Bartenders Tell Us Which Distilleries To Visit This Winter


The fall and winter just seem to leave us lusting for travel. Earlier, we wrote about road tripping to breweries during these colder months. This week, we direct our attention to beer’s higher-alcohol-content sibling — liquor.

The United States is dotted with distilleries. Just like the craft brewing boom gave birth to countless breweries across the country, the craft distilling boom has done the same. Wherever you live, there’s sure to be a small, medium, or giant distillery just waiting for you discover.

In order to figure out which direction to point our cars (or where to fly to), we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best distilleries to visit this season.

Jack Daniel’s

Don Hernandez, beverage director at Holston House in Nashville

“My favorite distillery to visit is Jack Daniels in Lynchburg, Tennessee. This is a huge operation that produces almost a barrel of whiskey a minute. In doing so, it employs many people within the community.

“All the whiskey is produced in one facility, and the grounds are beautiful. The tour is very informative, and there is a rich sense of history and pride. Pro tip: make sure to reserve a seat at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House for a family style meal that shares the tradition of southern hospitality.”

Leopold Brothers

Jared Boller, lead mixologist at The St. Regis in Toronto

“Leopold Bros Distillery in Denver, CO. It is a family owned operator (two brothers) who have been making an array of beautiful spirits for almost 20 years. Some of the products coming out of their brand new build distillery can compete with any in the world. They pay attention to every detail and have brought the art of distillery to another level.”

Rhine Hall

David Mor, beverage director at Cindy’s in Chicago

“What’s the best distillery for booze fans to visit? If in Chicago, you can’t go wrong with a local house like Rhine Hall. Creating beautiful expressions of locally-sourced fruit brandies, their understanding of what Chicagoans love to drink is impeccable.”

Maker’s Mark

Tara Shadzi, bartender at BOA Steakhouse in West Hollywood

“Maker’s Mark in Louisville, Kentucky. You learn so much about Bourbon production and really see the passion of the individuals that work there. Also, you get to dip your own bottle to take home! Go see a horse race while you’re there (preferably the Kentucky Derby, when bars are open for 24 hours straight!).”

Atelier Vie

Matthias Hinrichs, bartender at Public Belt bar and Lounge in New Orleans

“What’s the best distillery for booze fans to visit? Atelier Vie, because of their vast selection. They offer a lot of variety like vodka, gin, rice whiskey etc. You name it, they probably make it.”

Firestone & Robertson

Jason Miller, general manager at Little Red Wasp in Fort Worth, Texas

“Firestone & Robertson’s Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth, Texas. Founders Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson are great people and they really hit a home run with Texas Whiskey. Whiskey Ranch is set on an 18-hole golf course with beautiful views overlooking downtown Fort Worth.”

J. Rieger & Co

Brock Schulte, bartender at The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City, Missouri

“What’s the best distillery for booze fans to visit? My personal favorite distillery in KC is J. Rieger & Co. and I’m sure more cool things are to come with the expansion in 2019.”


Diego Diaz, lead bartender Sage Vegan Bistro & Brewery in Los Angeles

“Spirits from Greenbar have been a cornerstone of our cocktail menu at Sage for some time. It’s so rare to find a distillery offering such a wide range of high-quality spirits. It’s rarer still to find one that so generously gives back to the local community, and to the Earth as a whole. Actually, Greenbar is the only one I can think of, and their mission has been an inspiration. It feels good to serve a guest a great cocktail with so much heart behind it.”


Britt Tracy, bartender at Eastside in Minneapolis

“Best Distillery: Tattersall or Norseman. In my opinion, both distilleries excel at creating a regional identity as spirit producers/. Each capitalizes on the ‘Bold North’ and Nordic vibe (especially at Norseman), as well as take advantage of the endless ingredients native to Minnesota and using them thoughtfully in their products.”

Copper & Kings

Andrew Hannigan, bartender at Bastion in Nashville

“What’s the best distillery for spirit fans to visit? Copper & Kings in Louisville, Kentucky. Brandy is a classic and Copper & Kings has a small distillery that distills their brandy in copper pots, which adds more flavor to the distillate. It’s a slower, more classic way of distilling that produces a much better end result. In addition to American brandy, they also produce apple brandy and absinthe. If you get the chance to take the tour, it’s really impressive. They have these three copper pots that are named after women in Bob Dylan songs and their aging system is pretty cool — they distill their brandy in the cold cellar where loud music is playing (Copper & Kings keeps 5 sub-woofers in their basement maturation cellar). They call this Sonic Aging — really interesting stuff…”

“You know, Brandy is one of the original spirits and they do a great job of marketing it to the American palate – they take this classic spirit and make it so much more approachable.”

Buffalo Trace

Richard Hanauer, beverage director of RPM Restaurants in Chicago and Washington, DC

“Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. So many different and great bourbons are made there – Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Pappy (Van Winkle) and the namesake Buffalo Trace are among my favorites. Going into the rickhouses, you get to understand and experience the different styles of bourbon, the nuances between all their brands and how their recipes, crafting and aging turn them into varying flavor profiles.”

Woodford Reserve

Spencer Elliott, head bartender at The Boogie Woogie Room in New York City

“What’s the best distillery for booze fans to visit? Woodford Reserve has the most beautiful welcome center and takes your right to their fermenting, distilling, and storage sites. Not to mention an ample amount of pretty decent whiskey.”