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Kirby's ginger old fashioned, with Chivas Regal 12-year-old blended Scotch whisky

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Spirits of the Season

Whiskey Gurus Share Tips for Buying and Enjoying the Perfect Bottle

We’ve tapped four local spirits gurus and gathered their tips for your whiskey shopping list. These bourbons, ryes and scotches make a great addition to your bar cart for holiday celebrations and a smart gift for the aficionado in your life. You’ll also find their suggestions for simple, “bartender-approved” 4-to-5 ingredient cocktails that are easy to replicate at home and will showcase your favorite “brown water” in all its glory. 

Kirby’s Steakhouse:

  • Resident Whiskey Guru: Sam Miller, General Manager
  • Tips for the Scotch Aisle: When choosing a scotch whisky (Yes, the spelling is different–there is no "e" if you're referring to scotch whisky.), learn the lingo so that you can read the labels, experiment, and better focus your selections over time. Note whether the scotch is single malt or blended, the age statement, region of origin, the type of cask used for aging—all of these factors affect the flavor and body of the scotch.
  • Good for Sipping: “I prefer a single malt scotch from the Islay Region of Scotland. Medium-to-heavy peat, such as Laphroaig. It has an approachable price point for a 10-year Islay but still has a nice punch of peat and some dried fruit and floral characteristics.”
  • Good for Mixing: Choose a mild, blended scotch such as Dewars or Chivas Regal. (“You want the flavors to shine but not overpower the other ingredients in the cocktail.”) 
  • Suggested Recipe: Kirby’s Ginger Old Fashioned–In a rocks glass, muddle an orange slice and 2 slices pickled ginger, add 2 oz. blended scotch, a splash of Angostura bitters and a splash of sweet vermouth.

BLEND Bar and Davidoff Cigars:

  • Resident Whiskey Guru: Alex Ables, Assistant General Manager
  • Tips for the Whiskey Aisle: If you’re not sure what you like, a safe bet is to choose something that’s been aged 10-12 years. If you know your own palate well, look for whiskeys that have been cask-finished in port, tequila, or sherry barrels to get the flavors you prefer. (“Tequila casks, for example, tend to lighten out the whiskey, and add vanilla and cedar notes.”) 
  • Good for Sipping: Jefferson’s rye, Basil Hayden rye (“Basil Hayden has complex notes of caramel, dark dried fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a port finish.”)
  • Good for Mixing: Jefferson’s rye, WhistlePig rye 
  • Suggested Recipe: BLEND’s Maple Old Fashioned: In a mixing glass, muddle an orange slice with a couple of fresh cherries. Add 3 oz. Whistle Pig or other rye, 1 oz. maple syrup, and 2 dashes orange bitters. Strain into a rocks glass and add a large ice cube. Garnish with a skewered, candied bacon slice. 

Refuge Steakhouse and Bourbon Bar

  • Resident Whiskey Guru: Louis Padilla, Director of Beverage
  • Tips for the Whiskey Aisle: If you prefer your whiskey neat, choose a higher proof. For cocktails, choose lower proof to lower the drink’s acidity and provide a balance to other ingredients.  
  • Good for sipping: Blade and Bow bourbon (“It has the depth of flavor of a very expensive bourbon, but it’s easier to find.)
  • Good for mixing: Elijah Craig bourbon, Buffalo Trace bourbon
  •  Suggested Recipe: Refuge’s Majestic Blue cocktail: In a rocks glass, mix 1.5 oz. Elijah Craig or other bourbon, .5 oz. St-Germain elderflower liqueur, .25 oz. fresh lemon juice, and .5 oz blueberry simple syrup. Serve with a single large cube and a skewer of fresh blueberries.

Fielding’s Local Kitchen and Bar

  • Resident Whiskey Guru: Luis Valbuena, Bar Manager
  • Tips for the Whiskey Aisle: It's always helpful to ask your local bartender for suggestions! 
  • Good for Sipping: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye (“best rye overall”), Woodford Reserve (“a very well-balanced rye”)
  • Good for Mixing: Bulleit Rye, Knob Creek Rye
  • Suggested Recipe: Fielding’s Sazerac: Start with an absinthe rinse of your drinking glass. (Swirl a bit in the glass, coating the glass thoroughly, then save, discard—or drink!- the excess alcohol.) In an iced mixing glass, add 2 oz. Knob Creek or other rye, .5 oz. simple syrup, and a dash of Peychaud’s bitters. Stir, then strain into the prepared glass and serve straight up with a lemon twist. (Twist the peel twice over the glass to express the aromatic oils, then add the twist to the glass.) 
  • BLEND Bar Assistant Manager Alex Ables
  • BLEND's Alex Ables recommends Basil Hayden dark rye for sipping.
  • Luis Valbuena, Bar Manager at Fielding's Local
  • Fielding's Sazerac cocktail, with Knob Creek rye
  • Kirby's ginger old fashioned, with Chivas Regal 12-year-old blended Scotch whisky
  • Director of Marketing & Events at Kirby's, Eric Saville
  • Luis Padilla, Refuge's Director of Beverage
  • Refuge's single-barrel Rossville Union rye and Blue Note Juke Joint bourbon