By Michelle Aiello


Bourbon on Rye is an intimate atmosphere serving unique drinks & small plates. Set in the historic Ballroom Building on West Main Street next door to the Seltzer Club, Bourbon on Rye is about as close to an actual prohibition-era bar as you can get.

James Hirsh and Chris Evans knew the space was perfect for the experience they wanted to create: a great bar with great food and a focus on craft cocktails and bourbon, all with a nod to the past.

As a matter of fact, one of the biggest selling points was that their standout piece – an 1880’s flamed mahogany back bar –would fit. “It was purchased ten years ago, and at 12 feet tall and 28 feet long, there are not too many spaces that could house it,” explained Hirsh. He added that they wanted to have a prime downtown space and had been looking for the perfect location for quite a while. The building was built in 1869 and still has the original tile mosaic floors and tin ceilings. Plus, he said, “Opportunity to grow into the second and third floors also influenced our decision.”

Hirsh said they “put a lot of love” into the 1869 building, which was originally an Odd Fellows temple and had been vacant for years. The space was completely renovated, with extra care taken to preserve its historic charm. The 14-foot stamped tin ceilings and original tile mosaic floors were both restored to their original glory. They also brought in another curious bar artifact – an imported Italian Celli Cobra tap head (the only one in Lexington that they know of) that keeps draft beer ice cold.

A great bar with great food and a focus on craft cocktails and bourbon, all with a nod to the past.

Bartender Chris Evans makes a conscious effort to keep the menu simple. “We are focusing on the cocktail and getting back to some of the roots, without being overly pretentious,” he said. In a high-tech twist, they use a centrifuge (a machine with a rapidly rotating container) to create some of their signature drinks such as the Java Wine Spritzer.

The cocktail menu also includes house-made bitters, syrups and freshly squeezed juices to bring out the best flavors. The bar offers 12 beers on a rotating tap, along with an expansive bourbon selection. As the menu changes seasonally, guests can try something new each time they visit.

For those looking for a snack to go with those drinks, Chef Ed Hirsh creates small-plate food, freshly made from scratch with local products, including 9-step handmade fries, soft pretzels, burgoo, clams casino, pork roll sliders with house-made bourbon beer cheese, and Philly cheesesteak and French Sip sliders with Sunrise Bakery buns. Many of the dishes are designed to be shared, and the food menu changes seasonally as well.

From the gorgeous historic location to the incredible whiskey selection, Bourbon on Rye is a most welcome addition to the growing “Main Street renaissance” and is right in line with the classic cocktail trend we’ve been seeing in the industry over the last several years.