And we can’t recommend the Chase enough; Evan Williams mixes with housemade ginger beer (a much stronger kick than Fever-Tree, to be sure), striking the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and refreshing. Try the rotating cocktail for a cause—it was the Pepo Rita with jalapeño-infused tequila when we visited in June, which benefited the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition—and imbibe on the spacious patio or inside among the art.

3934 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, (513) 386-7570

Prohibition Bourbon Bar

By day, Newberry Bros. Coffee roasts the beans that keep Newport jittering. But on Friday and Saturday evenings, the coffee joint is reborn as a Prohibition-era speakeasy with a surprisingly massive bourbon selection. The intimate space is literally packed with thousands of bottles of spirits from around the world. It can be hard to get in without a reservation, a hallmark of any truly authentic speakeasy—so be sure to call ahead. But unlike those old juice joints with their paltry selections of hooch, PBB can pour you a finger (or two, or three) of Pappy, Blanton’s, Weller, and all the good stuff. Fuhgeddaboudit.

530 Washington Ave., Newport, (859) 261-9463, reservations (513) 300-1347

Dean’s Hops & Vines

This no-frills neighborhood dive in Cheviot is a popular hangout for game days and mid-week kickbacks. Known for its killer beer menu—would you expect anything less from a bar with a giant “We Want Beer” photo on the back wall?—Dean’s also has quite the collection of whiskey (the official roster is more than 150). Pull up a barstool to order a shot of Boone County, Jack Daniels 150, Old Elk Rye, Angel’s Envy, or your favorite bourbon to go with your High Life. Enjoy that glass of Kentucky gold at a high top or out on the patio looking over Harrison Avenue.

3722 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, (513) 515-3215

Billy Yanks

The name honors the iconic bronze statue of a Union soldier keeping watch over the Hamilton skyline atop the Soldiers, Sailors, & Pioneers Monument, but you won’t drink like a Union soldier at Billy Yanks. The bourbon bar and restaurant inside the historic Hammerle building boasts dozens of whiskies, beers, and spirits to try. If the march to Hamilton worked up your appetite, Billy Yanks also serves a fiery Victory at Nashville chicken sandwich and a Big Kahuna burger that puts the patty from Pulp Fiction to shame. Both pair well with Grippo’s-crusted mac and cheese.

205 Main St., Hamilton, (513) 844-0130

Oscar Station

As you would expect from a bourbon bar located in the OG Jungle Jim’s International Market complex in Fairfield, it’s hard to beat the selection at Oscar Station, just beyond the aisles of global eats. If you can’t decide from the list of nearly 160 bourbons from Ezra Brooks to Pappy 15 Year, try a handcrafted creation from the ever-rotating cocktail menu. If you’re looking to relax the old-fashioned way, you can kick back in the smoke-friendly cigar room with your glass. Bring some friends and make it a party—the Oscar Station and Oscar Event Center can be booked for your next bourbon-filled get-together.

Thursdays 4–10 pm, 8771 N. Gilmore Rd., Fairfield, (513) 674-6055

Photograph by Catie Viox

Editor’s Note: Bourbon Haus 1841 closed permanently on January 1, 2023, according to its Facebook page.

Bourbon Haus 1841

This charming MainStrasse house holds two bars; you want the door on the right. Behind it lies bourbon wonderland. The seven-seat bar and leather sofa in front of the fireplace are both ideal spots for a convivial evening. Take a table in the courtyard out front and enjoy flights named after classic rock tunes, like Stairway to Heaven (Eagle Rare, 1792, Four Roses Single Barrel) or Sweet Emotion (W.L. Weller Special Reserve, Maker’s Mark, Larceny). Handcrafted cocktails include the 1841, a not-too-sweet combo of Woodford Reserve, Cointreau, apple cider, strawberry simple syrup, and lemon juice. Meet you on the porch.

522 Main St., Covington

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