By Matt Wickstrom, Kentucky.com
VERSAILLES, Ky. — What happens when two lawyers, the president of a construction company, the director of sales for the largest North American Thoroughbred breeding operation and the partner of a sports marketing agency walk into a bar?
For John Rabinowitz, Morgan and Morgan law firm’s managing partner in Kentucky and Indiana; Mike Morgan, a global firm leader at Morgan and Morgan; Mike Hall, president of Andover Construction; Charlie O’Connor, director of North American sales for Coolmore Stud; and Shawn Freibert, Rabinowitz’s partner in Global Sports Management Group, the answer is whatever they want because they own it.
In 2017 the five partners opened Amsden Bourbon Bar in Versailles, which has been met with much success in what is becoming a bustling downtown.
The bar occupies the former Amsden Bank building, constructed in 1890 and has also served as a grocery store and sheriff’s office before becoming a bourbon bar. The building’s interior features original exposed brick, handcrafted woodworking and horse-racing memorabilia for a feel akin to an old-fashioned European pub, albeit with a Kentucky flare. Prior to the bar opening, Hall and his construction team renovated the space, opening up the interior by knocking down walls once dividing up office spaces to create the single room bar.
According to Rabinowitz, while all of the bar’s partners have been successful in their own professional careers, none of them had experience in the bar industry. However, the group jumped at the chance after becoming fed up with having to drive to Lexington for everything, wanting instead to make the downtown in their hometown a destination for all.
“None of us had run a bar before, much less a bourbon bar,” said Rabinowitz. “We didn’t know much, but what we did know was that there was a real need for a bar specializing in bourbon in Versailles and Woodford County.”
Amsden Bourbon Bar has a bourbon collection unmatched by most, with over 170 bourbons currently in their collection, and growing. Behind the bar you’ll find favorite bourbons from Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Heaven Hill to Pappy Van Winkle and Old Carter and countless other whiskey selections from around the globe. Joining Kentucky’s signature spirit on the menu are over 30 high-end wines and over 30 beers, including six on tap. Additionally, the bar just got its package license, allowing them to sell full bottles of wine and bourbon to customers.
“We believe that we have the best selection of high-end wines and bourbons in Central Kentucky,” said Rabinowitz.
Setting Amsden’s bourbon drinks apart from others in the region is the ice they pour the drinks with. The bar gets their ice from Louisville-based Kentucky Straight Ice, who harvests limestone-filtered ice in 300-pound blocks over several days, cutting it into smaller pieces with chainsaws lubricated with soybean oil. According to Hall, the limestone in the water helps to keep the flavor of your drink consistent the whole way through.
“As the ice dissolves it adds more limestone water to your drink, the same water already in all of your bourbon, without altering the flavor,” said Hall.
Joining the bourbon, wine and beer on the menu are several seasonally crafted cocktails with nods to the state’s signature industries such as Kentucky Oaked (Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, Buffalo Trace Bourbon Cream, hazelnut liqueur or vanilla, cold brew coffee from The Amsden Coffee Shop, aztec chocolate bitters and garnished with torched orange peel) and the Scat Daddy, named for the late Coolmore stallion who sired Triple Crown winner Justify, who also now stands at Coolmore (fresh mint and blackberries muddled, Maker’s Mark, agave, lime juice and ginger beer.) The bar is run by manager Logan Willis, who recently became a certified bourbon steward.
Amsden Bourbon Bar has become a fixture in the community since its arrival, not only offering a gathering spot for people to blow off steam after work but also by curating bi-weekly summer block parties alternating Fridays with the Versailles Merchant Association’s Friday night block parties. Amsden’s affairs typically include live music, food trucks and local vendors. According to Hall, it’s just another way for the group to cultivate a lively downtown in the city they call home.
“To have a downtown you need to create places that people want to be,” said Hall. “We’ve got a lot to be proud of in downtown Versailles. I’m thrilled that we’re a small part of that with Amsden.”
IF YOU GO
What: Bar with 170+ bourbons, 30+ wines and 30+ beers
Where: 106 Court Street in Versailles
Signature Drink: Fully Justified – Castle & Key Restoration Gin, Luxardo Cherry Liqueur, Domaine de Canton, topped with grapefruit soda.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday thru Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday; noon to midnight Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
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