The Ardbeg Smoky Malt Cocktail Challenge sought recipes from all over the country, searching for original cocktails from bartenders skilled in balancing ‘the peaty paradox’. Seven recipes were chosen, and while the winning bartenders enjoy their prize of an immersive educational trip to Scotland, you can enjoy the cocktails that got them there. These are the recipes for the best smoky cocktails in the country—and where to find the bartenders behind them.
Bonfire Banana Alexander by Michael Huebner
The Revival Café-Bar is is a respite from the hustle of Downtown Chicago, as well as the home to Michael Huebner’s delectable cocktails. You can pair your drink with the mouthwatering selections at the chef-driven bakery.
Winning smoky cocktail: Michael Huebner’s Bonfire Banana Alexander made with Ardbeg Ten Years Old, Giffard Banane du Bresil, cold-brew coffee, Averna, orgeat, chocolate bitters, heavy whipping cream, topped with fresh grated wild tonka bean.
Ten Year Lifted Flip by Brian McCullough
The Standard Pour in Dallas seamlessly blends comfort and class. The kitchen turns out upscale versions of familiar favorites, and the bar, featuring the talented Brian McCullough, offers some of the most elegant cocktails in Texas.
Winning smoky cocktail: Brian McCullough’s The Ten Year Lifted Flip made with Ardbeg Ten Years Old, burnt-sugar syrup, amontillado sherry, mineral water, a whole egg, topped with grated chocolate.
Burning Meadow by Sarah Sarony Rith
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is a beacon of luxury and refinement on the Las Vegas strip. And the cocktails, especially the ones made by Sarah Sarony Rith, are a sure winner. You might find yourself spending more time at the bar than the tables.
Winning smoky cocktail: Sarah Sarony Rith’s The Burning Meadow made with Ardbeg Ten Years Old, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Himalayan honey pepper, coconut water, lemon and lime juice.
Talking Backwards by Brittney Olsen
Breakroom 86 features VHS tapes as drink menus, a wall of cassettes and four rooms for karaoke. But don’t let the vintage accoutrements distract you. The delicious and innovative cocktails from Brittney Olsen are the biggest draw at this hip Los Angeles bar.
Winning smoky cocktail: Brittney Olsen’s Talking Backwards made with Ardbeg Ten Years Old, chamomile-infused Chilean pisco, fresh lemon juice, blueberry-honey syrup, peach liqueur and egg white.
Cailleach’s Bath Collins by Ben Rojo
It may be hard to find the entrance to Angel’s Share, a speakeasy-style bar in New York. But given the exotic cocktails Ben Rojo and the other bartenders are serving—not to mention the chic décor—it’s well worth the search.
Winning smoky cocktail: Ben Rojo’s Cailleach’s Bath Collins made with Ardbeg Corryvreckan, fennel-seed syrup, fresh lemon juice, puréed preserved lemon and soda water.
Scottish Breakfast by Jessi Lorraine
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar is an institution in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood. It’s the only spot that can claim delectable French- and Northern Italian–influenced fare, a can’t miss brunch and creative cocktails from Jessi Lorraine.
Winning smoky cocktail: Jessi Lorraine’s Scottish Breakfast Cocktail made with Ardbeg Ten Years Old, spiced blood orange liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice, apple butter and chocolate bitters.
The Outlaws by David Bernhardt
Expect incredible creativity in both the food and cocktail menu at Left Door in Washington, D.C. There’s a delightful parlor where you can enjoy bar bites and a handcrafted cocktail from singular talents, such as David Bernhardt.
Winning smoky cocktail: David Bernhardt’s The Outlaws made with Ardbeg Ten Years Old, fresh lime juice, Cocchi Americano, apricot liqueur and mole bitters.