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We Asked Bartenders Their Favorite Lesser-Known Bottles Of Booze


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When stocking a liquor cabinet, we all know that certain bottles are a necessity. If you’re doing it up legit, you should have a decent bottle of whiskey (Scotch, bourbon, rye), rum (spiced, dark, white), tequila (reposado, añejo, blanco), gin, and vodka on hand. Plus you’ll need bitters, simple syrup, and any other ingredients you enjoy mixing with on hand.

Once you stock up on the basics, you should also invest in a few unique, fun options. Bottles worth talking about. We like to keep a bottle of Amaro for after-dinner drinks — it makes us feel like ballers and tastes incredible.

If a bitter, Italian liqueur isn’t for you, you can take advice from some of our favorite bartenders. We asked them to tell us their go-to lesser-known bottles of booze.

Novo Fogo Cachaça

Chris Heinrich, head bartender at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee

Cachaça. Cachaça. Cachaça. Kuh – shah – suh. It’s Brazilian sugarcane rum. Novo Fogo has an absolutely impressive line of cachaças. I love their silver. It’s a pure, beautiful expression of the Brazilian rainforest. It’s incredible to note the effects of terroir in this spirit, something usually closer associated with wines.

Singani 63

Travis Sanders, bartender at Pennyroyal Bar in Seattle

Singani 63 is really breaking out as a new spirit. I find many guests are intrigued by the idea of a Bolivian muscat brandy. It’s so different from what people think of as brandy — floral and bright. It’s paving its own path in the liquor world.

Copper & Kings American Brandy

Amy Wong, lead bartender at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland, Oregon

Copper and Kings is a Brandy distillery out of Kentucky that uses sonic-aging by blasting rock and roll in their barrel warehouse to facilitate their aging process. Interestingly, they have several grape spirit-based gins and an apple brandy as well. If you wanted to try something new instead of established classics like Laird’s Apple Brandy or Hayman’s Old Tom, try these.

Mezcalosfera Madrecuixe

Michael Nemcik, beverage director at Jaffa in Los Angeles

New spirit to know about: Mezcalosfera Madrecuixe is a cool spirit I tried recently. Made with wild agave in a very small batch, around 200 liters. I often find I prefer mezcal from a copper still, like this one, which is really fruity and smoky.

Generous Gin

Oscar Amaya, bar manager and head mixologist at Rusty Pelican in Miami

Generous Gin is easy to drink and appreciate, and it makes the best gin & tonic. It’s made with great natural ingredients and has an aromatic explosion of citrus fruits and spices highlighting the freshness of the juniper, with sweet floral notes and traces of jasmine.

Trakal

Jeremy Allen, general manager and lead bartender at MiniBar Hollywood in Los Angeles

Trakal – basically a Patagonian brandy – made from apples and pears and infused with herbs and ingredients all grown at the end of the earth. Belongs on the shelf near Singani 63, the Bolivian Grape spirit, but where Singani is more distinct, Trakal is less edgy. Unique but approachable.

Ventura Spirits Amaro Angeleno

Hilary Chadwick, director of food & beverage at Viviane in Beverly Hills, California

I’m not sure how new it is, but I’ve recently fallen in love with Amaro Angeleno out of Ventura Spirits. It’s light, delicately sweet, and orange forward — perfect for before or after dinner.

iichiko Saiten Sochu

Lauren Corriveau, bar director at Nitecap in New York City

iichiko Saiten! Unlike most Shochu, it’s bottled at 43 percent ABV. This higher proof carries more of the unique flavor of Saiten across the palate and makes it a versatile base spirit that can be applied in many classic recipes.

Malahat Rum

Stephen George, beverage director 20|Twenty Grill in Carlsbad, California

I feel that most of the new brands out there are doing things “the right way” because it’s such a tough market to break into. But I’m going to keep it San Diego local and give a shout out to Henebery Whiskey for the whiskey category and Malahat Rum for the rum category. Both take great pride in the process and their finished product. Henebery Rye has excellent depth of flavor and is well layered so it can be enjoyed on its own but also mixes very well in some classic cocktails. Malahat’s lineup of rums all play very well with a variety of cocktails.

I like Malahat Spiced Rum with fall-themed cocktails; it goes great with fall shrub (apple, cranberry…), I’m currently using Malahat Ginger Rum in a strawberry ginger shrub.

Del Bac Dorado Mesquite Smoked Whiskey

Jessica Stewart, bar manager at Fort Oak in San Diego

Single malt whiskey from the United States is my new favorite category. Del Bac from Arizona is making a mesquite-smoked 100% barley whiskey named Dorado. It’s has a combination of toffee and smoke, and I’m happy to find that small boutique distilleries are changing up the way we look at spirits.

Grey Whale Gin

Sarah LM Mengoni, bartender at Double Take in Los Angeles

Grey Whale Gin is fairly new to the market. It’s distilled at the Golden State Distillery located north of San Francisco. The inspiration for this is brilliant — all of the botanicals they use are taken from the migratory path of the grey whale. They use limes from Baja California, mint from Santa Cruz, and even sea kelp from Mendocino!

Not only is this my favorite new gin because of its quality, but also proceeds from every bottle sold go to help “Oceana” protect the world’s oceans.

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