Declared by Congress as “America’s Native Spirit” in 1964, bourbon’s versatility and range of aromatics make it the perfect base for time-honored cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, the Mint Julep, and the Boulevardier.
With many of us turning to alcohol delivery and buying online, VinePair enlisted the advice of beverage professionals across the U.S. to find out which bourbon brands top their lists as the best deal, while being a quality bottle. Below, bartenders and bar managers tell us their picks among the array of bourbon brands and prices on the market.
Given that many bars and restaurants are currently closed due to Covid-19 and the coronavirus pandemic, at the time of publishing, we asked bartenders to provide links to Venmo accounts or GoFundMe campaigns to help support them or the locations with which they are affiliated.
To learn more about helping the hospitality community at this time, please visit: How to Give Back to Hospitality Professionals Impacted by Covid-19.
“My go-to bourbon is Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond. This whiskey is a classic and a great bang for the buck, offering a rich taste and high proof that stands up great in cocktails, on the rocks, or just as a neat pour.” — Garth Poe, Bar Manager, Easy Bistro & Bar, Chattanooga, Tenn.
“From the storied brand out of Kentucky, Buffalo Trace is what got me to finally enjoy bourbon. It’s the base for some of the most sought-after whiskeys on the secondary market, like Pappy Van Winkle. Deliciously smooth and full of flavor, this is a crowd-pleaser. It’s the workhorse for this distillery but can be found at affordable prices and gets you enjoying bourbon, too.” — Ryan Lindquist, Bar Manager, LUXBAR, Chicago
Donate: Meals for Medical
“Redemption Bourbon, an unassuming bourbon that is not only consistent but quite delicious, with the quintessential caramel, vanilla, and hints of spice from the rye. No wrong decisions being made when looking for a bang for your buck.” — Mohammed Rahman, Bar Manager, Kata Robata, Houston
Donate: Mohammed Rahmann Paypal
“I prefer Elijah Craig. It’s a great small batch that doesn’t break the bank. Great for Old Fashioneds, or neat.” — Michell Boyd, Beverage Manager, Hampton + Hudson, Atlanta
“Wild Turkey Rare Breed. I might regret saying this, but this is the most underrated bourbon on shelves today. You can readily find it at most liquor stores… At different batch proofs it holds up very nicely with a touch of water or ice.” — Westin Galleymore, Spirits Director, Underbelly Hospitality, Houston
Donate: Westin Galleymore Venmo
“Eagle Rare 10 year has to be it. Exceptional quality and the perfectly aged bourbon for sub-$40? It cannot be beat.” — Scott Kollig, Beverage Manager, Rye Street Tavern, Baltimore
Donate: NoHo Hospitality Family Fund
“If you’re mixing, Ancient Age 10 Star. If you’re sipping it straight, Evan Williams Single Barrel or Maker’s Mark.” — Matt Catchpole, General Manager, Terra, Columbia, S.C.
“The hospitality of Wild Turkey is bar none. And considering their extensive range of whiskey expressions, I still refer back to Wild Turkey 81 for a base bourbon that’s great to shoot, mix, or pour over ice.” — Christine Kang, Beverage Director, The Breslin, NYC
Donate: Ace Family Fund
“Weller Special Reserve. It’s around $25.” — Tony Nguyen, Head Bartender, Catherine & Mary’s, Memphis
Donate: Tony Nguyen Venmo