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Whiskey Business

Sip America's favorite spirit at these 8 boozy hot spots
Sip on America's Favorite Spirit at These 8 Boozy Hot Spots
Photo: Emilio Pabon Photography

There’s something so perfect about a simple glass of whiskey. The amber-tinted spirit has charmed generations of drinkers across the globe, from Ireland to Scotland to Japan and, of course, the United States.

This winter, steal away to one of these eight whiskey emporiums and indulge in a dram (or two or three . . .) of the best darn booze the world has to offer.

 Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Washington, D.C.

Whiskey lovers, welcome home. This multistoried liquor mecca is lined with library-like shelves and stocked with more than 2,700 quality bottles. Whether you’re into bourbon, Scotch, Irish whiskey or Japan’s finest, there’s something here for you, including numerous well-curated flights designed to guide novices and pros alike through each distinctive style. The bartenders, friendly and oh so knowledgeable, are more than happy to pour you a stiff one or shake you up something special, like this bourbon-blackberry cocktail (see the recipe). They even keep a few spirited selections on tap, too.

"Jack Rose has become a welcoming mecca for whiskey drinkers around the world," owner Bill Thomas says. "It’s evolved into a gathering place to talk, drink, learn and explore all things whiskey, so you’re always surrounded by people with that same love and admiration for the spirit." Forget America—Jack Rose is, hands down, one of the best whiskey bars on the planet.

 Delilah’s

Chicago, IL

Anything goes at Delilah’s—especially when it comes to whiskey. Lincoln Park boozehounds of all shapes and sizes congregate at this beloved neighborhood joint, sipping on one of 750 whiskeys (including an extra-special bourbon distilled just for the bar by FEW Spirits) or knocking back local craft beers set to a steady stream of heavy metal and punk tunes. The vibe is super approachable and laid-back, like a dive bar with a bit less grime, and the staff are as friendly as they are knowledgeable. And, most importantly, Delilah’s is loaded with enough quality high-proof liquor to keep every shivering Windy City soul warm and toasty straight through March. What more could you want?

 Bar Jackalope

Los Angeles, CA

Angelenos are no strangers to exclusive clubs, but local nightlife legend Cedd Moses’s Bar Jackalope takes a more subtle approach than some of the area’s more raucous hot spots. Located through an unmarked door within Moses’s Seven Grand, the secret den is inspired by Japanese whisky bars: intimate and snug and offering an unbeatable array of specialty whiskeys.

"We set out to do our version of that, but whisky only—no cocktails," the director of operations for 213 Hospitality's Single Spirit bars explains.

What Bar Jackalope lacks in mixology it makes up for in the straight stuff—120+ bottles to be exact, including top-tier draws like Pappy Van Winkle and hard-to-find Japanese imports. Serious drinkers should consider investing in a booze cabinet, which, starting at a cool $250, buys a bottle and stores it at the bar just for you. The best part? Cabinet members get access to priority seating and early reservations. And with room for just 12 inside, calling ahead can mean the difference between sober and set.  

 Saloon

Somerville, MA

Saloon, Somerville’s premier whiskey-fied destination, wholly confirms Boston’s reputation as a boozehound haven. A nod to New York-style neo-speakeasies, this dimly lit subterranean hideaway lurks behind a set of 17th-century cathedral doors, but one step inside the elegantly adorned, leather-clad barroom, and any lingering eeriness is instantly forgotten. Skilled barkeeps behind the gorgeous square specialize in bespoke cocktails mixed with cognac and sherry, while more than 120 handpicked whiskeys, as well as a hearty selection of rum, gin, tequila and pleasantly smoky mescal, keep liquor purists busy. And despite its pronounced liquid focus, this bar doubles as a restaurant, serving a full menu of comfort favorites like fried chicken with biscuits and gravy, maple syrup-tinged Buffalo wings, fried oysters and the best poutine this side of Montreal.

 Burritt Room + Tavern

San Francisco, CA

This intimate Union Square refuge might identify more as a cocktail bar than a whiskey joint, but with an outsized bottle program that ranges from small-batch bourbons to Taiwanese single malts, it more than fits the bill. "We've created a comprehensive expression of American whiskey, including private barrels from Sonoma County, Breckenridge and Woodford Reserve, complemented by select global whiskeys from Scotland and Japan," bar manager Chris Wright says.

Inside, talented, sociable bartenders stir up a bounty of exquisite film noir-inspired cocktails against an exposed-brick backdrop, while patrons canoodle on red velvet couches or talk shop at the bar. If a mixed drink is in the works, try the Abbey Mourning, a savory Scotch number topped with a fragrant, flaming orange peel—you won't be disappointed. Even the most seasoned drinker would have trouble conquering Burritt's impressive bottle collection, but the challenge itself is half the fun. And, hey, if you wind up indulging late into the night, you can always grab a tastefully designed room upstairs to sleep it off in style.

RELATED   The Real Difference Between Whisky and Whiskey »

 Haymarket Whiskey Bar

Louisville, KY

In a city synonymous with bourbon, only the best bars stay afloat. At Haymarket, Louisville’s beloved neighborhood spot, that means a distinctive lowbrow-highbrow approach. Think pinball machines, vintage arcade games and punk shows-meet-exclusives from WhistlePig and Four Roses, plus 10-year Old Rip Van Winkle. And if all that wasn't enough to sway you, get this: "The Haymarket is the only bar in Louisville that sells liquor to go," proprietor Matthew Landan notes. "So not only can our guests sip from nearly 400 expressions of bourbon, rye and malt whiskeys, but they can also take home a bottle of one of our many private single barrels."

The vibe is relaxed, sure, but as the proud purveyor of Louisville’s largest bottle list, the attitude toward fine whiskey is anything but. Newcomers ought to start off with one (or two or three . . .) of Haymarket’s bourbon flights, which range from high-end, discontinued numbers to down-and-dirty moonshine. Cocktails are also available, but judging from the unabashedly shot-friendly atmosphere, you’re better off sticking to the hard stuff.

 The Century Bar

Dayton, OH

OK, OK, we know what you’re thinking. Dayton? As in Ohio?? But trust us, you’re going to want to check your doubts at the door when it comes to this world-class whiskey joint. As the Midwest’s best-kept boozy secret, this distillery-turned-saloon has been charming those in the know since 1862. Today, Century’s historic back bar is a testament to American spirits, with stained glass skylights; a long, gleaming copper-topped bar; and a handful of bourbon barrels repurposed into tables and stained to match the exact hue of Maker’s 46. The dedicated folks behind the bar are known to put on a slew of themed tastings, brand-specific events and educational classes throughout the month, attracting locals and thirsty out-of-towners alike. Start packing your bags, whiskey fans, because this is one tavern well worth the trip. 

 Multnomah Whiskey Library

Portland, OR

Portlanders desperate to combat the perpetual dreary weather flock to this cozy cocktail lounge perched on the edge of the city’s trendy Southwest side. And no matter how gray the skies, Multnomah’s 1,600 whiskeys—as well local craft beer, a beautiful wine list and a particularly protein-heavy dinner menu—will certainly ease your seasonal malaise.

In an ultra-convenient twist, the liquor lineup is overseen by a team of bartenders, each pushing a cart of booze from table to table, hawking their wares like turn-of-the-century peddlers (with the bespoke suits to match). "The most important focus for us is guest experience," Multnomah's general manager, Adam Wyatt-Jones, explains. "Whether that means sitting back with a bourbon and Coke or nerding out with the staff over our massive spirit selection. We work to provide for each guest's individual needs, rather than imposing a prescribed experience.“

  • Saloon (Boston, MA)

    Believe it or not, Boston's top whiskey library lurks just beyond a set of heavy 17th-century cathedral doors—fitting for a drinking town with deeply religious roots. There's no church service here, mind you, just attentive barkeeps and devoted patrons paying tribute to Saint WhistlePig and Bishop Glenfiddich while munching on divine pub food.

    Photo: TEDx Somerville via Flickr

  • Multnomah Whiskey Library (Portland, OR)

    Portland, Oregon, might be known the world over for its craft beer, but rest assured there's plenty of hard stuff to go around. Case in point: Multnomah Whiskey Library, with its 1,600+ bottle selection, learned staff and personalized cocktail service. Because there's no better cure for gray skies than a stiff pour.

    Photo: Courtesy of Multnomah Whiskey Library

  • Jack Rose Dining Saloon (Washington, D.C.)

    When it comes to liquor laws, Washington, D.C. is basically the Wild West—bars can generally sell anything they want, shipped in from anywhere in the world. So it's no wonder the capital city is teeming with fantastic cocktail dens, none more special or better outfitted than Jack Rose Dining Saloon. We're talking an entire, multistory building filled to the brim with top-tier bottles. God bless America.

    Photo: Photo: Emilio Pabon Photography

  • Delilah's (Chicago, IL)

    Boasting an authenticity that far surprasses suspender-clad bartenders and bespoke neo-speakeasies, Delilah's is a breath of fresh air in a sea of hipper-than-thou cocktail lounges. Inside the hallowed Chicago doors, metalheads rub elbows with bespectacled whiskey aficionados, all intent on drinking their way through the epic 750+ spirits menu. Stop by for a show; stay for a shot (or two or three . . .).

    Photo: Courtesy of Delilah's

  • The Burritt Room + Tavern (San Francisco, CA)

    Charlie Palmer's Mystic Hotel has a secret—a dimly lit upstairs bar, featuring not only live music, velvet couches and smartly dressed bartenders, but one of SF's most inventive whiskey lists. Bottles range from local gems (Sonoma County's exceptional 2nd Chance Wheat, for one) to Japanese single malts from Yamazaki and Nikka, and there's a well-honed cocktail program, to boot. You don't have to be a hotel guest to drink here, but after one too many drams, you might just find yourself checking in for the night.

    Photo: Aubrie Pick

  • Haymaker (Louisville, KY)

    Kentucky might well be the epicenter of American whiskey—and whiskey bars, of course—but that doesn't phase a bar as unique as Haymarket. Proclaiming itself Louisville's only "punk rock bourbon bar," this neighborhood haunt stocks nearly 400 bottles, along with delicious bites, top musical acts and plenty of pinball to keep things rolling. And if you find yourself jonesing for another pour of that Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel past last call, you're in luck: Haymarket sells to-go bottles, too.

    Photo: Courtesy of Haymarket Whiskey Bar

  • Bar Jackalope (Los Angeles, CA)

    The latest addition to L.A.'s thriving bar scene, this 12-seat Japanese-inspired speakeasy prides itself on its purist approach. Stashed behind an unmarked door inside renowned cocktail bar Seven Grand, you'll find 250+ whiskeys but not a single mixer—it's straight or bust. Pros should consider joining the bar's Whiskey Society, where $250 gets you both a private bottle and a personalized locker to keep it safe and primed for hours of solo sipping.

    Photo: Courtesy of 213 Hospitality

  • The Century Bar (Dayton, OH)

    When you think cutting-edge, Dayton, Ohio, might not be the first place that comes to mind, but as anyone who's stepped inside Century Bar would tell you, it definitely should. The humble distillery-turned-saloon has been hawking the good stuff from its copper bartop since 1862, a tenure that translates to a whole lot of bourbon-soaked street cred. It might be a bit off the beaten path, but any whiskey lover worth their salt would be happy to travel the ends of the earth for 20-year Pappy Van Winkle

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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