Ask a Bartender: Are There Any Flavored Spirits You Use?

Ask a Bartender

You ask, they answer.


Josh Berner of Zentan in Washington, DC

At Serious Drinks, we see more flavored spirits than you could possibly imagine. Green tea vodka. Cinnamon-roll vodka. We'd just about always prefer a fresh infusion to a bottled concoction, but we're always looking for a diamond in the rough. So we asked a number of bartenders: Are there any flavored spirits that you actually use?

Here's what they had to say.

Ray Anguiano of Atwood Cafe in Chicago

"Dewar's Honey. It's great for a quick and instant hot toddy—just add hot water and lemon juice." — Ray Anguiano (Atwood Café)

"Often spirits are flavored with chemicals, and I usually I try to stay away from them. Deep Eddy, however, makes a sweet-tea vodka that is out of this world. Just smelling it, you can tell it's been infused with tea. And sweetened with honey, not sugar. Don't need to do anything to it except pour it over ice!" — Josh Berner (Zentan)

"I've recently been passionately into Santa Teresa's Araku. It's made with Santa Teresa Rum, estate-grown sugar, and estate-ground coffee. The flavor is pure and really concentrated. I love to pour it in my coffee or over ice cream." — Gianni Cionchi (FishTag)

"I did once do a drink with whipped cream vodka for shits and giggles. It was a fizz with the whipped cream vodka, lemon, raspberry syrup, egg white and soda. It tasted like bubble gum, so we called it Bubblegum Pop. I think Andy Warhol would've liked the homage." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

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Pablo "Papi" Hurtado from The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia

"Stoli Vanilla is one of my favorites to use with citrus- and pineapple juice-based cocktails." — Pablo "Papi" Hurtado (The Rittenhouse)

"Hangar One's Kaffir Lime, for gimlets or ginger limeade." — Jaime Pait (E&O Asian Kitchen)

"The best flavored spirit that I've come across this year is Chareau. It's an aloe vera liquor with fresh botanicals, fruits, and herbs, distilled up in Alameda, CA. Kurt Charron is the wizard behind this gem. It's great on its own with a couple of cubes, or in a simple rickey or gimlet with some gin. It's also absolutely amazing with pisco." — Chris Amirault (The Eveleigh)

"Right now, we are really excited about a cocoa rum liqueur called Cacao Prieto, which is distilled in Brooklyn. It brings a magnificent cocoa aroma and opulent rum flavor to cocktails." — Juan Coronado (The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach)

"Embarrassingly, I like a sriracha vodka that's coming out. (You're not printing this, right?)" — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

Just a Hot Tea, Thanks

Daniel Bronson of The Strand Smokehouse and Crescent & Vine in Queens

"I always prefer to make infusions myself, but Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey straight on top of pancakes is a pretty good way to wreck a Sunday." — Dan Bronson (The Strand Smokehouse & Crescent & Vine)

"We have a very tongue-in-cheek, fun Jell-O shot program at Play, and I'm open to just about anything, when it comes to ingredients for them. That being said, I don't stock any flavored spirits on my bar." — Jim Kearns (PLAY)

"I prefer infusions to flavors as you get a cleaner, more genuine flavor, but I always keep an open mind. I find Hangar One's flavors to be more 'scented' than flavored and that is refreshing." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"Fireball is a new, cinnamon-flavored whisky that is really hot and a lot of bars have it stocked because the demand for it is huge. At Upstairs, we tend to just serve it as a straight drink or at customers' specific requests. However, I think mixed drinks will soon follow in a variation of twists on current cocktails like whiskey and ginger, Coke, etc." — Miri Kolici (Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel)

What are your favorites, when it comes to flavored spirits?

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