Most times, we prefer to sip our bourbon straight (or with a few ice cubes) rather than in any sort of cocktail. If you like to mix yours with cola, ginger ale, or seltzer water, go right ahead — you’ll find no whiskey snobbery here. But for us, bourbon is mostly a highball glass and rocks type of whiskey. Assuming you can track down and purchase exciting, interesting bottles, that is.
To find the “right” bottles, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best bourbons to drink straight when you’re stuck at home. They delivered with excellent picks — including some standards, and a few surprises.
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Miki Nikolic, beverage director at The Double Dealer in New Orleans
Elijah Craig Small Batch bourbon is the best. It’s a smooth bourbon that’s sweet and carries notes of vanilla and oak. You also taste a cinnamon finish.
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged
Bryan Long, assistant director of Food & at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Palm Beach, Florida
The best bourbon for sipping is Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea series. The bourbon is actually aged in barrels on a ship that sails around the world.
William Larue Weller
Mazzarie Parker, bar manager of Maypop Restaurant in New Orleans
William Larue Weller from Buffalo Trace Distillery. This is on the pricier side, but if I were to treat myself to a celebratory glass of bourbon to…. let’s say, celebrate the return to normalcy post-coronavirus, this is the one I want. It’s toasty, rich, full bodied, complex, and perfectly balanced. It’s everything you can ask for in a high-end bourbon.
Zsolt Ducsai, food and beverage director at Serafina Beach Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Woodford Reserve. Excellent choice to have neat or using for a perfect Manhattan. This Kentucky Whiskey has spice and fruit notes as well.
Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled in Bond
Jake Larowe, bar manager at Birds and Bees in Los Angeles
My go-to bottles at home are WL Weller Special Reserve and Henry McKenna 10 Year Bottled in Bond. When it comes to bourbon, expensive isn’t always better. There are a lot of amazing bottles available that come in at very affordable prices.
Piero Procida, bartender at The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles
Angel’s Envy is smooth, sweet and creamy vanilla flavor are to die for. Earning 98 points from wine enthusiast, its incredible character is undeniable. The best part is, it’s not that expensive. The unique finishing of the bourbon in port wine barrels is what makes the flavors so easy to enjoy and easy to drink by itself.
Meg Barnes, general manager at The Tides Beach Club in Kennebunkport, Maine
I love Wiggly Bridge from York, Maine. It’s a very smooth whiskey. You could always use it to make a quick Manhattan or old fashioned. But, it’s perfect on its own. We also love that the distiller is a female.
Hudson Baby Bourbon
Joseph Palminteri, director of food and beverages at Via Sophia in Washington DC
Hudson Baby Bourbon. I first discovered Hudson Baby while living in NYC. Tuthilltown Spirits is New York’s first whiskey distillery since prohibition, distilling some of America’s most prized spirits here in the Hudson Valley, NY. When you take the Hudson New York Corn Whiskey and store it in a first-use charred American Oak barrel, out pops the Baby. The barrel aging process gives this spirit a light sweetness and deep amber color.
This 100% corn bourbon has a bright, defined taste and a warm finish with notes of marzipan and roasted corn. It’s a fabulous spirit to mix but I would argue it’s even better to sip
Natalie Migliarini, the mixologist behind Beautiful Booze on Instagram
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon. I have been sipping this bourbon for years. I love the caramel and citrus notes as well as the dry finish.
Four Roses Single Barrel
Courtney Everett, bartender at O-Ku Sushi in Atlanta
Four Roses Single Barrel. I don’t typically drink bourbon, so this is hard, but at a bourbon festival I attended, I remember the flavor standing out. Being more complex, I would enjoy sipping on this as opposed to ordering something like Buffalo Trace in a mixed drink.
Josh Saphier, bartender at Eighteen36 in Houston
My favorite bourbon or as I call it “my daily drinker” is Eagle Rare by Buffalo Trace Distillery. It’s one of the few age stated bourbons out there sub $30. It’s 90 proof with adds a little more bite than your traditional 80 proof bourbons. It’s a single barrel that also allows for slightly varying profiles from bottle to bottle. Though I have never come across one I didn’t like.