The world is awash in whiskey. From Canada to Kentucky, Ireland to India, more cities and countries than ever before are pumping out top-quality brown, leaving bartenders faced with a challenge: how to turn a river of good hooch into an arsenal of great cocktails. Lucky for us, they’re up to the task. These are the 11 bars and restaurants mixing outstanding whiskey drinks you need to try now.
Can't make it out to any of the bars serving these great whiskey drinks? Try making the Izak from this list at home.
August 1 Five is a San Francisco destination restaurant for inspired modern Indian cuisine from chef Manish Tyagi. The cocktails are playful, often utilizing Indian ingredients, so it would be easy to overlook the Glamping for one of the more exotic-sounding concoctions. It’s blessedly dry, despite being made with graham-cracker-infused bourbon, cocoa nibs and toasted marshmallow. The boozy, lush cocktail is served in a Glencairn whisky glass with the marshmallow torched tableside.
Husband-and-wife team Chris and Laura McMillian run the welcoming Revel in NOLA’s Mid-City, offering comforting food and pitch-perfect classics like the Absinthe Suissesse and arguably the best Ramos Gin Fizz in the world. McMillian crafts some of his own creations, too, like the End of the Road. This ideal nightcap captures smoky, bitter, sweet and herbaceous in one layered concoction of Laphroaig 10-year-old scotch, Campari liqueur, Green Chartreuse liqueur and The Bitter Truth orange bitters, aromatic with an orange twist.
It’s all about the chill 1960s-like vibe at MiniBar, tucked away inside the Best Western Plus Hollywood Hills hotel. GM Jeremy Allen’s cocktails make the visit even better with a Martini menu and thoughtful plays off classic cocktails. The Y2K is your splurge-worthy Japanese whisky Old Fashioned variation. Not skimping with Kurayoshi eight-year-old single malt as the base, the drink is balanced by The Bitter Truth EXR and orange bitters and touched with a slowly melting chocolate sugar cube. It’s even better paired with MiniBar’s Tokyo-style waffles dusted in togarashi and sesame.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in the fall of 2017, Chicago cocktail pioneer The Violet Hour has called on the inspiration of childhood favorites like Thin Mints or chocolate-covered strawberries to ward off long winter months. Partner and head bartender Toby Maloney and managing partner Eden Laurin play off the flavor profile of snickerdoodles in the Singer’s Choice. Featuring Pig’s Nose scotch, the spirituous cocktail goes silky soft and nutty, made with whole egg, cinnamon syrup and a touch of salt. The drink evokes freshly baked snickerdoodles but without the sweetness.
The list of more than 700 spirits, including plenty of rare and vintage amari and Bénédictine and Chartreuse liqueur dating back to the 1800s, already makes The Saratoga a drink lovers’ destination. In the bilevel 1908 restaurant (with a bar on each floor), Brandon Clements’ cocktails are also a draw. The Cereal Milk Punch plays like a classic Southern Brandy or Bourbon Milk Punch, all creamy with bourbon, cream, vanilla and nutmeg but given nutty nuance from nocino liqueur and that childlike cereal taste from corn-flake-washed milk and a Cocoa Krispies garnish.
In 2016, owners Marlena John and Luke Bill (formerly of celebrated Picco in Marin County) opened what is common elsewhere but hard to find in the charming mountain town of Truckee, just north of Lake Tahoe: wood-fired pizzas and quality cocktails. Old Town Tap offers wine and beer on draft alongside Bill’s balanced cocktails. The Chunky Monkey is an Irish-whiskey-based cocktail, made with mole and walnut bitters. A silky house-made banana cordial doesn’t veer too sweet but still delivers a ripe banana lushness to the whiskey.
Sarma is the sister restaurant to Boston Mediterranean trailblazer Oleana from James Beard–award-winning chef Ana Sortun. This modern Turkish-style tavern turns out forward-thinking meze (small plates) while the bar, run by Hillary Neuman-Ratiu, features cocktails with Mediterranean elements like olive oil syrup or cancale (an orange and fennel sea salt blend). The Izak cocktail, created by bartender Nick Checcio, is made with Evan Williams White Label bourbon and Cynar 70 amaro—connected flavorwise to Sarma’s harissa barbecue duck shish kebab. Fresh orange and lemon enlivens this Whiskey Sour variation, with spiced notes of cinnamon and dried harissa in a house-made syrup, resulting in a nuanced but bracing sipper.
Sebastopol’s Ramen Gaijin is a destination Japanese restaurant in the heart of Sonoma County. The highball menu drinks appropriately light, featuring Japanese whiskies with soda and teas. While San Francisco bars like Rye or ABV’s Over Proof have served genmaicha (green tea with toasted brown rice) in highballs for a while now, it’s unusual to find it in Wine Country. Grassy with a subtle smoky rice flavor, this highball washes down all that delicious food way too easily.
Sac-a-Lait plays with Southern classics in creative ways (think hot quail dusted in 400-day-old fermented cayenne or alligator over mirliton purée kicked up with white remoulade and pickled mustard seeds). Thankfully, cocktails keep step in the striking converted old cotton mill. Try the Until T'Amaro, a whiskey-amaro cocktail featuring Averna amaro and Sazerac rye whiskey, bright and spicy-sweet with kumquat, tabasco honey and lemon verbena.
Three-Michelin-starred Quince is one the great fine-dining Italian restaurants in the world, thanks to chef Michael Tusk and team. Michael Kudra delivers on the cocktail side too, with stunning drinks and a notable collection of rare, vintage amari and grappa. His elevated drinks are elegant but never fussy, like A Forager’s Affair. The Macallan 12-year-old double-cask scotch makes a potent base for Kudra’s house-made Meyer-lemon-toasted cordial and egg whites aged in seasonal truffles for a Whiskey Sour variation like no other.
Live-fire cooking and creative dishes from chef Brian Howard draw regulars to Sparrow + Wolf in Las Vegas’ Chinatown. But lead bartender Sarah Gage and bartender Andrew Shumaker craft a cocktail menu that holds up to the food. The We Can Prevent Forest Fires is a prime example with its Dalmore 12-year-old scotch base, made even more robust with a touch of Cynar amaro and Del Maguey Vida mezcal. Lemon and pine simple syrup add bright, piney nuance to the bitter-sweet-smoky cocktail.
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