6 Bartenders Pick their Favorite New Spirits

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6 Bartenders Pick their Favorite New Spirits

It seems like there’s a new spirit or cocktail ingredient on the market every week. How can anyone possibly figure out which bottles they should actually buy? The easiest way is to ask a bartender what they like. Every day, bartenders are inundated with sleek, fancy vodkas, gins, whiskies, rums, tequilas and any number of random, niche spirits. They get a firsthand look at every new product out there, and know which are worth buying and which aren’t. So, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite new spirits, and they didn’t disappoint.

Kalak Vodka

Julia Momose, from Oriole in Chicago


“One favorite recent release in the US came at the end of October just this past year. Kalak, a single malt Irish vodka, named after the Celtic goddess of winter, is one of my favorite new spirits to work with. Vodka is known for being odorless and flavorless, however, Kalak is supple and smooth, with just enough spirit to remind you for whom it is named. Delicate aromas of vanilla and warm grain waft from the liquid, and all in all there is a depth to the mouthfeel that I have not experienced with many vodkas in the past. I wasn’t expecting to say this, but an Irish vodka is one of my favorite new spirits.”


 Keith Meicher, from Sepia in Chicago

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“Recently I was floored by a bottle that Mr. Nony, the owner of Sepia, brought in for me to try.  It’s called MG – Mezcal/Gin which is a mezcal that’s distilled using the botanicals that are typical of a gin. Usually something like this would be gimmicky or too kitsch for my tastes, but this bottle perfectly blends both spirits into one cohesive idea. You’re getting the rich smokiness of the mezcal while also favoring the juniper, cardamom, and citrus from the gin. It’s pretty unique. I’ve loved making cocktails with it, but honestly have a hard time not just sipping it neat.”

Luxardo Bitter Bianco

Matt Grippo, Bar Manager Blackbird / Bar Fluxus in San Francisco

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 “Luxardo Bitter Bianco, a new product in the Luxardo portfolio of Italian liqueurs, gives us so much more versatility in an aperitif. Big gentian and thyme flavors stand out to give you an amazingly savory element to add dimension to cocktails. I love the fact that it has no artificial color, so you can control the aesthetic of your cocktails even further. Keeping artificial colors out of cocktails is something more bartenders are becoming passionate about. A simple way to enjoy it is a Bianco Americano, which mixes Luxardo Bitter Bianco, Tempus Fugit Kina, Juniper Gin, grapefruit sparkling water, grapefruit twist, and thyme.”

Creme de Noyaux

Joseph Doose, General Manager of Arbella in Chicago

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 “Lately, I’ve been intrigued with Creme de Noyaux, an apricot liqueur, and have been using it in drinks with a number of different base spirits on the menu at Arbella. It’s not new—it was first produced in France in the 19th century—but it’s new to me, as I just recently discovered it. It acts a bit like amaretto in cocktail, adding a nutty finish to drinks. It plays well with all types of base spirits, from scotch to vodka. The other bartenders at Arbella have jokingly dubbed it “Crème de Joe” since I’ve proven to be such a big fan.”

J Rieger Co. Caffe Amaro

Andrew Olsen, from Bluestem in Kansas City

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“This new amaro is unlike any of the others I carry at Bluestem. J Rieger Co Caffè Amaro carries incredible flavor of Thou Mayest coffee, gentian, orange, vanilla and cardamom. This is an incredibly versatile product that adds a level of complexity and diversity to simple highballs (Caffe Amaro and tonic) and complex cocktails (Madeira/Caffe Amaro flip).”

Del Maguey Tobala

Danielle Lindow, assistant food & beverage manager at Hyatt Regency Chicago

 “My new ‘go-to’ spirit is Del Maguey’s 100% Tobala. It’s a mezcal with a sense of terroir. Del Maguey makes this additive-free mezcal with only wild-grown blue agave harvested from a single village. This yields a clear spirt with a stellar bouquet of floral, mango and cinnamon with a touch of smoke and a smooth, delicate finish. I drink it neat…perfect after a long day at work!”