Bartenders spend much of their lives surrounded by amazing bottles of whiskey. And sampling the various expressions that get released is a fairly big part of the job. So it’s safe to say that they know a thing or two about what makes up a great dram.
Meaning that when they treat someone to a bottle, it’s likely to be good. Even more so when they’re giving it to fellow bartenders, who have similarly discerning palates.
In that vein, we wondered what bottles of whiskey bartenders give to their friends and co-workers. What do they share with those in the field? So we asked a handful of bartenders to tell us the bottles of Scotch, bourbon, rye, and other whiskeys they’re most likely to offer fellow bartenders as a gift.
Benjamin Pozar, bartender at Fogo de Chao in Philadelphia
Most bartenders have tasted all the whiskies that grace their shelves. I’d get something single barrel. Booker’s would be a great option if they are a regular whiskey drinker who can appreciate cask strength.
Average Price: $100
Teeling Blackpitts Irish Whiskey
Gabriel Urrutia, USBG bartender in Miami
I would gift the new Teeling Blackpitts. A smoky Irish whiskey that is bold yet delicate, with a nice sweet smoky kick.
Average Price: $86
Noah’s Mill Bourbon
Andy Printy, beverage director at Chao Baan in St. Louis
When gifting for other bartenders, I like to keep it simple and classic. Noah’s Mill from Willett is reasonably priced and almost universally enjoyed. It starts with abundant heat and dank lumber but eases into softer notes of dark fruit, toffee, and oak.
The finish is bold but in the friendliest way.
Average Price: $53.99
Town Branch Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Mari Kodama, general manager at The Breakwater Restaurant in Stonington, Connecticut
Town Branch Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The second round of aging in new white oak barrels adds a deep oakiness to the bourbon, lending it a complexity that shines in craft cocktails.
Average Price: $43.99
Old Crow Bourbon
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Old Crow. Cut the cost and pour the drinks. It’s a cheap, classic, bourbon perfect to hoist with your fellow bartenders.
Average Price: $10
Aberfeldy 12 Single Malt Scotch
Charles Hardwick, former bartender at The Aviary in New York City
Aberfeldy 12. It’s a wonderfully balanced whisky which makes a wonderful highball but it’s also assertive enough to work well in a Rob Roy or even neat with a medium-to-full bodied cigar. Gift a bartender a bottle of this and it’ll become a staple in their liquor cabinets.
Average Price: $43.99
St. George Breaking & Entering Whiskey
Denise Padin’ Cuevas, bartender at Siro Urban Italian Kitchen in Orlando
Breaking & Entering by St. George (if you can find it). It is discontinued, but it has the flavors of banana nut bread and is delicious with just a few ice cubes.
Average Price: $32.99
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
Anthony Aviles, general manager at Jack Dusty in Sarasota, Florida
Elijah Craig Small Batch is an excellent bourbon that is relatively versatile while also remaining a fantastic sipping whiskey. Notes of caramel and spice mixed with some depth from the charred barrels used during aging create a well-rounded spirit that most bartenders would enjoy.
Average Price: $29.99
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
Daniel Burns, bartender at Elixir in San Francisco
Four Roses has a great barrel program and at Elixir we have quite a few of our own picks. I’d gift a bottle of our private barrel of Four Roses Single Barrel, because you can’t find it anywhere else. This particular bourbon celebrates their high rye mash bill and a more floral yeast strain. Together those elements combine to create a robust, spicy, and floral bourbon that anyone would be stoked to be given.
Average Price: $49.99
Mars IWAI 45 Japanese Whiskey
Chris Zulueta, bartender at Sylvain in New Orleans
I’d go with the Mars IWAI 45 Japanese Whiskey. It’s a good alternative to bourbon and showcases more of a profile familiar to the American palate of whiskeys. The proof is great for mixing as well!
We bartenders need higher strength distillates to have shoulders to build cocktails on.
Average Price: $34.99
WhistlePig 10-Year-Old Rye
Israel Meléndez Ayala, bartender in San Juan, Puerto Rico
My fiancée gifted me a wonderful Whistlepig Single batch Rye 10. Allspice, orange peel, anise, oak, char, and caramel in the nose with the taste of caramel, vanilla, followed by rye spice and mint, finishing with warm butterscotch and caramel.
Perfect for sipping on the rocks while chatting on the patio with bartending friends or in my favorite cocktail, the Boulevardier.
Average Price: $74.99
Aaron Polsky, founder of LiveWire Drinks in Los Angeles
Hakushu 12. It’s my all-time favorite for its light smoke and balanced maltiness, and it’s become pretty hard to come by, so it would definitely make a bartender happy.
Average Price: $200
Willett Family Estate 4-Year-Old Rye
Tim Wiggins, co-owner and beverage director of Lazy Tiger in St. Louis
Willett 4-Year-Old Rye Whiskey. It is super spicy and dry with a long warm finish but is just sweet enough to be very drinkable. It’s my go-to and not often found in my parts of town.
Average Price: $49.99
Talisker 10 Single Malt Scotch
Isaac Rice, lead bartender at Urban Farmer in Philadelphia
Talisker 10… if I really like the bartender. It’s my ideal bottle of Scotch. It’s the perfect middle ground of Islay peat and smoke, balanced together and not drowning out the other fantastic scotch flavors of malted barley, pepper, and orchard fruit.
Average Price: $66.99