The Best Whiskey Bars to Keep You Warm This Fall
In Gaelic, it means “the water of life;” others call it liquid gold. Whatever you deem it, whiskey—with its vast array of complexities, varieties, and flavors—is undoubtedly one of the best spirits to enjoy on its own. These spots specialize in helping you do just that.
American Whiskey (247 W. 30th St.)
If all the pomp and price tags of bottle service isn’t quite for you, perhaps barrel service will sound more appealing—one of the many concepts created in honor of whiskey at American Whiskey. In Midtown, this three-floor, 6,500-square-foot ode to the brown tipple is as multifaceted as its namesake drink. Parts feel like a sports bar with burgers and short- rib sandwiches being served to an unbuttoned crowd; other parts feel like a chic mountain lodge with taxidermy heads hanging on wood walls and mason jars for glassware. But one thing’s for certain throughout: this is a place for true whiskey lovers who can rent lockers to store their unfinished bottles or come with a group of friends to order barrel-aged cocktails in bulk (hence the aforementioned barrel service).
There are daily-changing whiskey slushies and other playful concoctions—some on draft— as well as classic shakens and stirreds like a New York Sour that twists a whiskey sour with bourbon and pinot noir float. But for purists, opt for the tasting flights, which bring four half-ounce tastes crafted around seasonal themes or other countries.
Noorman’s Kil (609 Grand St.)For a true Williamsburg drinking experience, Noorman’s Kil is a place to try. It has all the defining characteristics of this neighborhood: wood reclaimed from an old barn, a large backyard patio with benches and greenery, and a low-key vibe (despite bottles that price well into the hundreds). Named after the creek that used to run through nearby parts of Brooklyn, this bar now flows with more than 400 types of whiskies comprising one of the most extensive libraries in all the boroughs.
They’re divided on the menu by place of origin— Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., Canada, and “Elsewhere,” which includes a cionado-hunted Japanese specialties and other imports from as far afield as India, France, South Africa, and Wales. The bar staff is happy to point you toward an easy-drinking option if you’re new to whiskey sipping or a more adventurous choice if you’re seasoned—spicy or syrupy, perhaps—while a small selection of draft beers, cocktails, and wines are available too. Sop it all up with one of the seven grilled cheeses—the spicy Salona with jalapeno jack and hot sauce, or the brie and mushroom Maefred on rosemary ciabatta—because what is a Williamsburg bar without some gourmet comfort food too?
Maysville (17 W. 26th St.)Trivia buffs may know that bourbon originally hails from the Kentucky town of Maysville, but the rest of us can get acquainted with this fact at the restaurant and bar of the same name near Madison Square Park. In fact, it’s believed that Bourbon Street might have been so named because of the amount of this tipple shipped out from Maysville to desirers downriver in New Orleans. But make no mistake: despite its Mason Dixon roots, this is a city-slicker spot, especially at Cocktail Hour when the front bar backed with a glowing display of hundreds of whiskey bottles buzzes with well-heeled young professionals flocking to this watering hole for cocktails like the Noreaster (Old Crow bourbon with ginger, lime, and maple) and classics like a barrel-aged old fashioned or Sazerac.
Thanks to head chef Kyle Knall, dinner service brings southern fare like freshly baked cornbread for the table, potatoes fried in beef fat to be dipped in smoked oyster sauce, crispy grits with ham and bourbon aioli, and daily specials like a Tuesday shrimp boil. More than 150 whiskies come mainly from the U.S., served in one-ounce tastes, two-ounce glasses, or decanters to share once you’ve found one you fancy.
Brandy Library (25 N. Moore St.)For a more studied approach to whiskey tasting, consider Tribeca’s Brandy Library as school. Embodying its name to the fullest, walls are lined with shelves from which sommeliers pluck not just rare whiskies but brandies and cognacs and tequilas and rums too, sometimes with the help of a library ladder as drinkers discretely snap photos of the lengths taken to serve their drink.
Whiskey is definitely the main subject here, though, and a calendar of ticketed classes can help get you up to speed or indulge your distinguished palate on the liquor, running about once a week on topics such as how to tell bourbon from rye, the multifaceted details of Japanese whiskies, or the correct way to do a blind taste test. Foie gras, charcuterie, tartare, prosciutto-wrapped figs, and let mignon make the menu decidedly fancy, making this is the type of place where you’ll still feel classy, even when you’re four pours deep.