David Gilbert and Tommy Humphries, two business partners from Louisville, Ky., decided to open a upscale bar in Louisville’s Germantown. They turned to a cultural aesthetic that they loved the most: the minimalistic, yet sophisticated feel of a traditional Tokyo bar.
Mr. Mr. Although it was risky to break with the established neighborhood pubs, there was an increasing number of people coming to the neighborhood and the popularity of bourbon. It was time to try something different.
Gilbert claims business is doing better than Humphries and Gilbert expected. He credits Casey Kraft, the head bartender, for creating a great cocktail menu with classics and new twists. The House Smoked Old Fashioned, which has just enough smoke to offset the sweetness of Buffalo Trace Bourbon, is a highlight. The Moscow Mule, Mai Tai and Sloe Gin Fizz are just a few of the other menu options.
The small room is very dark. There is seating at the bar, and in the middle-sized space are hidden tables for private conversations. The space is occasionally inspected by servers, but you can pull on the handle to alert your server that your are ready for another round.
Gilbert and Humphries spent over a year perfecting every aspect of the space.
Gilbert says that the most important element of Tokyo’s scene is its old-school sensibility combined with an aesthete’s eye for design and fresh cocktails. We didn’t intend to create a “speakeasy” as such. Instead, we wanted to create a place that felt timeless and always existed.
Perhaps by focusing on making delicious cocktails and not extravagant decor, Mr. Lee’s has been able to find its place in Louisville’s vibrant cocktail scene. Gilbert and Humphries admit it has been a learning curve, but they are proud to be able to serve the bar and welcome everyone who comes through their door.
Gilbert states, “The most satisfying result for me was the diverse demographic of our patrons.” “Louisville can often feel very segregated by their age. Mr. Lee’s will usually have an Indian Hills couple in their late 70s sitting at the bar next a couple of young, fashionable people in their 20s living in the lofts across street. Meanwhile, a table of lawyers in their 40s is relaxed at the banquette alongside a couple in her 30s who just walked in from their new house in the neighborhood.