The Basics Drinking Out

Try the Best Smoky Cocktails from New York Bartenders

New York bartenders recently shared their finest recipes in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge, sponsored by Ardbeg. Ben Rojo of Angel’s Share ultimately won, earning a trip to Scotland for his subtle and smoky masterpiece, Cailleach’s Bath Collins. He won’t be the only one to benefit from the competition, though. You, for instance, can check out the best recipes submitted, including Rojo’s, and explore the New York bars where these talented, innovative bartenders work. But before you head out to see what else they’re mixing up, find the smoky cocktail that speaks to you.

Amor y Amargo

Bitters steal the show at this intimate bar. Every item on the extensive cocktail menu is meant to showcase a stunning variety of bitters—all made in-house and available for purchase. This focus has given Sother Teague quite the reputation, as did the stellar recipe he submitted to the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge, the Camping in Manhattan.


The name is more than a reference to the records played here. This cozy, sophisticated bar is an oasis from the digital onslaught—somewhere where you can enjoy handcrafted cocktails and intimate conversations. It also boasts three featured bartenders in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge: Isaac Berger, Edward Stillwagon and Carter Wilsford.

Angel’s Share

It would be a lot easier to keep this speakeasy-style bar a secret if it weren’t for the long lines. The perfectly constructed cocktails from Ben Rojo are well worth the wait. His Cailleach’s Bath Collins was featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge, and every one of his recipes delights in a different way.


Expect high-quality Mediterranean staples and warm, inviting service at this cozy restaurant. One of the people bringing the hospitality is bartender David Roth, who was featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge. His recipe, the Port Ellen Smoked Cobbler, is just one example of his innovative approach behind the bar.

Crimson & Rye

There’s no bad time to settle into a leather booth at this elegant Midtown hangout. It’s perfect for post-work cocktails or a late-night snack. Although the best time to arrive is whenever McSon Salicetti is pouring drinks. He turned a lot of heads with his Islay’s Smoky Ambrosia after he submitted it in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge.


This new American public house lives up to that description. It has communal seating to promote lively conversation and the décor and drinks to make the concept feel fresh. Enjoy cocktails from Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge featured bartender Meghan Kelleher. Cocktails like her subtle masterpiece, the Tuesday’s Child, make this bar a destination.


It didn’t become one of the most celebrated Indian restaurants in New York by going through the motions. Every aspect of this luxury eatery is considered, from the service to the lighting to the cocktails. Hemant Pathak is pouring drinks that match the quality of his Jon Snow, a rich and complex miracle featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge.


Seasonal, local and market-driven are more than just buzzwords at this contemporary French-American restaurant. It also boasts a dynamic and unique cocktail program, which includes signature recipes from Nelson Lemus. The creativity that went into his Islay Smash, a standout in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge, goes into everything he pours.

Little Branch

It’s easy to feel like you’re going back in time when you descend the stairs of this speakeasy-style bar. Everything from the live music to the considered décor seems to belong to a more refined era. That includes the cocktails from bartender Courtney McKamey, who just finished wowing judges in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge with her Heather & Peat cocktail.

This Williamsburg spot shouldn’t be judged strictly by its name. It serves some of the best cocktails in the city, alongside some truly innovative, comforting bites. The renovated factory building is also where you’ll find bartender Christopher Bedmead, fresh off being featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge for his elegant Yella Vest Old Fashioned. -->

Sweet Polly

The house cocktail list at this chic Brooklyn outpost is as playful as it is extensive, chock-full of favorites like the Pet Ocelot and #Instagramodel. What else would you expect from the home bar of Laura Newman? Her surprising and smoky marvel, the Port Ellen Swizzle, delighted the judges in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge.

Until Tomorrow

You don’t want to put off going to this quirky cocktail bar. The offbeat recipes utilize ingredients more common in dishes than cocktails. All of the surprises are positive, thanks to bartender Robert Giles. The menu is a testament to his creativity, much like his masterpiece featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge, the Mariner’s Revenge.

Vintry Wine and Whiskey

Wine and whiskey have more in common than you might think. The cocktail program and wine list at this downtown fixture make that clear by emphasizing the artisanal legacy of both liquids. Bartender Taylor Merrill brings it all to thrilling life, showing the same skill and panache that got Merrill’s creation, the Glasgow Fix, featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge.


The design, music and attitude at this bar draw heavy inspiration from the ’70s. The cocktails, however, are setting trends in the industry. It all adds up to cutting-edge drinks in a charming and retro environment. Plus, you know you’re in for a treat when Gareth Howles, featured in the Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge for his Crème Brûlée Cream Scotch & Soda, is behind the bar.