The 9 Best Whiskey Bars in America
Whiskey fans are immensely devoted, paying crazy money for rare tastes, obsessing over glassware and spending hours arguing over whether or not water belongs in a dram. Whiskey drinkers are not alone in their devotion to the mellow brown spirit. Bartenders across the nation have embraced the American spirit, which means you can find a great whiskey bar in nearly every corner of the continental 48. If you’re looking to drink at a bar that is just as passionate about whiskey as you (or you just want to learn a bit more about whiskey), check out one of these great American whiskey bars.
New York, NY
Named for the birthplace of bourbon, Maysville specializes in American whiskey, breaking down the domestic spirit by mashbill into 10 distinct categories on the menu. You can order your pick of choice bourbons by the glass, but the high rollers know the best way to enjoy an afternoon at this beautiful bar is to go all in on one of the four whiskies offered by the decanter.
The quickest way to reach the whiskey bar hall of fame is by curating an extensive list of bottles. Canon in Seattle boasts the largest collection of American whiskey in the world with a menu that clocks in at 178 pages (presented in a leather-bound iPad). But it’s not just about quantity. A “hardcore porn” section of the menu features incredibly rare pours, and the bar has earned acclaim from the James Beard Foundation and the Drinks International “World’s Best Bars” list. The bar even sells its own brand of bitters for the perfect Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
Los Angeles, CA
Short of flying to Tokyo, the best way to experience an authentic Japanese whisky bar is by visiting Bar Jackalope in LA. Launched as a bar-within-a-bar by Seven Grand, Bar Jackalope takes pride in serving bottles from across the Pacific with traditional Japanese trappings, like hand-carved ice balls and whiskey highballs.
New York, NY
If prefer your whisky with no “e,” head to Highlands, which boasts some of the best Scottish bottles in America. The scotch list begins with a map of Scotland, before descending into minute details about the featured regions and distilleries. Hungry drinkers can pair their drams with both traditional Scottish snacks like haggis, and faux Scottish fare like scotch eggs.
Multnomah is our kind of library, with shelves lined with whiskey bottles instead of boring old books. Behind the bar, bartenders fly about the boozy stacks on sliding ladders, while other servers pilot drink carts around the room, dim sum style. Committing hard to the library theme, the bar offers classes and memberships—though no library card is required.
San Francisco, CA
While the food menu takes inspiration from the South, the whiskey list at Hard Water offers bottles from all across the country. Go for one of the staff favorite picks or taste your way through a flight, like the Pappy Van Winkle tasting of six different bottlings. The bar bucks the usual wood-and-leather whiskey bar look with a sleek, marble U-shaped bar and bright windows, representing a new age of high-end whiskey bars.
The Jack Rose website features a counter showing just how many bottles are currently on the bar’s shelves (as of this writing, that number is 2,687), evidence that the bar harbors one of the greatest collections of whiskey in the nation. According to owner Bill Thomas, rather than keeping rare vintages out of reach with steep prices, the bar’s vast, affordable menu encourages guests to try something new.
There are plenty of bars in bourbon’s homeland, but if you want a true Southern whiskey experience, get your fix with a side of honky tonk at The Silver Dollar. While this whiskey funhouse has an impressive range of bourbons from local distilleries, don’t expect to find Jack Daniel’s on the list—the bar refuses to serve anything from Tennessee.
Chef Sean Brock has received much-deserved praise for his refined elevation of Southern ingredients, but his love of Southern whiskey is just as impressive. Forget the difficult reservation at the restaurant and head to the Bar at HUSK, where you’ll find a great whiskey list, whiskey-based punches and a few historic whiskey cocktails that show Brock’s deep engagement with the spirit of Charleston.