Drinking in the Bluegrass offers something for everyone. On the same block, you can bond with the rambunctious university crowd or sit beside a septuagenarian who has probably occupied the same bar stool for more than four decades. Affluent clubs are a 10-minute walk from dives.
No matter the venue, Southern hospitality aims to please, with plenty of thirst-quenchers everywhere.
The obvious starting point is bourbon, a drink that was born and bred in Kentucky. No dedicated drinker should leave the area without touring one of the fascinating distilleries along the Bourbon Trail.
But failing that, Lexington bars and restaurants offer numerous choices for sampling bourbon. The most notable is The Horse & Barrel, with at least 53 different bottles. In 2008, it was named one of the top three Bars of the Year worldwide by prestigious Whisky magazine.
Moving from corn to grapes, fine wine is everywhere. Wine + Market is retail heaven. On Fridays from 5-8 p.m., knowledgeable owner Krim Boughalem holds tastings of wines from around the world. An equally interesting selection can be found at Le Matin Cellar (889 E. High St.; (859) 269-1511;) and the staff at Lexingtons Whole Foods Wine Store is wonderfully erudite. Wines on Vine is an upscale wine shop with a bistro attached that on Tuesdays offers a martini and manicure for merely $10.
Most local wineries have tasting rooms, but a favorite is Jean Farris Winery and Bistro. Select your favorite wine, then walk to your dinner table overlooking the Petite Sirah vines.
For a complete listing of wineries, visit Kentuckywine.com.
Lexingtons restaurants have bragging rights to great wine lists. Several have won Wine Spectator magazines Award of Excellence.
The wine and food focus at Portofino reflects owner Wayne Mastermans penchant for California and Italian gastronomy.
Beer lovers have amazingly good options, too. Marikkas Restaurant und Bier Stube stocks 1,000 different international suds. The UK crowd can choose from more than 40 beers on tap at Pazzos. The Beer Trappe offers draft beer that changes daily, and sells more than 400 different labels.
For sophisticated intimacy in the historic district, Jonathan at Gratz Parks sumptuously decorated bar has a fireplace that blazes on cold winter evenings. By contrast, SkyBar takes in a grand downtown panorama from its penthouse digs.
Lexington gay bars, all straight-friendly, rank among the worlds best.
Out magazine has named The Bar Complex , aka The Bar, one of the top 50 in the world. It has three bars, a dance floor and drag shows. Soundbars handsome bar, ubiquitous plasma screens, pretty patio and large lounging area have made it a downtown force in just one year.
Pubs are hugely popular. McCarthys Irish Bar is traditional, from fresh Guinness to Celtic melodies. Molly Brookes, on the other hand, is the Irish pub of the 21st century (109 N. Limestone St.; (859) 420-5792).
And if you happen to be on the south side of town, you can drink English: The Pub pulls imperial pints (22 ounces) of draught beers from the British Isles.
Student-friendly hangouts abound and music is a given. Old favorites include Two Keys Tavern and Lynaghs Irish Pub and Grill, whose burgers cant be beat. Recently opened but fast becoming establishments are Cosmic Charlies, where drinks go with a smorgasbord of sound, and Bar Lexington, which is five clubs in one.
Busters Billiards & Backroom has a lively bar with a commitment to alternative music; it is located in Lexingtons first registered distillery.
Finally, some bars defy classification. Als Bar has grabbed a niche on the north side of town by offering a full bar and locavore gourmet nosh at the citys prime bluegrass music venue. Chevy Chase Inn is a local icon, funky and famed for cribbage, strong drinks and a lovable cast of regulars (833 East Euclid Avenue; (859) 266-9422).