Gallery: Ask a Bartender: What Liquor Should More People Know?

White Whiskey
White Whiskey
"White whiskey. It's under-the-radar right now, but I think we'll see more of it in the next few years. White whiskey has a natural sweetness but lacks the smokiness of barrel-aged brown whiskeys. It's a great alternative if you're tired of using vodka as your go-to neutral spirit."— Chad Musick (Sip)
Chartreuse
Chartreuse
"Chartreuse. It’s usually served as a digestif, but more recently has been popularized as the 'shot of choice' in the cocktail community. Still, it is esoteric. This closely guarded recipe is made up of 130 ingredients like various herbs, plants, and flowers with medicinal properties. Everything is natural. What could be cooler and more mysterious than some monks in the French Alps crafting up an herbal spirit, that has made its way to the forefront of bars the world over? It's also deemed the 'Elixir of Long Life.' I prefer green."— Saan Saelee (Marble Lane at Dream Downtown)
Pisco
Pisco
"I would have said Mezcal even a year ago, but now luckily more people are getting in the know. Now, I think Pisco. It's delicious, varies just like a wine depending on where the grapes are grown, can be aged or not aged and is, again, delicious." — Ivy Mix (co-founder, Speed Rack; Clover Club)
Armagnac
Armagnac
"Armagnac. I feel a lot of people only know about Cognac these days and Armagnac doesn't get the credit it deserves. There's some great stuff out there from Darroze right now. They do a lot of single village bottling with amazing flavor profiles. Think of it as a private bottling from a Scotch producer, like Gordon & Macphail, but these guys use grapes instead...." — Brian Means (Fifth Floor)
Lillet Blanc
Lillet Blanc
"Lillet Blanc. Maybe industry people know about it, but the general public should too! It is what makes a Vesper, and a crucial part in a Corpse Reviver II. Its delicate orange lends itself to so many cocktails, adding that little somethin’ special. It is also wonderful on its own, a cocktail in itself, if you will." — Kirsten Schopen (The Broadmoor )
Aquavit
Aquavit
"Aquavit. It is caraway, so it makes gorgeous, savory, bready cocktails. "— Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)
Genever
Genever
"I am a huge fan of Genever (or Hollands Gin). Genever is the maltier grandfather of gin. A good genever tastes like the beautiful child of whiskey and gin. Try it in your basic old fashioned preparation (sugar +bitters+spirit+ice). Outta sight!"— Phoebe Esmon (Emmanuelle in Northern Liberties)
Mezcal
Mezcal
"Do you mean 'most people?' or 'most people that read Serious Eats?' Baijiu is a fascinating but hard-to-acquire-a-taste-for white spirit from China, distilled from funky sorghum. Tastes kind of like a rotting shark. That’s still biting your leg. But I’d say most people already know about it since China is one of the most populous countries on the planet. Mezcal, as well, deserves more attention, as it is history and culture and medicine and magic all wrapped up in a lovely smoky, earthy package."— Mike Ryan (Sable)
Royal Combier
Royal Combier
"I think that Royal Combier is possibly one of the best things in the world, and prefer it over all other orange things. Everything from a corpse reviver #2 to a margarita tastes better. We have replaced our triple sec with it. It's the little things that are the difference between barely passable and amazing."— Jan Henrichsen (Found)
Fair Trade Cafe Liqueur
Fair Trade Cafe Liqueur
"Fair Trade cafe liqueur. The winter months may be winding down, but if you mix this in with a little espresso, vodka, and Bailey's Irish creme, it makes for a great after dinner drink. And because it's Fair Trade, not only are you getting a great product, but you're helping local farmers around the world." — Jesse Anholt (Wallsé)
Batavia Arrack
Batavia Arrack
"I would have to go with Batavia Arrack for lesser-known spirits; it's a distillate made from sugarcane and red rice that used to be a foundation spirit for punches. It's got a higher proof, so it's great for mixing, plus I really like the aromatics it adds to cocktails. Banks rum uses it as one of the 5 rums in their blend."— Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)
Green Chartreuse
Green Chartreuse
"Green Chartreuse...It's a herbaceous liqueur made from plant material by Chartreussian monks. It, along with its sister, yellow chartreuse is named for the monks who make it. The green version is a 110 proof digestif liqueur that tastes like the fennel flavored candy you'd get when you finish your meal at an Indian restaurant. It's great in cocktails and makes you giggle if you sip it neat."— Sam Babalola (Pican)
Zwack
Zwack
"Zwack, a Hungarian liquor." — Lauren Festa (FT33)
Good Rum
Good Rum
"Good rum. It's by far the most versatile spirit out there and there's so many good ones that people have never had. Bacardi, blah!" — George Costa (Pub & Kitchen)
Sherry
Sherry
"I think sherry is a great modifer for cocktails and very complex. Few people know more about it than thinking of cream sherry or something your grandma may have liked." — Lynnette Marrero (co-founder, Speed Rack; DrinksAt6)
German Gose Style Beer
German Gose Style Beer
"I'm much more of a beer man, and the most overlooked style is the German Gose. This tart salty weiss from Leipzig is quenching and complex, while usually registering in the 4% range of ABV, meaning you can drink it all the way through that balmy Sunday doubleheader." — Dan Bronson (The Strand Smokehouse & Crescent & Vine)
Carpano Antica Formula
Carpano Antica Formula
"Carpano Antica Formula. It is a phenomenal Italian sweet vermouth that adds real character to any cocktail that calls for such a spirit. It is great to just sip on the rocks or soda water, with an orange wheel." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)
Cachaca
Cachaca
"In my opinion Cachaca is the one spirit that a lot of people don't know or have a lot of information about. Cachaca is a distilled spirit from Brazil. It's often associated with rum but the difference is that it is made direct from sugar cane juice whereas most rums use molasses as well. If light rum and tequila had a baby, Cachaca would be it. In Brazil each region has its own version of the cachaca and they have aged ones too, smoother in taste and gold in color compared to the clear color of the regular one." — Miri Kolici (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)
Mezcal
Mezcal
"Mezcal. It's making a huge push and growth in the industry now. It's got a way of being refreshing, but also comforting." —Kevin Diedrich (Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen)
Pisco
Pisco
"Pisco! It was 80% of what people drank from South America all the way up to Canada until about 1910. Bourbon is a product of the Civil War but there was no railroad system and no Panama Canal to transport rye whiskey from the Northeast across the country. Pisco and Mezcal became the go-to choices on the West Coast." — Carlos Yturria (E&O Asian Kitchen)
Armagnac
Armagnac
"Armagnac." — John Cummins (The Dawson Lounge)
Pisco
Pisco
"Pisco. Value-priced Peruvian Pisco is already worth the money, but the category contains many styles and the quality and variation as you approach the smallest batches is staggering. Well worth getting into." — Christian Gaal ( Emmanuelle in Northern Liberties )
Sorel
Sorel
"Sorel! It's an awesome blend of cane sugar, hibiscus and spices. One of my favorites!" — Chris James (The Ryland Inn)
Mezcal
Mezcal
"I believe mezcal is a wonderful spirit that gets a bad rap. Its smoky taste can rival that of a nice scotch. By itself it is enjoyable but is also complemented by a nice citrus or heat from a chili pepper. Mezcal is said to be an acquired taste but it really can be an enjoyable new experience with complex flavor. Some believe it can control hypertension and diabetes, and can even act as an aphrodisiac. 'So.... Barkeep! I'll take two shots!'" — Courtney Tietze (Salinas)
Redbreast Irish Whiskey
Redbreast Irish Whiskey
"Redbreast Irish whiskey. The 12 year is awesome and the price is within reach of the average consumer." — Sarah Mengoni (South Water Kitchen)
Strega
Strega
"Strega. It’s an Italian herbal liqueur with a yellow color. It has a presence of saffron and a slightly sweet, bold, complex flavor with a touch of mint. It’s considered a digestif, but you can pair it with a lot of different ingredients. I think it is very refreshing after a long day of work or a relaxing day off. A must try!" — Thomas Stein (Arlington Club)
Amaris
Amaris
"I would love to see more people embracing an aperitif/digestif culture. If I had to pick a category I'd say Amaris." — Dan Andruss (312 Chicago)
Pisco
Pisco
"Pisco. It’s just awesome."— Brandon Toborg (Saltbox)