Smoke Justis is just a short walk from Covington, Kentucky’s side of the iconic Roebling Suspension Bridge. That marks Smoke Justis as the northernmost stop along The B-Line®. If you’re crossing the bridge from Cincinnati’s side, it’ll also be the first business on the trail to greet you.
Smoke Justis brings smoked meats, bourbon and craft beer together in a sports bar atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to kick back, watch the latest big game or cheer on one of the region’s beloved sports teams.
Even its name harkens back to local sports. The bar was named after Walter “Smoke” Justis, a native of Greendale, Indiana, who set a minor league record in 1908 by pitching four no-hitters. Before that, he played in the major leagues for the Detroit Tigers. But his career also briefly landed him in Covington. In May of 1913, Justis was the opening day pitcher for the Covington Blue Sox, a professional baseball club in the short-lived Federal League.
Despite the team’s (and the league’s) brevity, Justis went down in baseball history for throwing a shutout––or pitching the whole game without giving up any runs––at the first game the Blue Sox played on their home turf, just two blocks away from where the bar now stands at what was Federal Park.
Smoke Justis hosted 2023’s Cincinnati Alchemy Fest, a competition that awards local bartenders and businesses. Jade Colwell, Smoke Justis’ bar manager and 2022’s fest winner, was also one of this year’s judges.
“Smoke Justis’ goal isn’t only to make ourselves successful but to make all of Northern Kentucky successful,” says Jade Colwell when asked how the bar supports the local scene. “We aim to support all local bourbon spots because we know it’s important to show people that, as a whole, Northern Kentucky is the place to be. When one of us succeeds, we all do.”
Colwell also says Smoke Justis has a collection of nearly 600 whiskeys. Along with bourbon and whiskey, you can also wash down smoked meats with specialty and classic cocktails, wine, scotch, flights and draft beer.
Beyond smoked meats––from brisket chili to meat-stuffed street tacos to ribs––their menu also offers brunch, flatbreads, fry boxes, salads and appetizers. Colwell’s current favorite from this season’s cocktail menu is: “A butter-washed Old Fashioned made with a vanilla bean demerara and black walnut bitters. It is creamy, dense and delicious. The Marigold, a mango cayenne whiskey sour, is also up there.”
The bar’s private single-barrel selections are another one of her go-to recommendations. They also have their own bourbon, Roebling Rare, which was blended at Covington’s Wenzel Whiskey.
“It is a fantastic pour,” says Colwell. “But if you’re coming by to try something rare, I have to say any of the Old Forester 117 series, Rabbit Hole Nevallier or Heaven Hill 20-Year.”
Drop by on any given night and you may even catch some live music or a special event. And if you land a seat on game day, make sure to root-root-root for the home team.