Great Drinks, fine whiskey, and a positive vibe is the makings of good trouble in downtown Louisville.

It would be easy to drive right past the century-old red brick building nestled along its street with so many others of similar design, except for the giant mural on the side wall proclaiming, “Whiskey Got Me into Trouble.” Wipe that knowing smile off you face and pull over. It’s time to stop here for a drink!

Trouble Bar opened in the economically and racially mixed Shelby Park neighborhood just east of downtown Louisville in 2019, so it’s a relatively new entry in the city’s plenitude of bourbon bars. But it has a vibe all its own that runs counter to the stereotypical straight, White, male whiskey drinker. Business partners Nicole Stipp and Kaitlyn Owens wanted to “make good trouble” in tribute to the late U.S. Representative and civil rights icon, John Lewis.

“We want to treat everyone like family,” says Stipp. And they do. As soon as you walk through the door into the the airy space with exposed brick walls, you’ll find people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, economic strata, and sexual orientation. And it will be assumed you are a Troublemaker in the best possible sense of the word.

Photos courtesy of Trouble Bar

The wall to the right of the entrance is covered in photographs of notable Troublemakers, from Lewis to environmental activist Greta Thunberg, LGBTQ activist Harvey Milk, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and Louisville native, Muhammad Ali. The staff is well-versed in all their stories, just ask.

While they are recounting the Troublemaker contributions, enjoy the carefully curated cocktails of President of Potions, Felicia Corbett or sips from the extensive list of whiskey flights, many chosen by local bourbon experts and Trouble regulars. It’s even possible to branch out a bit into Scotch and Irish drams. The whiskey list is several pages long and ever evolving.

Trouble stayed in business during the pandemic thanks to creative cocktail kits to go. Stipp and Owens started a private barrel program and now patrons can enjoy those selections by the glass or purchase a bottle to take home. Both the owners and the staff are active in helping the economic development of their surrounding neighborhood. After all, that’s making good trouble.

Visit Trouble Bar at 1149 South Shelby Street, Louisville, Kentucky. And tell em Barleycorn sent you!

Former restaurant critic and beverage columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Susan is bourbon columnist for Food & Dining and Covey Rise magazines and also writes for Bourbon+, LEO Weekly, and American Whiskey (tasting notes and ratings). Susan has authored or co-authored six books including Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide, The Kentucky Bourbon Cocktail Book, The Bourbon Tasting Notebook, and The American Whiskey Tasting Notebook, and Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon? – Setting the Table for Tastings, Food Pairings, Dinner, and Cocktail Parties. Susan is a member of the Order of the Writ, former president of both the Bourbon Women Association and the Kentucky chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, an organization of women culinary professionals.