Bartenders Tell Us The Bottles You Shouldn’t Be Caught Without Over The Holidays


Obviously, being the “the most wonderful time of the year” means that it’s time for a cavalcade of gifts, merriment, parties, and serious drinking. Between Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, New Years, and every other holiday get-together,we have ourselves a marathon of boozing.

Naturally, if you visit your local liquor store to buy a bottle of each and every style of alcohol for merriment making, you’ll end up spending a lot more than you’d like to. If you decide to only purchase one bottle, your wallet will be much happier. But how do you possibly choose which bottle to buy? Don’t worry, you don’t have to. We tasked some of our favorite bartenders with that challenge. They told us their most important bottles for holiday entertaining.

Sparkling wine

Stephanie Wheeler, Head Bartender, The Bar at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco

“Bubbles! Never throw a holiday party without something pink and bubbly. From the nerdiest booze nerd to the most basic of basics, bubbles will always be on the party list.”


Connor Monahan, bartender at Anise Global Bar in Tampa, Florida

“Believe it or not, gin. Most people think of whiskey or cognac for winter drinks but in Florida it’s always a little warm year-round and presenting guests with a cocktail based on a white spirit – particularly this one – tends to get their attention and start a fun conversation.”

Rye whiskey

Amit Gilad, head bartender at GreenRiver in Chicago

“For holiday entertaining, I would say that a bottle of high-end bourbon or rye will do the trick. The various ways we can use quality bourbon or rye make it my first pick.”


Russell Davis, bartender and former Bar Rescue co-host, just opened Academia in Austin

“For holiday entertaining, the most important bottle someone should have is a brandy, extra points if it’s a great Cognac. There are many uses for a nice bottle of brandy during the holidays from making a homemade eggnog to drinking a snifter next to the fire with a good pipe, but the best thing that it brings to the table is class. To me, the best thing about a holiday party is when the host breaks out a bottle of brandy after dinner.”

Green Chartreuse

Lucas England, beverage director at Mortar & Pestle in San Jose, California

“Green Chartreuse and Pierre Ferrand Cognac stay stocked in my home bar during the holidays. Green Chartreuse is a botanical boost of green herbs that’s a perfect small pour during the cold months.”

Red wine

Johnny Livanos, beverage program director at Ousia in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC

“I think a perfect medium bodied red wine is a necessity for a holiday get together. When dealing with so many different palates and tastes and so many different dishes, you want to offer something that you know everyone could enjoy and that is extremely versatile. I love to serve Cru Beaujolais, Nebbiolo Langhe, or Xinomavro during this time of the year. These wines have nice spice characteristics and lovely cherry and cranberry notes that I think are perfect for holiday meals, and usually everyone can enjoy them. They aren’t too full bodied that they would overpower the ham or turkey, but aren’t too light either that they get lost in the gravy.”


Steven Tuttle, beverage director at The Grass Skirt in San Diego

“Lots of people enjoy a good whiskey post dinner which can be nice, but I’m not a huge whiskey guy. My dad and I usually grab him a bottle of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.”

White wine

Marshall Emerson, bartender at Rustic Root in San Diego

“A nice bottle of white wine is always a the best call. Always put it in a wine gift bag and sign the tag, if you are taking it to a party; if the host doesn’t open it that night, they’ll know who gave them the nice bottle to enjoy later.


Raul Ayala, bar manager at Dirty Habit San Francisco

“I think it is important to always have a nice bottle of Tequila around for the holidays. Equal to parties, the holidays can mean all night get togethers, ideal settings for Tequila.”

Shawn Chen, bartender at RedFarm in New York

“I think having a good bottle of champagne in hand is the key to holiday entertainment, because it is the perfect before dinner drink that is not going to be too aggressive and it has just enough buzz to get people start talking at an awkward holiday party. Besides, bubbly has always become an icon to kick-start the holiday season.”