Book Review: Bucket List Bars, Second Edition

When you plan a trip, what is the first thing you look for? Whatever destination you visit should have things to do that appeal to you and fit in with your hobbies and interests. But do you plan ahead to visit certain bars? If you are a spirits enthusiast, especially if your enthusiasm centers upon bourbon and other whiskeys, chances are you have heard of places like Jack Rose in DC, Cannon in Seattle, and Seven Grand in Los Angeles. If you are a bourbon enthusiast you may even know all the bars on Louisville, Kentucky’s Urban Bourbon Trail such as The Silver Dollar, Bourbons Bistro, and more. But there are plenty of bars in the United States that are famous just for being famous, not because they have 7000 whiskeys on the menu or because Master Distillers hang out there in their off hours. There is a wealth of historic bar life in this country, and if you don’t know where to look you might end up missing it. That’s where Bucket List Bars comes in.

Clint Lanier and Derek Hembree did a great job organizing a useful travel guide for anyone who wants to look up these noteworthy places when they travel. It surprised me to learn there’s not a single bar in this book I have been to before, and there were only about two or three places mentioned in nearby attractions that I have been to before. This means two things to me. First, I have a lot more exploring to do in my travels, which I find delightful. Second, I have to get Clint and Derek to Kentucky to explore the many great bars in Louisville, Lexington, Bardstown, and beyond.

The book is broken up by cities with 25 major U.S. cities represented. In each section there are a couple of really well known historical bars with expansive details about menu, famous or noteworthy drinks to have when you are there, what makes them famous, and local anecdotes and history to support the famous claims. There has to be some measure of historical significance for a bar to make it on this list (can I talk you guys into checking out The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky?).

The intro of Bucket List Bars was also extremely helpful. In one section the writers outlined the differences between pubs, taverns, saloons, speakeasies, and dive bars, each of which has its own unique style and characteristics. You can’t just call yourself a dive bar, for example – no corporation is ever going to be able to successfully open a chain of dive bars. There has to be a certain feel and ambience.

There are both a table of content and an index, which makes this a fantastic reference guide for a quick lookup. In addition to historic and noteworthy bars, each city section also has nearby attractions as well as other bars that may be noteworthy for other reasons.

If you like to explore a local history when you travel, the local public house is a great place to start. There’s a culture there that has existed through generations, and even the most ordered menu item can give you great insight into the history of a place.


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