Nashville’s newest bar is a casual indoor-outdoor affair with a serious whiskey habit.
Barrel Proof Nashville is the second location of the New Orleans Garden District bar from partners Liam Deegan, Jason Sorbet, and Robert LeBlanc. The trio recognized similar cultural pathways between Nashville and New Orleans in the form of intertwining sensibilities around food, beverage, music, and Southern hospitality. “We all spent a lot of time in Nashville over the years and have always felt a sense of place here,” says Sorbet. “So when we felt that it was finally time to do a Barrel Proof outside of New Orleans, Nashville was the best natural fit.”
Located next to Von Elrod’s, the heated front patio of the new space features a smattering of picnic tables that fit up to 36 people. For chillier Nash nights, the back bar inside boasts over 300 bottles, with 80 percent of them falling squarely in the whiskey category (there’s also a strong emphasis on Tennessee labels here). Seating is plentiful at the main bar, which measures over 30 feet long and is fashioned out of pine sourced from an old church in Louisiana.
Despite the emphasis on brown spirits, the New Orleans outpost is known as a neighborhood margarita bar that just happens to have whiskey (“Despite our being considered a whiskey bar, we hope people come for the frozen margs,” says Deegan). And that very same margarita recipe is making its way to Nashville’s Germantown location, along with a host of classic cocktails and in-house recipes like the Porch Session, made with Tennessee whiskey, amontillado sherry, peanuts, and cola.
Don’t expect servers here — or the ability to make reservations. Seating in the area behind the bar is first-come, first-serve among the banquettes and various four-to-six top tables. “The vibe of Barrel Proof is a comfortable, neighborhood hang that you can roll into any time, grab a stool, and run into familiar faces on both sides of the bar,” says Deegan. He maintains that the bar has enough versatility to satisfy the needs of an intimate family gathering and something like a date night.
Dining is an equally casual affair. Customers place their orders directly at the open window looking into the kitchen and are given a buzzer that alerts them when their food is ready to be picked up. The menu, spearheaded by chef Todd Pulsinelli, is simple but satisfying, comprised mostly of cheeseburgers (served on a brioche bun with iceberg lettuce, crisp pickles, and a halo of molten cheese) and fries.
“There’s a balance in the experience we want to give — it’s important that we have cheap beer and Old Fashioneds right alongside once-a-year bottles of whiskey,” says Deegan. Along with the usual whiskey suspects, the bar also carries rare barrel picks and bottles no longer found on retail shelves for when you’re looking to splurge on a pour. While whiskey drives the bar program, the partners’ desire to unwind with a margarita or a cold beer gives Barrel Proof its approachable air of fun, Deegan says. “If we had a billboard outside the airport, it would be: Come for the whiskey, come back for the margs.”
Barrel Proof is now open daily from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. at 1010 4th Avenue N in Germantown.