Back Door

Bar Belle: 20 years ago, I walked into The Back Door …

Back Door

Props to The Back Door. Who’s that blonde?

This was originally published at Insider Louisville on Aug. 2, 2019.

It’s been nearly 20 years to the day that a girl walked into a bar and her life was forever changed.

That bar was Highlands’ haunt The Back Door, and that girl was a young, new-to-Louisville Buckeye who had just landed a job at LEO Weekly and was invited by friendly coworkers to a longstanding Thursday night happy hour. Ever since that fateful evening in August of 1999, I’ve only missed a handful of Thursday happy hours at the Unstable Table, and my Louisville family has grown tremendously.

Transitioning from a very social college scene on a small campus in Athens, Ohio, to a rather large Kentucky city that I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce, that first year as a Louisville resident was tough, awkward, frustrating and eye-opening. Many folks told me I’d enjoy living by Bardstown Road, so my first apartment was in a high-rise in Buechel — which I thought was still part of the Highlands. Fun fact: It is not.

But even though my social calendar was nonexistent, I could always count on happy hour at The Back Door, with folks of all ages — 21 and up, of course — who eventually became friends and helped introduce me to Louisville, showed me the ropes, told me about the time-saving alleyways to avoid Bardstown Road and taught me the art of a stiff drink.

We always sit at our same table in the main bar room, which John Brown gets there at 4 to snag. Sometimes there are four of us, and sometimes we need to push a few tables together to accommodate 14. You just never know until you show up.

Through jobs, significant others, deaths, drama and the perpetual grind that is aging, my Back Door family has remained a constant — a place free of judgment, a place to unwind, share opinions on the day’s news or avoid it altogether.

The Back Door was where I first met Mayor Greg Fischer — before he officially was mayor. Somehow Unstable Table regular Cindy Lamb convinced all the candidates running for mayor to stop by our esteemed Thursday congregation and discuss their qualifications.

I recall Fischer’s ease in sitting down with a group of strangers and even reaching for a chicken wing or two that we had ordered.

The Back Door taught me about moderation and finding a delicate balance between comfortably unwinding (one gin & tonic) and crazy town crunk (two or more gin & tonics). Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ll treat myself to one mixed drink and then quickly switch to beer so I don’t stumble into work Friday morning like a sunglass-clad zombie who inhales water instead of brains.

But most of all, the bar has given me friendship, and whether that road is a long one or ultimately cut short (R.I.P. SueBee), it’ll always lead me straight to The Back Door on a Thursday night.

The Unstable Table is open to anyone who buys the first round. We won’t bite unless provoked.

See you on Thursday.

Today’s Reason To Drink

This is from a few years back, but could be the situation soon.

Well, if there’s any better reason to drink today than losing your job, I’m not sure what it is. Never mind … I know there are plenty of worse things that could be happening right now — and are happening — so I should be thankful to have my health, my friends, my family and my bourbon.

But yes, as of Aug. 7, 2019, Insider Louisville will be no more. It was a good five-year run for me and I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture beat — including bourbon coverage — and write about what I deemed important. Or rather, what I believe my readers thought would be interesting.

It was great not having anyone standing behind my back telling me what to write and how to write it. I basically spent the last five years meeting awesome artists, performers, writers, brewers, distillers, marketers, bartenders — you name it: If they had an interesting story to share, I helped them share it.

So now it’s on to bigger and better things, hopefully. What that involves I have no idea at the moment. But I do know that I plan to ramp up this website and continue writing about bourbon, whiskey, beer, gin, rum and, yes, even White Claw. I hope to make my Tasteless Tastings more of a regular feature and bring you all the latest news as far as releases, distilleries, distillers, etc. go.

For anyone who would like to keep in touch and/or send me some news about all things bourbon, my email address is shavens76@gmail.com.

And, of course, you can also find me giving tours with Bourbon City Cruisers on any given night or weekend. Speaking of which … you should get six of your friends together and book a tour! We offer Distillery Tours during the afternoons and Cocktail Cruises in the evening.

Today’s Reason To Drink

koozies

Free koozies!

I’m hosting a happy hour tonight at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, and I know you’re gonna join me!

I’m giving away some beer koozies from my personal collection, so get there early if you want first dibs. It goes from 5-7 p.m., and Merle’s is on the corner of Main and Second streets.

Word.

Oh yeah, there are lots of drink specials, including a $5 Old Fashioned and a $3.50 Margarita. Bueno.

Today’s Reason To Drink

The barrels dreams are made of.

It’s been quite a balancing act trying to post here while also maintaining my three other jobs. Wait, three?

Yes, you know about Insider Louisville, of course, and my bourbon tour guide gig with Bourbon City Cruisers (speaking of which … I’m waiting for you to book a tour with me, dammit!).

So what else am I up to? Well, I’m going to keep that private so that you can assume the worst — but if you really want to know, you can buy me a beer or two and I’ll fill you in.

Anyway, the purpose here is to throw at you some recent articles I’ve written that are about bourbon and just let you digest them, if you haven’t already swallowed. I have no idea what I’m talking about, so let’s just get to them …

A sneak peek of the new Bulleit Visitor Experience — Bulleit in Shelbyville is now offering public tours, thanks to to the new, fancy Visitor’s Center they just built.

7 Questions With … Caleb Kilburn, master distiller of Peerless Distilling — Last Saturday, Peerless just released its first four-year-old bourbon in 102 years. Now that’s a reason to celebrate!

• Bar Belle: Bucket List crushed by a barrel of Weller — I was invited by the fine folks at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen to help them select a single barrel of Weller Antique 107. It was a dream come true!

So there you have it … that’s what I’ve been busy with. I’m also stockpiling some new release samples so I can have another Tasteless Tastings very soon.

Stay tuned.

Today’s Reason To Drink

Fired up!

I love when I order a fancy cocktail and can actually taste the delicious liquor.

If all I can taste is fruit juice and ginger beer, then either I’ve lost my mind and ordered a drink made with vodka or the bartender didn’t put shit in there!

That’s why I usually stick to Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and Mint Juleps — because the recipes call for damn near 95% bourbon! No way to mask it, thank you very much.

So on Wednesday I was at Jeptha Creed Distillery talking to Master Distiller Joyce Nethery, and she offered me a cocktail before we got started with the interview.

(To see what we talked about, click here. Hint: It has something to do with bourbon.)

Anyway, I ordered a drink at the distillery’s bar called Campfire, because I was craving something sweet and knew it involved toasted marshmallows. I’m not even sure what was in the thing, but the first sip nearly blew my skirt up … had I been wearing a skirt.

It was absolutely delicious! Kind of like a White Russian topped with toasted marshmallows, and yes, I could taste the liquor.

Two thumbs up!

Bar Belle from 1/25/19 Insider Louisville: When Dry January gets damp

We’re more than halfway through January, and I’ve already heard from numerous people around town that they’ve given up on their diets. And even more surprising — or not — this “Dry January” nonsense is loosening its grip on health-conscience Louisvillians.

How do I know? Because my bars are more crowded than ever. I kinda enjoyed the extra elbow room I had these last few weeks, but just as gym attendance soars on Jan. 2 and wanes by Feb. 2, so, too, self-discipline erodes like a snowman in the rain.

Read more here …