You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.
Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.
“American malt is on the verge of becoming its own legal category, and that’s due to the fine folks here in the Pacific Northwest making killer whiskey. Copperworks’ master distiller came from the beer side, so the mash is excellent and worthy of drinking even before it gets distilled.”—Abigail Gullo, bar manager and assistant general manager at Ben Paris at The State Hotel in Seattle
“With Manhattans being all the rage in bars across America again, this whiskey is a perfect play on that cocktail, finished in sweet vermouth and wine barrels, giving it a soft and sexy finish. Imagine making a Manhattan while only using one bottle and a glass. Here it is.”—Zachary Helton, bartender at Cork & Cow in Franklin, Tenn.
“The barrel made especially for Frank Sinatra has grooves drilled into the inside of this already-charred barrel, allowing the whiskey to get deeper into the barrel and extract more color and flavor from that grooved barrel. It’s also served at a higher 90-proof, just the way Frank did it in the 1970s.”—Helton
“J.D.’s Single Barrel has its own barrels made for it by its cooperage in Alabama. Those barrels rest in just a few of its rickhouses on the top two floors. All the heat from Tennessee summer and all the frost of a Tennessee winter really affects those barrels differently on the top floor.”—Helton
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“A beautifully balanced straight rye whiskey, this hidden gem celebrates the rye whiskey category with a classic mash bill. At 110-proof, it stands up nicely in cocktails or simply served over a large cube of ice.”—Tony Abou-Ganim, owner of the Modern Mixologist consulting firm in Las Vegas
“This is an easy-drinking, high-proof whiskey celebrating the legacy of an African American distilling innovator and legend.”—Tokiwa Sears, lead bartender at Bar Margot at the Four Seasons hotel in Atlanta
“Showing off Washington's best malt, then aging in new American oak barrels, Westland is a great bottle to show off to friends.”—Travis Sanders, bartender at Pennyroyal in Seattle
“A bona fide sherry lover, I’m always going to choose the sherry cask finish in a whiskey, but Westland uses beautiful grains of Skagit Valley malt that gives great body to this American whiskey.”—Gullo
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“It’s a whiskey that has a kick to it but is also smooth and balanced. Served neat or on the rocks, this is a whiskey you have to try.”—Sondre Kasin, principal bartender at Undercote in New York City
“This is a beautifully complex and fragrant sipping rye whiskey from the historic Willett distillery.”—Sears