Life

Bartenders Name Their Favorite ‘Warming Bourbons’ For Cold Winter Nights

If you’ve ever sipped whiskey while standing in a parking lot before a December football game in the frigid north, you know all about the warming feeling a nice swallow of Wild Turkey or Jim Beam can give you. While we all understand that this feeling doesn’t actually stave off hypothermia (that’s what heavy coats, hats, and gloves are for), it doesn’t take away from the appeal of the famous “Kentucky hug.”

To find the best “warming bourbons” — often expressions that run a little “hot” either because of a high proof or a warm finish — we asked a handful of well-known bartenders to tell us their favorite bottles that drink this winter. Keep scrolling to see all of their picks.

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea
Garrison Brothers

Chase Guthrie, co-owner and beverage director at Chase’s Place Cocktails + Kitchen in Fredericksburg, Texas

ABV: 57.5%

Average Price: $210

Why This Whiskey?

Garrison Brothers Balmorhea limited release bourbon is my pick. It’s a warm whiskey and makes you think of visiting the legendary Balmorhea State Park for a swim in the summer.

It also benefits Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation which makes you feel warm and fuzzy too.

Old Elk

Old Elk Bourbon
Old Elk

Christopher Devern, lead bartender of Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

ABV: 44%

Average Price: $50

Why This Whiskey?

Old Elk Bourbon is my go-to winter warmer. The rich round flavors and spiced finish is a nice touch for a winter night. Sipped neat, on the rocks, or as the base of your favorite cocktail, you can’t go wrong with Old Elk.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Buffalo Trace

Josh Curtis, bar director at the Malibu Beach Inn in Malibu, California

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $24

Why This Whiskey?

Buffalo Trace is the perfect winter sipper. It has a smooth complexity with notes of cedar and mint that never let me down. It’s warming, mellow, and always reasonably priced for its quality.

Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond

Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond
Evan Williams

Mark Phelan, beverage director at 16″ On Center in Chicago

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $19

Why This Whiskey?

When I need to put on the liquid coat, I’m reaching for Evan Williams Bonded. It’s aged five years, so it has the depth to balance the higher proof and remains one of the best value bourbons on the market.

Four Roses Small Batch

Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses

Jamie Shaw, beverage manager at Stella of New Hope in New Hope, Pennsylvania

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $30

Why This Whiskey?

I’m a really big fan of the Four Roses Small Batch. It gives the flavors of a select single-barrel experience. The mouthfeel is really nice and creamy with some vanilla and oak spice. It’s definitely a unique and warming sipping bourbon.

Woodinville Port Cask Finished

Woodinville Port Cask Finished
Woodinville

Federico Doldi, bartender at Gansevoort Meatpacking in New York City

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $49

Why This Whiskey?

My choice would be Woodinville Straight Bourbon Port Finished. The reason is that the aging in ruby port casks gives this liquid a sweet gentle and rounded finish, perfect for a winter chocolate pairing. It’s warming, sweet, perfect.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Woodford Reserve

Lee Noble, lead mixologist at Art in the Age in Philadelphia

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $65

Why This Whiskey?

Woodford Double Oaked is a high-rye bourbon that brings a lot to the table. The extended maturation from the additional barrel treatment and spice notes from the rye gives it a deeper flavor that I like on a cold winter night.

Booker’s

Booker’s bourbon
Jim Beam

John Tran, restaurant manager of BluSky Restaurant & Bar in Anaheim, California

ABV: 60-65%

Average Price: $115

Why This Whiskey?

If you’re looking for bourbon to warm you up, nearly any of them will work with their “Kentucky hug.” But one that really stands out is Booker’s. This whiskey is a ton of fun because each release has its unique notes and proof. For the most part, it’s over 120 proof. So there is some heat to this spirit. The flavors of vanilla, nuts, and oak will warm anyone up on a cold winter night.

Russell’s Reserve 10

Russell’s Reserve 10
Wild Turkey

Zach Wilks, bartender at Anthony’s Chophouse in Carmel, Indiana

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $38

Why This Whiskey?

I’m a huge Wild Turkey fan and their Russell’s Reserve whiskeys are outstanding. The 13-year-old that was released this year could quite possibly go down as the best bourbon release of 2021. That being said, the 10-year is my daily drinker. It has huge vanilla and caramel notes that make it a great winter sipper with just enough oak and leather to brink everything together.

Noah’s Mill

Noah’s Mill Bourbon
Willett

Andrew Bone, manager at Devereaux in Chicago

ABV: 57.15%

Average Price: $55

Why This Whiskey?

I had the chance to visit Willet distillery and was fascinated with their Noah’s Mill. It has the characteristics of a great peated scotch but with the full punch of an oaked bourbon. There’s toffee, caramel, vanilla, and it’s effortlessly warming.

Maker’s 46 Cask Strength

Maker’s 46 Cask Strength
Maker

Samantha Montgomery, beverage specialist and national brand ambassador Bardstown Bourbon Company in Bardstown, Kentucky

ABV: 54.8%

Average Price: $65

Why This Whisky?

There’s something about Maker’s 46’s finishing method that creates this remarkably pleasant aromatic experience. The extra oomph the cask strength provides just warms your belly on the first sip without too much burn on the palate.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout

Smooth Ambler Old Scout
Smooth Ambler

Matthew Nathanson, director of restaurants at The Godfrey Hotel Hollywood in Los Angeles

ABV: 49.5%

Average Price: $35

Why This Whiskey?

I love Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel bourbon from West Virginia. It is definitely one to sip on with warm spice up-front and lingering notes of cocoa and caramel. If I had a fireplace, I would have a glass of this in front of it.

Knob Creek 9

Knob Creek 9
Jim Beam

Vanessa Consiglieri, bar manager at Botanico Gin & Cookhouse in Coconut Grove, Florida

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $35

Why This Whiskey?

Knob Creek 9 is my favorite bourbon to warm me up because it’s very smoky and oaky. It reminds me of a log cabin. What could be more warming than sitting in front of a fire, sipping a glass of 100 proof Knob Creek?

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve

My Nguyen, general manager at I|O Rooftop in Los Angeles

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $35

Why This Whiskey?

My favorite bourbon is Woodford Reserve. I love the toffee and caramel flavors. Its classic Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a high-quality, highly sippable, warming whiskey in a crowded bourbon market.

Stagg Jr.

Stagg Jr.
Buffalo Trace

Cassie Stockbridge, bartender at Lobby Bar at The Godfrey Hotel in Boston

ABV: 63.2%

Average Price: $150

Why This Whiskey?

I personally go with Stagg Jr. to warm me up on a cold winter night. Just one sip instantly sends warmth throughout your whole body. I recommend enjoying Stagg Jr. over a large sphere of ice, this will help open up the rich, sweet, chocolate, and brown sugar notes that balance so well with the bold smoky finish.

×