Forget the typical lede, we want to say, right away: you definitely shouldn’t use whiskey to warm up if you find yourself stuck in a garage, un-insulated attic, or icy backyard during a freezing cold day. Period. Sure, the premise is perfect for a buddy comedy or classic sitcom and it might make you feel warm briefly, but it definitely won’t prevent you from getting frostbite.
When we talk about whiskey’s warming effect, we mean in normal, everyday cold situations — when a little buzz isn’t going to lead to catastrophe. Seriously, we can’t state that clearly enough.
With that disclaimer out of the way, we have to admit: the “Kentucky hug” that comes with a high proof bourbon and the overall flush that a smoky dram of Scotch whisky delivers feels quite pleasant this time of year. Gets the blood flowing and helps you appreciate a nice crackling fire. So we reached out to twenty bartenders and asked them which whiskeys they’ll be drinking to warm up this month, as the snow piles up and the windchill makes our heads ache.
Teeling Single Malt Irish Whiskey
Una Green, USBG bartender in Los Angeles
Teeling Single Malt is really cool because it’s an expression that took the Master Distiller 27 attempts and nine months’ worth of blending to get dialed in. He blended a mixture of barrels including sherry, port, Madeira, white burgundy, and cabernet sauvignon.
The flavors are warming — with baking spice, cherry pie, cooked blackberries, cloves, honey, and black pepper, all wrapped up with notes of aromatic plums.
Average Price: $55.99
Redemption Rum Cask Finish Rye
Aaron Melendrez, bartender and marketing specialist for Flying Embers in Los Angeles
Redemption Rye Rum Cask Finish has a warm finish with the perfect amount of fruit, cinnamon, molasses, and vanilla. It’s sure you warm you up on the coldest winter evening.
Average Price: $41.99
Whistlepig 10-Year Rye
Christopher Wright, bartender at Don Camillo Tuscan Cuisine in Corinthe, Texas
n February, I really enjoy the subtle heat and spice that a rye whiskey tends to carry with it. That being said, Whistle Pig 10-year rye is of the top tier to enjoy this winter. It’s best sipped neat or on the rocks where the caramel notes can be appreciated, it also holds well in a black walnut Manhattan.
Average Price: $68.99
Rabbit Hole Dareringer Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Anastacio Garcia Liley, bartender at Axe and Oak Whiskey House in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Rabbit Hole Dareringer straight bourbon whiskey, finished in PX sherry casks. I had the ability to visit the distillery when I was in Kentucky and their products are fantastic, but this sherry cask truly became a sanctified marriage.
I can’t help but smile when I think of the flavors and how they fit the month of February.
Average Price: $78.99
Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
If you’re feeling a bit chilly, Four Roses Small Batch Select is the space heater for your soul. Rocking out at 104 proof, it drinks much more comfortably than it suggests. The nose is dark fruit and oak, the palate is leather, rich lumber, and riddled with flashes of vanilla and cherry. It’s full-bodied and finishes with just a touch of heat and barrel tannin.
Average Price: $59.99
Hibiki Japanese Harmony Whisky
Cristina Suarez, beverage manager at KUSH Hospitality Group in Miami
Hibiki Japanese Harmony Whisky has that cozy up in sweats feeling for me. I’d throw a little pour of this in a hot tea to relax by the fire. But it works just as well as a sipper with a single ice cube. Either way, you’ll be warm once that glass is empty.
Average Price: $79.99
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
Jennifer Jackson-Keating mixologist at Sneaky Tiki in Pensacola, Florida
Jack Daniels. Jack Daniels is America. It’s what we all snuck a sip of as a kid or smelled on our grandfather’s breath at family gatherings. It’s the most mixable whiskey on the market, you can find it in every liquor store guaranteed, and it is at an affordable price point for most people.
What flavors make it great? The wood and the charcoal. It goes down smooth with the hint of campfire from the charcoal finish. Nothing makes me warmer and want to slide my chair a little closer to the fire than the one and only Old Number 7- Jack Daniels.
Average Price: $16.99
Stephen Lasaten, food and beverage manager at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands
Bulleit Rye. With the hints of vanilla to balance out the spices and a clean finish, it’s definitely a go-to if I’m making a Hot Toddy.
Average Price: $37.79
Sagamore Spirit Calvados Finished Rye
Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in the Cayman Islands
The newest release from the new rye kids on the block in Baltimore, Sagamore has a calvados finished juice at a tickle over 100 proof that is redolent of the essence of winter.
Baked apple, toasted oak, and honeyed spice with a punchy finish made for dragging an old-fashioned sip on and on, or an aromatic toddy, or just sipping neat by a fireside.
Average Price: $71.99
Angel’s Envy Rye
Michele Gargiulo. Front of house manager and sommelier at Hampton’s Restaurant in Sumter, South Carolina
Angel’s Envy Rye. This is the winter drink of all winter drinks. It is finished in rum casks, which leave the rye not spicy as most, but warm and smooth. It smells like sugar cookies, maple syrup, and Christmas time on the nose. The flavor is outstanding, and I always need to remind myself that it is 100 proof while drinking it — to make sure I don’t overdo it.
This will always remain my winter whiskey.
Average Price: $81.99
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie
Andres Rairan, lead bartender at High Tide Beach Bar & Grill in Miami
The best way to warm up this winter is to grab yourself a nice Scotch and drink it up neat. Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie is perfect. This beautiful Scotch hits the spot in every way. The amazing sea salt like flavors with a hint of vanilla smoothness makes for a perfect drink by the campfire on a cold February’s eve.
Average Price: $54.99
Starward Nova Single Malt Australian Whisky
Mark Phelan, director of beverage operations at 16” on Center in Chicago
Starward Nova Single Malt Australian Whisky is a terrific winter sipper. It is a younger whisky but aged entirely in Australian red wine barrels. The result is a unique, lively sip with a rich, funky, tannic finish that warms and delights.
Average Price: $43.99
Rabbit Hole Founder’s Collection Boxergrail Rye
Jane Danger, national mixologist for Pernod-Ricard USA
Rabbit Hole’s Founder’s Collection Boxergrail is a great option with its high proof, enticing nuances, and rich texture. It is the perfect indulgence for all whiskey lovers this winter. The experience begins with citrus and spice, is heightened by bright floral notes, and develops to a creamy, vanilla finish with a hint of nuttiness.
I recommend serving neat or over ice, as this whiskey really sings on its own.
Average Price: $184.89
Stagg Jr. Bourbon
Sarah Rexwinkle, key bartender at The Grand Marlin in Pensacola, Florida
When it comes to finding a superior whiskey to warm you up on a cold winter’s night, I personally go with Stagg Jr. The high proof of this Kentucky straight bourbon will send warmth straight to your bones.
The rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors create a nice balance with the bold spices and smokiness.
Average Price: $89.99
Old Soul Bourbon
Todd Johnston, beverage director and sommelier at Marsh House in Nashville
Old Soul Bourbon from the Cathead Distillery had a limited release of a 15-year expression that I think is delicious. It has some of the same fruity brightness that you get from the entry-level Old Soul Bourbon but with a bit more oxidative spice and roundness to make it an easy slow-sipper.
For a simple winter warmer, I’d go with the classic Old Soul.
Average Price: $44.95
Bulleit 10-year Bourbon
Nathaniel Meyers, mixologist at Sear + Sea in Orlando
The best whiskey to warm you up this winter would be Bulleit 10-year bourbon. As one of my favorite bourbons, this whiskey has deep rich tones with just the right amount of burn when going down that is sure to give you that all-around warmth during even the coldest of winter nights.
Average Price: $37.99
Elijah Craig Rye
Allen Lancaster, master cocktail craftsman at The Bar at The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina
Easy selection right here — Elijah Craig Rye. Some of us don’t have an endless budget, so a modestly priced rye works wonderfully for the everyday sipper. What flavors make it great? Honey and baking spices combined with touches of complimentary white pepper, creating a round, soft mouthfeel.
Average Price: $24.99
James E. Pepper 1776 Rye
Ilan Chartor, head bartender at MILA in Miami
James E Pepper 1776 Rye Whiskey. It’s like a liquid dessert with tasting notes such as creme brulee and butter. The pepper isn’t just part of the name either. The high rye presence rounds out the sweetness with a nice spice that opens up really well with ice or water.
Average Price: $25.99
Redbreast Lustau Irish Whiskey
Joan Percival, bartender at Proof Whiskey and Craft Cocktails in Omaha
Don’t try to warm up with whiskey unless you’re already inside. But if the outside time is done, the Redbreast Lustau is like a great big whiskey hug. Absolutely lovely, rich, and warm on the palate.
The sherry finish on this one is exquisitely well integrated into the malt.
Average Price: $56.99
Oban 14 Year Old Scotch Whisky
Jerry Skakun, bartender at Cucina Enoteca in Newport Beach, California
I personally love a good single malt and to this day, hands down, one of my absolute go-to’s would have to be Oban 14-year. To me, it is very well balanced and offers all five flavor elements. — salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami. The salty and umami profile can be seen in notes of seaweed. The sweet element can be noticed with the choice of malts used and also dark dried fruit components. Bitter flavor profiles can be common in most whiskies towards the finish or on the nose. It also has a great story about two brothers who curated this beverage.
Anything with a story feels nice during this “gather ’round the fire” time of year.
Average Price: $64.99