The Road Home: Louisville

I wasn't shocked to find a wonderful whiskey bar in Louisville; it was the man behind the bar who surprised me.

By Hala Daher April 12, 2016

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This is the story of what happens when you unwittingly rent an Airbnb above a bar.

This is the fourth in a 5-part series on a road trip from Houston to the author’s hometown of Detroit.

Sometimes you meet kindred spirits in the most unlikely places. Sometimes it happens in the middle of a cross-country road trip and you're thankful for the meeting, however fleeting. I arrived in Louisville after a lovely weekend in Nashville to find the Airbnb I was renting was directly above a bar. I tried to settle in my room to get some rest and ponder dinner but the noise below was far too noisy for actual relaxation. 

So what does a girl do? Try to ignore it? Complain to her Airbnb host for not being honest in the ad? Find earplugs to drown out the noise? Nope. Not this girl. I decided to join them. I walked down to that bar, named Haymarket Whiskey Bar & Bottle Shop, and found a whiskey lover's paradise.

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This is worth coming downstairs for.

I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was in Louisville, Kentucky after all. But I've been to Louisville before and this bar was different: a little divier, a lot louder and far more punk rock than any other Louisville bars I'd previously visited. This place took its whiskey seriously, with a group of bartenders who seemed to have the prescient ability to anticipate exactly what you wanted to drink before you could figure it out. Haymarket had about 250 bottles to choose from, including some wonderfully rare stuff (ahem, Pappy Van Winkle).

I immediately befriended one of the bartenders, deciding I needed a new best friend on the road. Besides a shared love of punk music, which he made sure was blasting from the jukebox during my visit, the world's coolest bartender also taught me how to play the Rock'em Sock'em Robots he kept at his well. Yes, folks—I'd never played the game before and it doesn't take much to impress me. He also knew his whiskies as intimately as his Black Flag and board games, pouring me some interesting stuff all night long: Old Forester 1870, Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch, and a mean Old Fashioned. His specialty, he said, was choosing good, unusual drinks for under $15. 

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When in Kentucky, seek out whiskey. When in Louisville, seek out Haymaker.

When I told him I was on a cross-country road trip, he joked that it must feel nice to burn all that gas when it's so cheap. Obviously, yes, but I also had to explain that cheap gas prices were the reason I was currently out of work. Trying to make light of the situation, the bartender jokingly asked: "Have I told you about my dead mom?" Not one to miss an opportunity to joke about my own dead mom I replied, "I have one of those too." Like a boss, the world's coolest bartender reached over to give me a friendly fist bump and said: "Welcome to the shittiest club, ever." Welcome, indeed. My reception to the shit club also included a shot and a pat on the back. 

If you find yourself in Louisville, skip the other bars and head to Haymarket Whiskey Bar on East Market Street. You may think it's little out of the way, but believe me—it's worth it. And ask for Dave, my new best friend. Ask him to pick a drink for you. He'll do an awesome job, and he'll even let you take a picture with the bottle and label so you can remember it later.

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