Serious Eats: Drinks
Ask a Bartender: What's Your Favorite Whiskey?
Perhaps the best thing about whisk(e)y is its diversity; between ryes and bourbons, Scotches and more, there's an enormous range of the brown spirits. We asked bartenders from around the country: What's your favorite whiskey, and how do you drink it? Here's what they had to say.
"I like to end the day with Blanton's Single Barrel with a touch of water." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)
"Right now, I have a bit of a thing for Dickel Rye. It's spicy, but sweet and has some great citrus notes. My old standby, however, is always Lagavulin, neat. In the fall and winter, the big toothy smoke and briny quality of it remind me of hanging by the fireplace, watching the snow fall. Definitely a seasonal spirit." — John Henderson (Scholars, Tavern Road)
"I always keep a bottle of Rittenhouse Bonded Rye in my home bar. Straight or in a cocktail, it sets me straight after a long night of slinging drinks." — Beau du Bois (The Corner Door)
"I am a whiskey lover. All kinds. American, Canadian, Japanese, Scottish, Irish. They all have a place where they fit on my shelf. Currently I am obsessed with rye. I love the spice notes that it gives and nothing is better in a cocktail." — Pablo Kovacs (Tin Roof Bistro)
"I try to switch it up, but I guess there are always those I fall back on. Blanton's is a sure bet for a smooth and very palatable Single Barrel Bourbon. I have been on a rye kick recently though and have found great solace in Willett 6-year single barrel rye—super smooth but still delivering that rye bite you hope for. Tasty. Definitely best unadulterated." — George Reilly (The Twisted Tail)
"I recently tasted 'Triple Smoke' from Corsair in Nashville, and it's now my new favorite. The guys at Corsair use three batches of malt ranging from smoking peat to cherry wood. Whereas a lot of whiskeys to me taste pretty two-dimensional, Triple Smoke has some really cool layers of taste and smell. While I enjoyed it served neat, I can imagine this spirit used in a properly executed Old Fashioned or even something simple like a Gold Rush." — Kenneth Gray (Fishing With Dynamite)
"One of my favorites is still Laphroaig 10 year. Peaty, smoky and easily sipped with a Perrier accompaniment." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)
"Definitely FEW rye or bourbon, I love it because it's great quality, plus it's local so I want to support that. If I don't make a cocktail with it, I drink it neat." — Ergys Dizdari (Filini Bar and Restaurant)
"My favorite whiskey is Baker's. It's so versatile. It is excellent in classic cocktail recipes, has a good flavor for creating new cocktails in any style, and a high enough proof to be enjoyed straight or on the rocks. I love making an Old Fashioned or Boulevardier cocktail with it." — Chris Hopkins (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)
"For everyday whiskey consumption (sorry, Mom), I prefer Rittenhouse 100. It's great on its own or with a little water or ice. But it really shines when put into cocktails. Because it is overproof, it stays relatively viscous when put into stirred drinks. When shaken, its signature spiciness is always sure to peek through. The quintessential rye, in my opinion. Plus, it's a great value." — Keith Kenji Cochran (The Narrows,, King Noodle)
"Rittenhouse Rye! My friend taught me a cocktail with it the first shift I worked in NYC, called 'Tylenol'—2-3oz rye with a very, very heavy hand of Angostura bitters. I was very hung over and asked him why was it called a 'Tylenol'; he said, because it makes you feel better." — Kevin Peters (Bathtub Gin)
"With his recent passing, I've fallen in love with the Elmer T Lee single barrel all over again. It's both spicy and sweet at once. Plus, it's from Buffalo Trace. How can you go wrong drinking it neat?" — Jeff Faile (Fiola)
"My favorite whiskey is John B. Stetson bourbon. It's got a great body and character and gives the right amount of burn, which I believe is needed in a good whiskey. I drink it neat, with a nice amber ale to accompany it." — Jason Lam (Sens)
"My favorite whiskey is the one that you have just put before me. If I have my way, I'll lean towards the Heaven Hill family of spirits or Bulleit." — Elizabeth Powell (Liberty Bar)
"That's like asking if I have a favorite child. Fortunately, I don't have kids. If I had to say, it would be Pappy Van Winkle 15 yr Family Reserve Whiskey. It's bottled closest to barrel proof, at 107 resulting in big bold flavors and a strong backbone. The nose is honeyed, leading into a full bodied myriad of flavors: cinnamon, clove, and caramel. The question would be, "How don't I drink it?' I love building drinks with it, as it holds the integrity and backbone with its proof, but I would never say no to a dram over an ice sphere." — Mariena Mercer (The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas)
"I love whisky, and there are so many amazing productions that should be listed here; however, I have a serious nostalgia for the amazing life choices I have made after consuming copious amounts of Jameson." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)
"Auchentoshan, 18 year old. I love that it's a lighter style scotch with a great earthy and herbaceous quality, from the lowlands of Scotland. I usually drink it neat, but sometimes (and I can feel the cringe here) it makes for a great cocktail—like a julep or a smash. Which of course end up costing around $30." — Dave Kupchinsky (The Eveleigh)
"I really enjoy Elmer T Lee from Buffalo Trace. It's nice neat, over ice, and to mix." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)
"I think most of us have a favorite to mix with, and a favorite to sip on. For me, it's stirring a cocktail with Rittenhouse Bonded, and sipping on a glass of Islay scotch with a few drops of water. I have Ardbeg 10 on my shelf at the moment." — Vincent Stipo (Vernick Food & Drink)
"If I had to pick just one it would probably have to be Blanton's. There are a lot of great whiskeys that are nearly impossible to get your hands on, taking into consideration that Blanton's is both delicious and readily available year-round makes it one of my favorite whiskeys. I drink it neat." — Ben Anderson (The Corner Office Restaurant)
"Right now I have been pouring and drinking a lot of High West Whiskey. It's a craft distiller out of Utah. They make an amazing blended whiskey out of bourbon, rye, and Scotch called Campfire. It makes an incredible Manhattan." — Anthony Bohlinger (Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE)
What About Yours?
Do you agree with these bartenders? Got a favorite whiskey for cocktails or sipping straight? Tell us which one in the comments below.