Whiskey, translated from the original Gaelic, literally means “the water of life.” While anyone who has imbibed a bit too much of the firewater might have formed an opinion about that definition, fans of the drink swear by its flavor and unadulterated power. Whiskey connoisseurs are keenly aware of the remarkable variety of the spirit – Irish whiskey, Scotch, Bourbon, and Rye Whiskey, just to name a few. New York City boasts a wide variety of whiskeys, and even those less schooled on the drink’s nuances can learn from the experts that work these establishments. While the city offers a bounty of bars that specialize in whiskey, here are 5 of the best places to sample a dram of your favorite elixir.
1. Highlands, 150 West 10th Street / 212 229 2670 / Manhattan
A destination in West Village, Highlands is a hip, young take on Scotland – an industrial loft with Scottish accoutrement. The bar is known for its single malts, blended whiskeys and cocktails – including the potent “Blood and Sand,” comprised of Glenlivet 12 year, Cherry Heering, orange juice, lemon juice, and bitters. The traditional food selection compliments the drink selection nicely, and includes such hearty Scottish fare as beef wellington, wild mushroom shepherd’s pie, and roasted Scottish ocean trout.
2. The Whiskey Ward, 121 Essex St. / 212-477-2998 / Lower East Side, Manhattan
Close to another top Whiskey Bar – d.b.a. is just down the street – the Whiskey Ward is a non-pretentious, crowded-but-not-divey, well-stocked watering hole that offers a traditional bar atmosphere, complete with peanuts and a pool table. While the staff is friendly, the whiskeys are serious, with an emphasis on bourbons and plenty of draft beer to accompany the hard liquor.
3. Angel’s Share, 8 Stuyvesant Street / 212 777 5415 / Manhattan
The phrase “the angel’s share” refers to the small quantity of whiskey that is lost to evaporation during the aging process. Attached to (but separate from) a Japanese restaurant called Village Yokocho, this hidden-gem bar is famous for its atmosphere. The owners maintain a cozy and intimate ambience by requiring that guests keep their voices at a low volume and limiting group sizes to four.
4. Hudson Bar & Books, 636 Hudson Street /212 229 2642 / Manhattan
This is a whiskey-drinker’s whiskey bar. To paraphrase Will Ferrell in Anchorman – there are many leather-bound books, and it smells of rich mahogany. The lounge has extensive and refined drink options, priced accordingly. As one of the few establishments that allows indoor smoking, Hudson sells high-end cigars at the bar. Happily over-masculine, yes – undeniably a luminary in the New York whiskey bar scene.
5. Sycamore, 1118 Cortelyou Road / 347 240 5850 / Brooklyn
This Brooklyn establishment doubles as a flower shop, and even offers specials combining alcohol and floral arrangements. The décor and ambience is simple and inviting, and the whiskey selection is one of the largest in New York City. Sycamore hosts a crowd of regulars, which sometimes can make it feel more like a neighborhood bar than some of the others on this list.
Laura Zulliger is a writer at TravelNerd, a blog where you can find advice on a myriad of travel needs: from insider info about particular destinations to comparing airport taxi options at over 70 international hubs.