Florida’s cheap flights make Louisville the next best girls’ trip
My best friends and I take an annual trip together to fun cities across the country. In years past we’ve visited New Orleans, Napa and Portland all because those cities are known for a great food scene and cocktail culture. We’re all whiskey lovers so naturally we agreed to trek to the Derby City to try out Kentucky’s most famous spirit.
The city of Louisville was founded by George Rogers Clark in 1778. And with the advent of the steamboat in the 1800s, it grew to be the largest city in Kentucky. Bourbon later became one of its chief exports and later one of the most popular spirits in the United States, even Florida has a few of its own distilleries.
Today, Louisville is a small but lively town with incredible restaurants, entertainment and classy lodging options. Another perk? Not a single cocktail I had while in town was more than $12 dollars, making drinking in this a city that is both fun and incredibly affordable.
Louisville is a 14-16-hour drive from most cities in Florida and while it is a long road trip it isn't impossible. Luckily, Allegiant airlines can get you there in just a few hours for under $100 round-trip.
What to do
My girlfriends and I decided to spend a fair amount of our time touring different distilleries in town. While many big names such as Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam have large distilleries on the outskirts of Louisville, they can take more than an hour to reach -- and hauling a group around isn’t cheap. And companies such as the Mint Julep Experiences offer shuttling services, but we chose to save the money and spend it on drinking more whiskey. In the end, we hit up distilleries offering tours in town.
Our first stop was Angel’s Envy, which is located in the NuLu, or “New Louisville,” part of town. The distillery is large and industrial with a ton of natural light. The tour set each of us back $20 and was about an hour long. We were walked through an insane amount of equipment and given a fairly in-depth explanation of the history of the distillery, which is a relative newcomer to the scene, as well as the distillation process. At the end of the tour, we sat around a stately wooden table and had what we’d really come for in the first place -- a taste of the good stuff.
We also made our way over to the Old Forester, which is located in the heart of downtown. The tour was very similar to the one we had at Angel’s Envy, but of course each individual whiskey house’s story is different and equally interesting.
However (and I’m letting you in on a secret here), while we did enjoy our various tours, we found ourselves returning to a little unassuming storefront called Taste Fine Wines and Whiskey. When we first passed it on our way to Angel’s Envy, we dismissed it as a local liquor store. Thank God for curiosity, because when we went to check it out, we discovered the little tasting room that could.
Taste has one of the most extensive whiskey collections in the city. The staff was incredibly knowledgeable, generous with pours and kind to a group of rambunctious women. We were even able to taste bottles of whiskey that sadly weren’t available for purchase. In fact, given a second chance at exploring bourbons in Louisville, I would spend the majority of my time here, tasting everything I didn’t get around to last time.
Fun Fact: The owners of the store rent out the apartment above the tasting room meaning you never have to be more than a jaunt downstairs from a stiff drink.
Where to eat and let loose
Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from Louisville in the way of food. I naively thought that no city could be exceptional at making bourbon and have an amazing culinary scene. Thankfully, I was wrong. After asking a few locals for dining tips, we kept hearing the same recommendations:
This saintly man--read a really nice bartender--told us about Con Huevos when we were looking for a place to have some breakfast.
The menu features delicacies like huevos rancheros that arrive soaking in a bed of an almost smoky red salsa topped with slices of ripe, creamy avocado, tres leches pancakes that are sinfully fluffy and swimming in sweet milks and the chilaquiles con pollo, which is served with too-perfect sunny side up eggs.
Now Kentucky isn’t where I thought I would find some amazing Mayan cuisine, but the staff at Mayan Cafe hit dinner out of the park. We feasted on guacamole, ceviche, lima beans (free when you check in on Yelp!), empanadas and various main dishes. Everything was incredible, right down to the cocktails.
If you go to this restaurant for nothing else, you absolutely must go for the gnocchi.
Have you ever bitten into a cloud? Of course not because that’s impossible, but if you could, that’s what eating gnocchi here is like. It arrives in a nice bowl topped with earthy oyster mushrooms, sharp parmigiano-reggiano and an assortment of fresh herbs. If happiness in the form of potato-based pasta isn’t your thing, you might consider ordering the bouillabaisse stew, which is overflowing with shrimp, mussels, sea bass and fennel in a tomato saffron broth.
On our last night in town, we had a very elegant meal at Rye. This well-appointed restaurant prides itself on a no-fuss New American menu that really delivers.
The roasted bone marrow with red miso, shallot, cilantro and rice wine vinegar appetizer absolutely stole the show until our 48 ounce bone-in rib eye hit the table. We left nothing but the bone. The wine list, rather than the cocktails, really stood out here. This was the perfect place for an intimate girls dinner or better yet, a romantic one.
Proof on Main
Lastly, we headed to Proof on Main for some music and a few nightcaps. The whiskey bar here is extensive. They mostly specialize in flights, though the bartenders can make any cocktail you’d like.
What to do
Head to 21c Louisville Museum to view extensive contemporary artwork by famed artists such as Kehinde Wiley, who famously was commissioned to paint former President Barack Obama’s portrait, as well as other, ever-rotating exhibits. The museum is housed inside of 21c Hotel, which is also where Proof on Main is located. Talk about a one-stop shop.
While whiskey was the main reason we went to Louisville, we completely forgot that the city’s other major claim to fame is native son Muhammad Ali. In between whiskey tastings, you might head over to the Muhammad Ali Center and take a look into one of America’s greatest sports legends and humanitarians.
Where to rest your head
We rested our tipsy heads on the absolute fluffiest pillows at the Hyatt Regency. This impressive hotel boasts more than 14 floors of rooms and still was incredibly quiet at night. The location of this hotel put us in walking distance of Old Forrester and other distilleries that have tasting rooms downtown. However, on our next visit we’ve decided to try out the AC Hotel, because of its central location in NuLu. It’s practically across the street from the Mayan Cafe, Rye and our beloved Taste Fine Wines and Whiskey.
The city also has a fair amount of Airbnb offerings that also make staying as a group affordable.
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