The Flavored Whiskeys Actually Worth Trying, According To Bartenders

One of the most divisive things you can say to a whiskey fan is “I like flavored whiskey.” To many whiskey aficionados, adding any flavoring to whiskey is the equivalent of adding hot sauce to your chocolate milk. They believe that if the whiskey is well-made, it doesn’t need to be tainted by the addition of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, or any other (sometimes overpowering) flavor.

If you really want to change the flavor of a whiskey, these purists say, just mix it into a cocktail like an old fashioned or whiskey sour. Wesley MacDonald, owner of Caña Bar and Kitchen in Curaçao agrees with that sentiment.

“I cannot name any flavored whiskey which I could appreciate,” he says. “If you do want some fruit flavors in your whiskey, muddle some seasonal fruit or herbs and add some sweetener, and create your own flavored whiskey drink.”

Since we like to stir up booze-related controversy whenever possible, we decided that we’re not going to settle for that answer. It’s too easy. To cut and dry. So we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their choices for the flavored whiskeys actually worth trying. Believe it or not, they actually came up with some winners (plus, you know Fireball got shouted out).

Journeyman Pit-Spitter

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

While I am not a huge fan of flavored whiskeys, Journeyman Distilling does a cherry rye called Pit-Spitter. It’s a limited release but the tartness of those fresh Michigan cherries with their rye whiskey is quite the Midwestern summer combo.

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky

Justin Monell, general manager of BLVD & MAIN Taphouse in Las Vegas

If I’m going to sip on some flavored whiskey. It’s probably going to be at a tailgate or some other party-like event and it’s going to be Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. It’s a classic and I love the heat.

Pennington’s Strawberry Rye

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Delicious… #PenningtonsStrawberryRyeWhiskey

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Ellen Talbot, lead bartender at Fable Lounge in Nashville

Pennington’s Strawberry Rye. Strawberry is a flavor found in a lot of higher-end rye whiskeys, so to accentuate it just makes sense. Pennington’s is also a Nashville company, which I appreciate.

Knob Creek Smoked Maple

Matt Shields, bartender at The Bay Restaurant in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

My go-to flavored whiskey is Knob Creek Smoked Maple. While sweet and flavored whiskey is not my thing, smoked maple can be made into a serious brunch bomb. Swing by The Bay and I’ll make you one. Better yet, just stay home and drink it.

Wild Turkey American Honey

Blake Jones, bartender and director of beverage at The Kennedy in Pensacola, Florida

Usually, the only flavored whiskey I drink is whiskey flavored. But if I have to pick one, I’ll say Wild Turkey American Honey, because of Jimmy Russell. Everything he’s involved with is great. If you’re into sweet, honey-filled whiskey than this one is for you.

Modus Hoperandi Hop Whiskey

Danielle Becker, bartender at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado

Colorado local favorites Ska Brewing and Peach Street Distillers got together and made something magical. They call it Modus Hoperandi Hop Whiskey, and I love it. It’s smooth, easy to drink with just a hint of floral hops presence.

Wild Turkey Spiced Bourbon

Freddy Concepcion Ucan Tuz, bartender at JW Marriott in Cancun, Mexico

Wild Turkey Spiced Bourbon: The flavor of vanilla in the Whiskey makes this drink especially common in cocktails or during Christmas, I like to serve it with a cinnamon stick in it.

Writer’s Picks:

Leopold Bros. Michigan Cherry Whiskey

Many people believe that flavored whiskeys are a contemporary creation. In reality, distillers have been adding fruit juices to whiskeys during aging for over 100 years. Leopold Bros. wanted to revive this style by launching a few flavored whiskeys. One of the best is the distillery’s Michigan Cherry Whiskey with tart cherry juice added to their bourbon before aging. The result is a subtly spicy whiskey with hints of vanilla, dried cherries, and caramel.

George Dickel Tabasco Barrel Finish

When it comes to flavored whiskey, your mind probably heads to cinnamon before literal hot sauce. But that didn’t stop Tabasco and George Dickel from getting together to create a sweet, smooth whiskey with subtle heat at the end. It pairs well with rich foods or to spice up your favorite cocktail.