Brandy Library

25 North Moore Street, New York, New York.

Stop 1 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. So this is where the adventure began in late July 2016. I saw a Facebook post from The Bourbon Review that highlighted their list of the best 80 bourbon bars in the United States. It seemed like a great idea to try to hit all 80 of them and have a drink.

The Brandy Library, in the Tribeca neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, was a great place to begin. It is a library. Filled with booze. The menu is an inches-thick, leather bound tome that is easy to get lost in. I decided to try a High West Yippie Ki-Yay Blended Rye Whiskey on the rocks. It would have been easy to stay here all afternoon, but with two more stops to hit on the tour that afternoon, I thought it best to just enjoy one drink here. While settling up the tab, I happened to mention to our bartender that The Brandy Library visit officially kicked off our mission to hit the best 80 bourbon bars in America. To celebrate, he brought out a special Brandy Library bourbon; one of a few remaining bottles that were recently discovered in a warehouse. I broke my one-drink pledge immediately and enjoyed that one neat. (Tour Rule #1: You never turn down free bourbon.)    


37 West 26th Street, New York, New York.

Stop 2 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. Just around the corner from the famous Flatiron Building in Manhattan is the Flatiron Room. This bar/lounge has a 30's-era speakeasy feel with vintage Italian wallpaper, chandeliers, and a live jazz band playing on a stage adorned with velvet curtains. I had my first glass of Angels Envy Cask Strength bourbon hereranked "Best Spirit in the World" by Spirit Journal. Expensive, but worth every penny. In terms of overall vibe, this place will be hard to top.        


17 West 26th Street, New York, New York.

Stop 3 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. Up the block on 26th Street from the Flatiron Room is Maysville. Named after the Kentucky port town from which whiskey was first shipped out of the state, Maysville is a solid bourbon bar with an excellent menu of smoked and grilled food that pairs well with bourbon. I enjoyed a High West Rye Blend on the rocks with marinated Calendar Island mussels and grilled flatbread.     


710 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.

Stop 4 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. Three blocks up from the Marcy Projects (Jay-Z's old stomping grounds) is Beast of Bourbon, a BBQ restaurant and bar in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. We met up with old friends here on a Sunday afternoon with the intention of just having a couple of quick drinks and moving on. The crowd-pleasing Bulleit Rye Old Fashioned was the drink of choiceand my recollection is we ordered well over a dozen of them (plus a plate of BBQ) before we headed to the next stop on the tour.


609 Grand Street, Brooklyn, New York.

Stop 5 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.  I sampled Brooklyn's own Kings County Distillery bourbon whiskey at this quintessential NYC hipster pub. New York magazine does a great job of describing Noorman's Kil:

Named after the creek formerly cutting through Bushwick, Noorman’s Kil doesn’t trickle far from the current hipster building code that apparently requires 1) a hastily Googled, historic origin; 2) a turn-of-the-century, reclaimed materials vibe (an old New Hampshire barn in this case); 3) a low brow, comfort food-pairing (grilled cheese sandwiches here). That said, none of this is any real reason to complain.

Bosscat kitchen & libations

4647 MacArthur Boulevard, Newport Beach, CA.

Stop 6 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. Finally hit the first West Coast bar on the tour. I had some business meetings in L.A., so I flew in via the John Wayne/Orange County airport so I could hit Bosscat in Newport Beach. I started with their signature drink (which was great) and then transitioned to their Kentucky Orange Blossom (a mash-up of an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan that replaces the standard simple syrup with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur). Damn good drinkI've been trying to replicate it at home since returning from this trip. The pairing of a Kentucky Orange Blossom with a side of pulled pork hush puppies (with Carolina BBQ mustard dipping sauce) might just put this bar at the top spot in the unofficial tour rankings to date.   

seven grand

515 West 7th Street (2nd Floor), Los Angeles, CA.

Stop 7 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. On the corner of 7th Street and Grand Avenue in downtown L.A. is Seven Grand (see what they did there?). This place went for an old hunting lodge motif; they are big on bucks here. Hipster bartenders? You bet, but they were all cool and friendly. Bonus points for having late 80's/early 90's Jean-Claude Van Damme movies on endless loop on the big screens while blasting Yeah Yeah Yeahs tunes. I don't get that combo, but damn if it didn't work. I had a Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Scotch on the rocks (this isn't strictly a bourbon drinking tour). I followed that up with a Knob Creek Rye Old Fashioned (which was VERY well made). I really enjoyed this bar, but downtown L.A. lacks character. Sorry, but points off for that.  


1919 Washington Avenue, Houston, TX.

Stop 8 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. I needed to visit a new client who is located in Austin, TX, so I did what any reasonable person would do: I consulted my 80 Best Bourbon Bars map and determined how many bars I could possibly knock off in the vicinity of Austin. Houston is only two hours from Austin, so hitting Julep was an easy decision.

Julep is a smallish bar with a good vibe and cool decor. Dominating the bar space is a giant tub of crushed ice, liberally used in their Mint Juleps. Speaking of which: I had the best Mint Julep I've ever had at this bar. Granted, it was the first one I've ever had, but it was damned good nonetheless.

Julep is also where I came to the realization that this is a bar food tour as much as it is a bourbon/whiskey tour. In addition to a couple of Mint Juleps, I enjoyed an excellent pulled pork sandwich and deviled eggs while soaking up the ambiance of the outdoor patio on a humid Houston evening.


3901 Johnston Street, Lafayette, LA.

Stop 9 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. Technically, New Orleans is not that close to Austin. However, I made the executive decision that New Orleans was close enoughtime for a road trip!

Honestly, I viewed my stop in Lafayette as a "check the box" stop. It made sense to stop and hit Social Southern Table & Bar, but I was anxious to get to New Orleans. I ended up loving this place. They nailed the Bee Old Fashioned I ordered. That's always my litmus test drink: If you can't make an OId Fashioned, how can I trust you to make anything else? Theirs was excellent, though. Buffalo Trace bourbon with just a hint of bitters and brown sugar. They also nailed the food side of things: Chorizo flatbread with peppers and two fried eggs.

These guys know what they are doing. The background music was excellent, the staff was personable and fun to talk to, and the drinks and food were great. If I ever find myself near Lafayette again, I'll go out of my way to pay Social Southern Table & Bar another visit. 

Dickie Brennan's bourbon house

144 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA.

Stop 10 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. What can I say about NOLA that hasn't already been said? If you've been there, you know. If you haven't, you gotta go. One of the greatest cities that I've ever visited. In the world. 'Nuf said.

So what can I say about Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House? Best bar I've been to on the tour so far. Home of the New Orleans Bourbon Society, the Bourbon House has the best collection of bourbon and whiskey I've encountered so far. I spent a lot of quality time here and strayed outside of my usual comfort zone in both the food and drink categories. Alligator boudin? Yeah, I had that. Seared oysters? Yeah, that too. Bourbon milkshake? OK, why not.

On the drink side of things, I spent an evening sampling the Redemption catalog of rye whiskey. I tried the Redemption Barrel Proof 9 Year High-Rye bourbon (excellent!) as well as the Redemption Barrel Proof 9 Year Straight Bourbon (very good, but I preferred the high-rye). On a return visit I also tried the limited edition Booker's Rye here, which I didn't even know existed. This is Booker's first ryeaged 13 years, uncut 136 proof, and damned near impossible to find, even at $500+/bottle. (A few weeks after my visit to New Orleans, Booker's Rye was named "World Whisky of the Year" for 2017 by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible...) I was also introduced to the Thomas Handy Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey here, which is one of the best rye whiskeys I've ever sampled.

When I go back to NOLA (not if, but when), Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House will be my headquarters (again). I'll venture out and eat elsewhere, but there is no reason to drink anywhere else around Bourbon Street. For bourbon/whiskey aficionados, it doesn't get any better than this in the French Quarter. (There are probably only a handful of places in the world that get better than this...)   


5757 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA.

Stop 11 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour. Kenton's is a very interesting neighborhood bar, deep in the Garden District on Magazine Street in NOLA. The bar's namesake is Simon Kenton, a founder of the town of Maysville, the Kentucky port town from which whiskey was first shipped out of state.

Wait. Doesn't that story sound familiar? Doesn't Maysville in NYC call upon that same mythology? Yeah, they do. Maysville (NYC) is a sister bar to Kenton's (NOLA)both are owned by Sean Josephs, a NOLA native who relocated to NYC. Not surprisingly, Kenton's has the same laid-back vibe as Maysville with similar decor, a familiar menu, and a solid whiskey collection.

Kenton's passed the Old Fashioned litmus test with flying colors. They also served up an amazing fried green tomato sandwich with fried eggs and bacon (my first fried green tomato experience, by the way). The high point of Kenton's, though, was being introduced to Pinhook bourbon. Pinhook is a "rare and limited small batch whiskey." The manger of Kenton's was nice enough to provide the first pour for free. That's how they get you, though. This bourbon was so smooth, I had to work my way through their collection of bottles (all named after signature thoroughbred Kentucky racehorses) before I finally moved on. VERY good stuff. 

the woodsman tavern

4537 Southeast Division Street, Portland, OR.

Stop 12 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.

The Woodsman Tavern was the first stop on the PNW leg (Portland/Seattle) of the Bourbon Bars Tour. I enjoyed a Kentucky Special (bourbon, pine-smoked tea Heering Cherry Liqueur, and Angostura Bitters) and an Eagle Rare 10 Year on the rocks. Also had the best pancake I've ever had with a side of fried chicken.

THE pope house bourbon lounge

2075 Northwest Glisan Street, Portland, OR.

Stop 13 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.

The visit to Pope House was relatively short due to an early reservation at the Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library. Kept it simple here with a House Old Fashioned (Buffalo Trace Private Selection, brown sugar, and Angostura Bitters) and a snack of deviled eggs. I also tried the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project bourbon for the first time. 

multnomah whisk{e}y library

1124 Southwest Alder Street, Portland, OR.

Stop 14 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.

Multnomah is Heaven on Earth. Great concept and execution; I'd be on the membership waiting list if I lived closer to Portland. I enjoyed a Booker's Rye again (hard to pass up since it is so rare to come across a bar that has a bottle). I also tried the Lock, Stock & Barrel 13 Year Old Straight Rye.


517 15th Avenue East, Seattle, WA.

Stop 15 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.

Liberty is the neighborhood dive bar that you wish was in your neighborhood. They make their Old Fashioned with black walnut bitters, which was a unique twist. An excellent sushi menu compliments their extensive cocktail and spirits menu.

Canon whiskey and bitters emporium

928 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA.

Stop 16 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.

Canon regularly makes it onto "Best Bars in the World" lists for a reason. Their spirit collection is 3,500+ bottles strong and valued at over a million dollars. Their drink menu is ridiculous. Their food is incredible. Everyone is going for Prohibition chic right now in terms of decor, but Canon nails it better than anyone.

I started with one of their signature drinks, the D.C. Crack, which uses their own barrel-selected Canon High West Rye as the prime ingredient. I also enjoyed a Pinhook (which I originally discovered at Kenton's in NOLA and haven't seen anywhere else on the West Coast). From there, I was introduced to W.L. Weller, a wheated bourbon whiskey from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. For a snack, I went with the manila clam and chorizo plate; the food was as excellent as the drinks.

Hard water

Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA.


3200 16th Street, San Francisco, CA.

Bourbon & Branch

501 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA.


246 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA.

Stops 17, 18, 19 and 20 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.

Acme BAR & Company

2115 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA.

Stop 21 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.


111 West Kinzie Street, Chicago, IL.


505 North State Street, Chicago, IL.


2657 North Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL.


1531 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL.


955 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL.


2771 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL.


2624 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL.

Stops 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28 of 80 on the Bourbon Review's Best 80 Bourbon Bars tour.