Sip Bourbon Along Northern Kentucky's B-Line
A-list bars, distilleries and restaurants create a savory experience of Kentucky's finest.
Sidle up to the bar at Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (OKBB), and you won’t be handed a standard bourbon list.
Rather, you’ll be warmly greeted by a giant wall of whiskey and extremely knowledgeable OKBB bartenders who can talk to you about each of the 600 or so bottles — the mash bill, proof, history, profile and more.
“OKBB is an experience,” says Aaron Lilley, the general manager of the bar, which is in the heart of Covington, KY and one of 15 stops on The B-Line, a trail for bourbon enthusiasts in Northern Kentucky.
Bourbon has deep roots in the region, and traces of the spirit can be seen (better yet, tasted) throughout Northern Kentucky. Living in the “edge” of Bourbon Country, residents have access to The B-Line, which is akin to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail©, except the collection of bars, distilleries and restaurants are located in their own backyard.
Here’s just a sample of Northern Kentucky’s bourbon scene:
Explore Bourbon Bars & Distilleries Galore
Made up of six bars, five distilleries and four restaurants, each of the spots on The B-Line has its own personality and fills a unique niche.
The distilleries on the line include New Riff Distilling, a modern state-of-the-art distillery and event center with a three-story copper column that’s located in Newport, KY.
You’ll want to sign up for a tour at Boone County Distilling Co. in Independence, KY, which proudly declares that its bourbon is “made by ghosts.”
The Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta, KY is a family-owned distillery that makes moonshine, bourbon and whiskey. At The Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville, KY, the Pogue family has been making bourbon for more than 150 years.
The bars along The B-Line are also bona fide bourbon spots: Each one earned a spot on the 2020 list of the “Best Bourbon Bars in America,” which is curated by The Bourbon Review, says Dot Crane, content manager for meetNKY and The B-Line.
At OKBB, the vibe is relaxed, and the bar hosts a Tiki Metal Monday once a month that might convince you that heavy metal, not just bluegrass, can pair well with bourbon. Bartenders here take the artisan cocktail movement seriously, using homemade syrups and fresh-squeezed citrus in bourbon-forward cocktails.
Plus, bourbon newbies and connoisseurs can choose from more than 400 bourbons, 100 ryes, 100 American whiskies and a selection of unaged American whiskey, Lilley says. Selections range anywhere from $3 to more than $500 for a pour.
“There are good bourbons, and there are really good bourbons,” Lilley says. “Which ones are best depends on who is drinking them and what they like.”
Among the other bars on The B-Line is The Prohibition Bourbon Bar at Newberry Bros. Coffee, a coffee shop by day and bourbon bar by night, in Newport.
With a prohibition-era speakeasy vibe, the bar claims the largest collection of bourbon and rye whiskeys found anywhere in the world and a selection of Scotch, Irish and Japanese whiskeys.
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Save Room for Restaurants in Northern Kentucky
The B-Line also boasts some A-list restaurants, which have stellar bar programs and creatively incorporate bourbon into menu items.
Take for instance, Purple Poulet in Dayton, Kentucky, a Southern bourbon bistro with a menu that draws inspiration from Charleston and New Orleans and features fried chicken dinners, bourbon fried catfish and fried deviled eggs.
Bouquet Restaurant in Covington is an upscale farm-to-table bistro with seasonal menus and is known for its wide selection of bourbon.
The dishes at Rich’s Proper Food and Drink are a casual take on Southern-fusion and seafood, including a fresh selection of raw oysters and inventive menu items like Mac and Cheese Egg Rolls. The Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich and the Kentucky Bluegrass Jambalaya that’s made with ham, chicken and andouille sausage are crowd pleasers, says Bill Whitlow, co-owner of the restaurant in Covington.
The restaurant also is known for its cocktails, from a classic Old Fashioned to a Monkey Business bourbon cocktail made with bananas Foster syrup. “Our bartenders are passionate about bourbon and given free rein to experiment,” Whitlow says.
Ready to Savor The B-Line?
The beauty of The B-Line is there are no convoluted maps or set itineraries you need to follow. Rather, the trail is made up of 15 great bourbon destinations that you can explore on your own timeline, savoring spirits along the way. If you’ve got just a couple of days, here’s a sample itinerary to spark some inspiration.
Not a local? Make Hotel Covington, a luxe and modern hotel, your bourbon base camp.
For your first stop, take a tour at The Old Pogue Distillery in Maysville, where a bourbon tradition is carried forward by fifth- and sixth-generation makers who use the original family recipe.
Afterward, take a stroll of downtown Maysville, where the floodwall murals tell the area’s history. To end your day, grab a nightcap at The Prohibition Bourbon Bar at Newberry Bros. Coffee.
Discover Northern Kentucky
Start the day with brunch at Tousey House Tavern in historic Burlington. Then, go on a distillery tour circuit, starting at Boone County Distilling Co. Next, head to the Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta and finish off at New Riff Distilling in Newport.
Before leaving the parking lot at New Riff, walk over to Party Source. This one-stop destination allows you to enjoy in-store tastings from the Wine Station plus top-shelf and hard-to-find liquors at Spirits Library.
Spend the late afternoon enjoying some downtime at Newport on the Levee, home of the Newport Aquarium, a movie theater and Bridgeview Box Park, made up of restaurants and retailers, including Second Sight Spirits. Visit their pop-up box and sample a drink or two.
Before dinner, sample bourbon in Mainstrasse Village at Bourbon Haus 1841 or Wiseguy Lounge, where you can get a craft cocktail. The Globe in Covington has an impressive bourbon list as well as appetizers. Enjoy jambalaya or other Southern dishes at Rich’s Proper Food and Drink.
Eager to sample more of Northern Kentucky? Check out the latest edition of Livability Northern Kentucky.