Drinks trends ranged from the expected to the unforeseen in 2019. Our coverage of the spirits world soared through bourbon bottles, sales, and spills, Campari alternatives on the rise, and a host of cocktail recipes missing a key ingredient: booze.

VinePair rounded up our most popular spirits stories of the year for 2019. Thanks for reading, and here’s to a spirited 2020.

10. Six Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Recipes From Top Bartenders

We asked some of the top bartenders in the country to share their no-proof recipes. Their favorites include an easy, NA Margarita, plus a cold-brew coffee cocktail spiked with CBD-infused lavender bitters, and a non-alcoholic (and vegan!) spin on a White Russian.

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9. Aperitivo Hour: Campari Alternatives for Your Next Negroni

Campari is the king of red bitters, yet the growing number of red bitter brands available in the U.S. shows just how the category has grown. Naren Young, creative director and bartender at New York’s Dante, and Sother Teague, beverage director at Amor y Amargo, share a few of their favorite Campari substitutes so that you’re in good shape the next time cherry-red supplies run low.

8. The 30 Best Tequilas for Every Budget

Americans purchased 17.2 million 9-liter cases of tequila in 2017, and exports from Mexico to the U.S. increased nearly 200 percent in the last 10 years. Ultra-high-end brands like Patrón and Casa Noble are leading this growth, but there are plenty of affordable alternatives that rival even the most luxury brands.

VinePair tasted more than 60 tequila brands to sort out the good, the great, the great-for-the-price, and beyond. Whether your budget is $25, $50, $100, or more, these are 30 of the best tequilas in every price range.

7. The Tiny Scottish Island Where Arguments Are Settled With Cheese and Whisky

Eilean a’ Chombraidh, commonly known as the “Isle of Discussion,” is a tiny island located a short row from Loch Leven’s southern shore. For hundreds of years, arguing members of the MacDonald Clan were sent to the island by the clan’s chief and had to remain there until their disputes were resolved. To help the feuding parties come to a swift and peaceful agreement, they were left with a supply of cheese, oatcakes, and Scotch whisky.

6. The Best Vodka Mixers, According to Us

Mixers matter when you’re making vodka cocktails. To determine the best juices, sodas, and other dance partners for vodka, we turned to an utterly subjective source: ourselves. We gathered VinePair staff and extended family for a taste test.

5. The Best Celebrity Spirits, Tasted and Ranked

Celebrities launching spirits brands is as common as Marvel movies, but how many live up to the hype? VinePair assembled a panel of industry professionals to taste a range of celebrity-owned-and-endorsed spirits, from tequilas to aged whiskeys to grape vodka. Here are 10 of the best celebrity spirits brands, tasted and ranked. Shout out Ryan Reynolds, who shared his pride for Aviation Gin ranking on this list so many times on Instagram and Twitter, his wife Blake Lively (and almost every pop culture publication) made fun of him for it.

4. Never Drink Bourbon With BBQ, Says This South Carolina Pitmaster

“People assume bourbon is the best pairing with brisket, but in my opinion, it’s too much,” John Lewis says. He should know. Lewis is the pitmaster and owner of Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, S.C. When Lewis Barbecue opened in 2016, the beverage menu was not just an afterthought. It was designed to work in tandem with heavy, smoked, barbecued meats.

Whether you’re a dedicated pitmaster or simply looking to pick up a few pointers for next weekend’s backyard barbecue, here are six tips on pairing cocktails and spirits with barbecue from John Lewis and Ben Garbee.

3. A Power Ranking of the Best and Worst Margaritas at Every Major Chain Restaurant

America loves Margaritas. The tangy mix of tequila, fresh lime, and triple sec has been our No. 1 drink since 2016, according to Nielsen surveys. We love Margaritas so much, in fact, we’ll happily pay extra for them. Margaritas are available everywhere from somber craft cocktail bars to casual dining chains. We assembled a team of Margarita enthusiasts to help sample and rank what each national casual-dining chain had to offer.

2. Why You Will Never Taste Maker’s Mark’s Most Innovative Whiskey

Maker’s Mark’s RP5 #2, as it’s labeled internally, is merely a test batch for Maker’s Mark Private Select, a one-of-a-kind program hoping to uncover the future potential of wood in whiskey. Unfortunately, it will never be sold to the general public.

1. The 20 Best Bourbons for Every Budget

There are currently more bourbon barrels residing in Kentucky than there are human inhabitants. Although 95 percent of America’s bourbon production takes place in Kentucky, the oak-aged, distilled-corn spirit can legally be produced anywhere in America. For those less familiar with the spirit, choosing which bourbon to buy can be confusing. We surveyed the landscape to help you make informed purchasing decisions by compiling this guide: the 20 best bourbons for every budget.

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