The Knickerbocker Saloon: An Old School Bar in a New Town

The Knickerbocker Bar West Lafayette

As I sat at a heavy walnut bar surrounded by mirrors that illuminated the impressive liquor display, it was hard for me not to feel like a character out of a Fitzgerald novel. The Knickerbocker Saloon, located at 113 N. Fifth St. in downtown Lafayette, is Indiana’s oldest bar, with an equally impressive legacy. Though the Knickerbocker Saloon has hundreds of tiny details that are worth exploring, listed below are the five most notable.

A prohibition liquor plaque displayed at the Knickerbocker Saloon in Lafayette, Indiana

Calling my History Buffs

Receiving its liquor license in 1835, the Knickerbocker Saloon is the oldest bar in Indiana! Throughout the bar’s history, it has been visited by such notables as Neil Armstrong, Ulysses S. Grant and John Purdue. Featured on the walls by the bathroom are two plaques; one commemorating the Knickerbocker’s 175th anniversary in 2010, and the other displays a certificate for the prohibition of liquor in 1922!

A Zombie Dust beer at the Knickerbocker Saloon in Lafayette, Indiana.

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Though they don’t serve 99 different types of beers, the general manager, Deborah Walstra, informed me that they carry 80 to 84 brands of beer at a given time, rotating with the seasons. Sorry to disappoint tap lovers, but they only carry bottled beers, which was a quirky surprise. I tried a Zombie Dust beer, which is a powerfully hopped pale ale that had a great, refreshing flavor and a unique package design. Walstra also mentioned that the Knickerbocker hosts a free beer school on the first and third Monday of every month, in which different breweries offer information and samplings of their products (no sign-up necessary). To support local businesses, the Knickerbocker also carries beer from local breweries in Lafayette, making sure everyone can sample the best that Indiana has to offer.

A caramel apple martini at the Knickerbocker Saloon in Lafayette, Indiana.

Martinis Galore

My interview at the Knickerbocker took place on a Wednesday, which just so happens to be martini night (coincidence- I think not). From the classic martini to an equally impressive “flirtini,” the Knickerbocker offers any type of martini you can dream of (and even some that would never cross your mind). I sampled a caramel apple martini, which was made with a smooth caramel vodka base and tasted like I was biting into an taffy apple: needless to say, I was in love. Walstra said that she encourages her staff to experiment with different martini flavors, creating a new concoction almost every night (truly an impressive feat).

Entertainment room at the Knickerbocker Saloon in Lafayette, Indiana.

Not the Taj Mahal, but….

With a history dating from 1835, the Knickerbocker was bound to have some awesome architectural features. What struck me first was the beautiful bar. Constructed from walnut with a cherry veneer, it exudes a 1920s feel. I also loved the high, tin ceilings, which added to the “old money” ambiance. Because of the stunning architectural features, the Knickerbocker hosts many business and wedding receptions.

Live entertainment offered at the Knickerbocker Saloon.

Live Entertainment

Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Knickerbocker Saloon is the live entertainment. On Monday the bar features karaoke. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, live piano music entertains. Every Friday a unique artist is featured from People’s Live (a local brewery that supports regional musicians), and on Saturday live music is offered! In the extended green room, a stage is set up to make accommodating artists and large groups a breeze.

Open every day from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m., the Knickerbocker is sure to dazzle you with its impressive history and diverse drink menu. For more information about the bar visit its Facebook or call (765) 423-2234. For more information about local bars in Lafayette/West Lafayette be sure to check out the Home of Purdue Blog.

Sarah Staatz, Purdue University Student, shares this blog.