Brad Jennings is passionate about his home state of Kentucky. The Louisville native fell in love with the local hospitality scene in the early 2000s when he began his bartending career in the city. Soon he was dreaming of opening his own bar to celebrate the South— and the opportunity arose in 2020. “Right before the Covid-19 pandemic, I was preparing to start a new job running a bar program for a new concept in Louisville—this was obviously put on pause,” Jennings says. “For years, my brother Eric and I, plus our friends Daniel and Stacy Holyfield, had talked about opening our own concept, and that finally came together.” Their bar and restaurant North of Bourbon—located right near where Jennings was raised—opened its doors on New Year’s Eve 2021.
“We opened North of Bourbon to give a true representation of the Deep South in an elevated fashion here in Louisville,” Jennings notes. His primary role is to oversee the beverage program, including more than two dozen seasonally rotating craft cocktails, an ever-changing list of over 300 Bourbons, all local Louisville beers on tap—with the exception of one tap dedicated to Abita Root Beer—and an Old World wine list curated to introduce guests to varietals and blends outside of the usual suspects. “From the beginning, before we were even open, every detail has been thought of with intent,” Jennings notes. “Everything that we can make in house, we do, and we routinely highlight Southern ingredients in our cocktails to bring them to the forefront of the conversation, educating ourselves and our guests on these pieces of Southern history.”
On the cocktail list (drinks are $8-$13), Bourbon is front and center, naturally, in such house originals as Jennings’ Shelby Drink Your Juice ($13), comprising Old Forester 100 Proof Bourbon, house-made passion fruit syrup, fresh lemon and orange juices, and Ale-8-One soda. The bar also offers Old Fashioned variations like the Get Buttered ($13), featuring brown butter-washed Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, demerara syrup, Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry bitters, and Fee Brothers Orange bitters. “I’m really proud of the level of care and attention we give to everything, from hospitality and service to drinks and food to ambiance. No stone is left unturned; it’s all important,” Jennings adds. “It creates a really cool vibe and experience for guests, whether they’re local or visitors, and allows for a product we can all take pride in as a team.”