You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.
Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.
“Brandy harkens to a simpler time, and there's no way to fake or speed up a true V.S. cognac. Delamain is delicate and clean. Notes of apricot, fig, honey and green fennel are all there. Delamain stands in equally well as an apéritif, while family gathers in the kitchen around a plate of cheese, and as a digestif after a big meal before a roaring fire. There's something generous and classic about giving a friend a bottle of cognac. It's almost like a secret, a wink between conspirators, an acknowledgement that not everyone has a bottle of good brandy to tuck into when the temperatures drop.”—Greg Best, co-owner and bartender at Atlanta's Ticonderoga Club
“This is for those who want a bigger, bolder and more expressive cognac with nothing added to it.”—Franky Marshall, beverage director at New York City's Le Boudoir
“This cognac hailing from the Grande Champagne region packs a lot of power. It shows its rancio off in the form of well-developed tropical fruit notes and spice, and the finish just keeps going.”—Thorn
“The region requires that for 30 percent pears are added to its calvados, and there are few better examples of how brilliantly pears can feature in distillate than products from the Lemorton family. Neat or mixed into cocktails with a restrained touch, this product stands resolute, elegant and proud.”—Peder Schweigert, general manager at Minneapolis' Marvel Bar
“Aged between 10 and 25 years with a high Borderies eau-de-vie, you’ll find notes of sweet spice, ginger, roasted cocoa, plums, apples, cinnamon, honey, orange tree flower and toasted almonds. It’s complex yet smooth flavor gives it an elegant characteristic that’s truly enjoyable.”—Kang
“Park cognac as an entire cognac house is beautiful and relatively unknown. Its Borderies label is one of my favorites. Impress your friends with your nuanced grasp of cognac (even if you just googled it after you bought it) by giving this gift.”—Jonathan Shock, head bartender at Detroit’s Prime + Proper
“This balanced yet complex cognac has notes of honey, saffron, gingerbread, vanilla and cranberry. It is full of flavor, with a long finish, and goes great with a cigar. It’s simply great to have in your hand on a cold winter night.”—Kang
“Legally a brandy, this spirit from Bolivia is like no other. With notes of orange blossom, it makes a beautiful sour.”—Willy