The world’s love for whiskey is ancient. And here, we consider ourselves very hard whiskey enthusiasts. So, whenever we see a whiskey bar, we just have to give it a try. Sometimes, we are astounded by the profoundness of the bar, and other times, we’re disappointed.
Over time, we’ve acquired a taste for whiskey bars by visiting some of the best ones in the US. And it’s time to share the experience with you people. If you consider yourself a whiskey enthusiast as well, this post is just for you.
What is a Whiskey Bar?
All regular bars are whiskey bars but not all whiskey bars are regular bars. Well, that’s the easy definition. In most decent bars, you can get a wide range of whiskeys like scotch, Irish or Japanese whiskey.
But what makes a whiskey bar?
Special attention to whiskey and catering to the whiskey enthusiasts. It’s a paradise for the whiskey lovers like us. Hundreds of whiskeys from the best brands in America, Ireland, Scotland, and Japan. Whiskey bars may only serve whiskey, with a larger menu than you’ve ever encountered.
A whiskey bar could be a once in a lifetime experience for you if you’ve never visited one. You can find numerous whiskey bars listed on Google Maps.
But how many of them are actually worth it?
What Makes a Whiskey Bar Good?
Different aspects make a whiskey bar worth visiting. All of them can’t be equally good at the same time. To give you an idea, let’s take a look at some of the factors that make a whiskey bar good.
This might not be the strongest point of any whiskey bar but it’s one of the most influential. The first impressions are the best impressions, right? While we shouldn’t be judging a bar by its appearance, it’s a big part of the whiskey experience.
Whiskey is an elegant drink. It should be enjoyed in style. But there are exceptions. The Old Crow whiskey bar in Zurich is one of the prime exceptions. It has some of the best whiskeys in the world lined up for you, but not very glamourous in appearance.
Regardless, the internal décor is the first thing most people are going to notice so we kept it on top of our qualifying factors.
The next important thing and the strongest aspect of any whiskey bar is the menu. As a whiskey bar, it should contain all different variants from all over the world. It should list from the cheapest bottles to the most expensive ones. A range so dynamic that any whiskey enthusiast would be overwhelmed.
Most of the bars display the bottles right at the counter. If you have enough whiskey knowledge, you would know which one to order at a glance. If you’re not visually acquainted with the bottles, there should be written menus to help you out.
And if you’re a complete novice, just getting into the hobby of exploring the ever-elegant world of whiskey, there should be staff who knows whiskey like the back of their hand. And that brings us to our next point.
A whiskey bar is as good as the bartenders and waiters are. It’s one of the biggest parts of the whole experience. If the bartender doesn’t understand your language or vice versa, it’s an instant red flag.
Remember Old Crow, the bar that didn’t boast a grand appearance? Well, it has one of the best staff in the world. The bartenders know every whiskey by its name and distinguishable nature. The waiters are fast and they knew how to serve.
It’s especially important for newcomers in the whiskey scene who don’t have as much knowledge about the best drinks to choose from. And they often have a limited budget to try out the best one the menu can offer.
A knowledgeable bartender comes in handy in such circumstances. A good bartender will always guide you in the right direction after a little chit chat. You must be explicit in stating your likings and you can expect to discover some of the names you’ve never heard before.
Another angle to look at this would be consumer awareness. Sure, the bartender might suggest you some drinks depending on your likings. But what did you learn from that experience? Probably nothing.
And that is exactly why an enthusiastic team is a crucial part of any whiskey bar. The staff should be very eager to educate you on the different characteristics of the different whiskeys on the menu. So, you can make your own decision in the end.
Some of the Best Bars in the US
Now you know what are the qualifying factors for a whiskey bar to be good. So, what are the best whiskey bars in the US? We’re not going to make any definitive judgments in our post. Rather, we’re going to cover some bars that withheld its reputation in our eyes. And these bars are not sorted in any way, they all have their perks and downsides.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
First up on our list is the Jack Rose Dining Saloon based in Washington DC. The interior has a classic feel to it. The back of the counter is swarming with the finest whiskey bottles money can buy. It has over 1800 bottles of whiskey at your disposal at any given time.
There are different areas where you can decide to enjoy your time. They are called ‘rooms’. You get the open terrace, you get the tiki bar, you get the dining room, you get the cellar, you have the balcony room. And if you want the extreme vibe, the menu has cigars as well!
The menu itself is 17 pages at this Los Angeles whiskey bar. It’s one of the finest looking bars that we’ve encountered in the state of California. The interior is designed with hunting as a hobby in mind. You get spectacular ambient lighting along with some taxidermied deer heads on the wall.
This whiskey bar is known for hosting tasting events where brand ambassadors and master distillers from around the world are warmly welcomed. With over 700 whiskeys to choose from, you are bound to have a peaceful time here.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, the Haymarket Whiskey Bar is a heaven for bourbon lovers. There was a time when bourbon production was exclusive to Kentucky. Later, it spread across the United States. The classic feel of Kentucky bars never went away.
Haymarket is the only punk rock bar in the area and it’s destined to give you a good time. The collection of drinks might seem limited to a lot of hardcore whiskey lovers, but with over 100 bourbons and 200 amazing whiskeys, it’s one of the best whiskey bars in the US in terms of quality. All of the whiskeys are brewed and distilled in the largest distilleries around the world.
Situated at the esteemed banks of Lake Michigan, Delilah’s is one of the greatest whiskey bars in Chicago. It has a whopping 600 bottles of the best whiskey. It boasts brands from over 15 countries around the world. The majority of the collection is, however, dominated by the American distilleries.
It’s another punk rock bar on our list. There are DJ nights and $3 drinks throughout the week. The interior is a little bit congested and overcrowded for a peaceful whiskey tasting, but the collection is just impeccable.
The Pope House Bourbon Lounge
Kentucky is known for its top-of-the-line bourbons. The newly charred fineness of the classic Kentucky whiskey has spread around the country, and The Pope House Bourbon Lounge is one of the frontiers. It’s a whiskey bar based in Portland, Oregon.
The bar features handpicked bottles of the finest bourbons. Top-shelf, classics, new formulas, you name it, the bar has got it. The ambiance is phenomenal and it has the classic western vibe to it.
When discussing the best whiskey bars in the US, we surely can’t skip New York. One of the busiest cities in the world also houses one of the finest whiskey bars as well. We’re talking about Highlands, where the scotch reigns.
Highlands is widely known for its tremendous collection of hand-selected scotch whiskeys. Any scotch brand you can think of, Highlands has it. There are over 250 bottles of Scottish magic, waiting for you to order. The bar also boasts highly trained personnel and a wonderful environment for the whiskey lovers in the area.
This whiskey bar in Seattle has the largest collection of American whiskeys in this region. The entire menu goes for 90 pages, where 9 pages are dedicated to rare whiskeys alone! If you couldn’t find a particular whiskey anywhere in the country, you can expect to find it at Canon.
Canon has a very unique approach toward its interior. The bar is furnished with wooden décor all around and tightly packed racks of whiskeys. The seats might be a little closer than we would like, but the whiskeys are so good we had to let go.
The 404 Kitchen
Home to the legendary Tennessee whiskey, the state of Tennessee also has a great bar called The 404 Kitchen. It’s one of the modernized designs, easily distinguishable from the rest of the names on our list. The entire bar is crafted from a decommissioned shipping container!
The 404 Kitchen has a very beautiful and soothing interior along with over 150 entries in the whiskey menu. Whether you’re a fan of Irish, Scotch, or Japanese whiskey, you may find your cherished brand here. The food is exceptionally good here as well if you’re into whiskey on the side dinner vibes.
Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Saloon is a great whiskey bar for people who loves versatility. You may not find a single best whiskey bars list where this one is not included. The interior boasts both pre-prohibition and post-prohibition touches.
As for the menu, you’ll find all of the modern drinks and cocktails, as well as all the old classics. From Notch to Basil Hayden, from Yamazaki to Four Roses, you name it, Saloon got it for you. The menu has over 120 entries with the details on what makes each of them special.
How to Find the Right Whiskey for You
If you’re a complete beginner and know nothing about whiskeys, you’ll still find some good options at a reputed whiskey bar around the US. But you should do a little research before you barge into one. Communication is key for a good whiskey tasting session and it goes both ways.
Your first task should be to ask the bartender about the flight options. If you do your research, you’ll know that flight means tasting different whiskeys instead of going through one bottle at once.
All menus might not mention the availability of flights, but asking the bartender or the bar manager is bound to open up a pandora’s box for you. Other whiskey terms should also be in your knowledge like barrel options, malt type, bottled-in-bond, Tennessee whiskey, scotch whiskey, etc. If you’re unsure about any of it, just ask the bartender.
Barrel strength whiskeys are not really recommended for novices, but if you’re willing to give it a go, ask the bartender. Exclusive private bottles are often known as the ‘captain’s list’. These bottles are usually from the same barrel that a bar representative selects by visiting a distillery.
Lastly, if you visit any of the bars we’ve mentioned in this list, you can trust the bar team completely to provide you with a spectacular whiskey tasting experience. Bartenders go through intense training programs nowadays before they are hired. So, let your pleasure be at their hands.
Whiskey bars could easily be your first step in the right direction if you’ve picked up the love for whiskey. These bars specialize in collecting and serving the finest whiskey to consumers. Do your little research regarding whiskey, go into one and let the bartender know what you want.