While most spirits clock in at a friendly 80-proof, some brands are going above and beyond, reaching fiery pinnacles of 100- to 120-proof or even higher. Though this sounds potentially hazardous to your liver and taste buds, not all high-proof spirits taste like liquid fire (we’re looking at you, Everclear). These most potent of potables are particularly great in cocktails, standing up to mixers in a way that lower-proof liquor sometimes can’t. The next time you’re looking to give your drink a boozy kick in the pants, these spirits—from gin and rum to bourbon and scotch—are a great place to start.
Clocking in at a powerful 117.6-proof, Australian gin brand Four Pillars makes a statement with its gin: boom. This navy-strength gin channels the historically strong spirits that were favored by military men during the early 19th century—if a little gin spilled on the gunpowder, it would still fire thanks to the additional booze. Though it sounds like it would be fierce and rough, this gin is remarkably smooth, even when sipped neat. It also makes a fantastic addition to cocktails, including classics like the Gin & Tonic and Martini, thanks in part to its strength, but also to the interesting Aussie botanicals that give it complex flavors that shine through the drink.
Also inspired by the traditions of yesteryear wartime spirits, Smith & Cross bottles its rum at 57 percent ABV, or 114-proof. Though undeniably powerful, this blended rum is full-bodied and an excellent base in all kinds of drinks. As expected, it shines in tiki cocktails, playing off the citrus and tropical fruit flavors to reveal honey and spice notes.
Most hardcore bourbon lovers will be familiar with this 107-proof bottling. Despite its ABV, the Kentucky-made whiskey’s bite is toned down by the nutty, fruity and spiced flavors it boasts, thanks to its seven years of aging. While it makes a killer Highball or Old Fashioned, it’s not too overwhelming on the palate to sip neat or with a big, fancy ice cube.
You’ve probably seen this Philadelphia-inspired rye whiskey behind the bar. Long a favorite of home and professional bartenders, Rittenhouse Rye is bottled at precisely 100-proof. While it packs somewhat less of a boozy kick than some of our other favorite high-proof spirits, the four-year-old rye’s natural spice ensures that there’s still plenty of flavor and punch. It’s practically begging to be mixed in a Manhattan.
Gaelic for “the original,” A’bunadh is a one of a kind single malt scotch. Aged in sherry casks, it has an intensely rich dried fruit flavor, which is complemented by spice. Bottled at cask strength at a whopping 119.2-proof, it’s the strongest liquor on this list. Even so, it goes down easy—almost too easy.