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Bartenders Shout Out Bourbons Guests Ask For That Make Them Say ‘Good Pick’

In general, your neighborhood bartender likely isn’t spending a ton of time judging you and your alcohol preferences. They have more important things to do than wonder why you’d order a shot of Fireball. They have other patrons to worry about, drinks to mix, and various other jobs grabbing for their attention. But if you order a cocktail with a spirit they enjoy as the base or neat dram, there’s a chance they’ll say something like “great pick” or “good choice” and sometimes even mean it.

This is especially true when it comes to bourbon.

“Bourbon has such a range of flavors and textures, and introducing people to different profiles is one of my favorite things to do,” says Heather Buelna, head bartender at Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay in San Diego. “If people are ordering on their own, I always give a little nod to people that order things like Angel’s Envy, Four Roses Single Barrel, and Basil Hayden’s. Each represents a slightly more sophisticated profile of vanillas, spice, and sweetness and I always appreciate when people appreciate these offerings.”

This week, we asked a few well-known bartenders to tell us their pick for the one bourbon a guest ordered that made them say “good pick.” Keep scrolling to see them all.

Stagg Jr.

Stagg Jr.
Buffalo Trace

Daniel Yang, lead bartender at Electra Cocktail Club in Las Vegas

ABV: 60-65%

Average Price: $300

Why This Bourbon?

If someone orders Stagg Jr. at the bar, I know they mean business. Sitting at somewhere around 130 proof, depending on the batch, this uncut and unfiltered bourbon has some beautiful notes of cherry and rich chocolate with hints of spice. Definitely one that lingers on the palate a bit, this is a bourbon that’s not for the faint of heart.

Breckenridge Bourbon

Breckenridge Bourbon
Breckenridge

Evan Hosaka, lead bartender at The Dorsey Cocktail Bar in Las Vegas

ABV: 43%

Average Price: $43

Why This Bourbon?

Breckenridge Bourbon from Colorado is known as being the world’s highest distillery because of its altitude on the mountain. It is a high rye bourbon aged for three-plus years. You’ll notice flavors and aromas of butterscotch, apple, brown sugar, vanilla, and of course pepper and spice. Easy to drink neat or on the rocks, this bourbon clocks in at 43 percent ABV. This “good pick” with all its enjoyability will only set you back at about $40.

Weller Antique 107

Weller Antique 107
Buffalo Trace

Joshua Scheid, beverage manager at REX at The Royal in Philadelphia

ABV: 53.5%

Average Price: $200

Why This Bourbon?

I’m really digging Weller bourbon lately. It’s a wheated bourbon, which lends a slightly different kind of sweetness than you typically find in bourbons. If you’re going to order one, make it Weller Antique 107 with its notes of soft, sweet, fruity, and vanilla flavor.

Chicken Cock

Chicken Cock Bourbon
Chicken Cock

Amanda Phelps, beverage operations supervisor at Frannie & The Fox in Charleston, South Carolina

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $58

Why This Bourbon?

Chicken Cock is my pick. It’s an amazing bourbon, it’s smooth, well-crafted, and has the perfect balance of oak and vanilla.

Knob Creek 9

Knob Creek 9
Knob Creek

Kristan Arnold, bartender at Elgin Public House in Chicago

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $37

Why This Bourbon?

Knob Creek 9 is always a good pick in my book. It pairs well with cocktails and is great on its own. It has a subtle oaky flavor which I like to enhance with a solid smoking technique.

Garrison Brothers Small Batch

Garrison Brothers Small Batch
Garrison Brothers

Andrew Guerin, bartender at Bourbon O Bar at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in New Orleans

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $90

Why This Bourbon?

Every time I get an order for Garrison Brothers Small Batch, it just feels like the right call. The flavor notes have something for everyone. There is the sweetness from the white corn and red winter wheat, the right amount of heat from a 94 proof bottling, and perfect barrel flavors too.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve

Claire Sexton, bar manager at Kettner Exchange in San Diego

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $35

Why This Bourbon?

Woodford Reserve Bourbon is made by Master Distiller Chris Morris and rising whiskey superstar Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall. The whiskey is mellow, sweet, and perfect.

Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark
Maker’s Mark

Jurien Martijn, bartender at Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort in Willamstad, Curaçao

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $28

Why This Bourbon?

Maker’s Mark is my pick. Overall, it’s a very tasty and smooth bourbon. The caramel and vanilla notes make this bourbon perfect for a good old-school old fashioned.

Widow Jane 10

Widow Jane 10
Widow Jane

Subhash Sankar, head mixologist at Alaia Belize in San Pedro Town, Belize

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $80

Why This Bourbon?

Widow Jane meticulously sources its favorite bourbons from Kentucky. The distillery’s signature 10-year-old bourbon presents a nose of nutmeg, cream, vanilla, a dash of cinnamon, and a palate that flirts with maple syrup, almond, orange, and cherry. It’s straightforward, flavorful, not heavy-handed, and terrific neat.

Old Bardstown

Old Bardstown
Old Bardstown

Charles Bement, sommelier and beverage director of B. Hospitality in Chicago

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $20

Why This Bourbon?

This bourbon, produced by the Willett Distillery, teeters on that perfect balance of being a sipping whiskey and a mixing whiskey. It has a great body that gives it that heft to power through in a cocktail but enough complexity to stand on its own as a sipping bourbon.

Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden
Jim Beam

Aaron Ramirez, lead bartender at Mr. C Beverly Hills in Los Angeles

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $55

Why This Bourbon?

Guests who order Basil Hayden always makes me say “good choice.” These people know that a good bourbon does not have to be an expensive one. Its exceptional smooth finish and the vanilla accents makes this bourbon a “good pick.”

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 25

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 25
Orphan Barrel

Christopher Devern, lead bartender at Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $511

Why This Bourbon?

Orphan Barrel Rhetoric 25 is a special bourbon on our back bar at the Red Owl. I sell a few pours a year. It is pricy but it is a 25-year-old bourbon. Tasting notes include cacao, cinnamon, nutmeg, toasted oak, vanilla, and a savory long finish.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
Buffalo Trace

Samantha Seltzer, beverage and service manager at Royal Boucherie in Philadelphia

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $24

Why This Bourbon?

Buffalo Trace is a great pick. You cannot find a better bourbon for the price point. It mixes beautifully in a cocktail and sips like a dream neat or with a cube.

Four Roses Small Batch

Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses

Annie Pierce, bartender and co-owner of Law Bird Bar in Columbus, Ohio

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $30

Why This Bourbon?

Four Roses Small Batch isn’t the sexiest bottle, but damn if it isn’t delicious on its own or in any type of cocktail. It’s definitely a bang for your buck bourbon.

Michter’s US-1 Small Batch Bourbon

Michter’s US-1
Michter

Rob Krueger, bartender at Bar CHRYSTIE in New York City

ABV: 45.7%

Average Price: $48

Why This Bourbon?

There are many great everyday bourbons, but Michter’s US-1 is a standout for me, and ordering it is a marker of an educated drinker. It’s got a little more oomph at 91.4 proof so it holds up over ice. It has a caramel sweetness and rich stone fruit flavors balanced with vanilla and oak. It’s smooth and plump and just delicious. It tastes like the barrel didn’t just age it but loved it and cared for it.

Lost Republic

Lost Republic
Lost Republic

Ron Manlapid, bartender and mixologist at Menlo Tavern in Menlo Park, California

ABV: 45.5%

Average Price: $34

Why This Bourbon?

Lost Republic is my pick. This straight bourbon whiskey is a Northern California local and is not well known outside of our area. Guests love discovering the maple and cinnamon notes on this hidden gem of a bourbon.

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