As drink enthusiasts, we love to know what the pros are stocking their fridges with or ordering while at the bar. So far, we’ve picked the brains of brewers as well as sommeliers. Only seems logical that we would reach out to a few distillers, while we’re at it.
What we discovered is that some of the top distillers out there are a lot like us: They like to collect spirits, enjoy sparkling wine, and have a nice cold beer or cup of tea when the time is right. Because these individuals are embedded in the industry, they tend to spot trends before the rest of us getting a picture of what they’re enjoying in the glass can inform our next trip to our favorite bottle shop or watering hole.
Here’s what a few standout distillers are sipping on right now.
Broken Barrel Whiskey Company
Seth Benhaim is the founder and CEO of Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. in Los Angeles. Over his years in the industry, he’s gained a real interest in collecting specialty bottles, creating a bottle library of his own.
“Part of being a whiskey producer to me entails understanding other distilleries’ products to gain a better consensus for what is being put on the market from the smallest to largest producers, domestically and internationally across multiple categories,” he says. “As such, I have collected over 1,100 different bottles of spirits spanning from Armagnac to Mezcal and bourbon to Scotch.”
“Lately I have been collecting and tasting lots of older Scotch single cask, cask strength bottlings from the early 2000s as these whiskeys were so far ahead of most American whiskey producers,” he says. “Finding these dusty Scotches is not only fun when out in different cities but also has ended up being some of the best whiskey I’ve ever tasted, particularly from the Speyside and Islay regions. We taste a lot of bourbon and American whiskey during the day as part of our job so it’s fun to change it up at night and on the weekends.”
Big Nose Kate Whiskey
For Melissa Heim at Big Nose Kate Whiskey in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it’s all about simplifying. Heim’s work as co-founder and master blender of the brand involves calculating blends and exacting ratios. When the day is winding down, she’s ready for a tasty finished product. “Quality is everything,” she says, “I don’t drink anything I wouldn’t be proud to serve to peers or my colleagues.”
Heim name drops Siponey canned cocktails as a go-to. “I like the classic Royale made with New York Rye, honey, and lemon,” Heim says. “It’s incredibly satisfying to drink a $15 cocktail in my sweatpants in my kitchen and to support another female founder.” Heim reaches for a cold beer when the weekend chores are done. “I’m drinking Matchless Brewing Brave and Adventurous Saloon Lager for its perfect execution of a whiskey-inspired grain bill,” she says. “These brewers are at the top of their game.”
What about a nightcap? She likes Dottie May’s Oatmilk Liqueur over ice. “Barista quality ingredients, easily prepared, and not a sugar bomb,” Heim says. “It’s sophisticated sipping without fuss. I’m not vegan but I buy this because it’s delicious.” Oh, and remember to drink water, she advises, in order to stay functional.
At Eastside Distilling in Portland, Oregon, Jason Ericson is the head distiller. These days, he’s been into bubbles, specifically Spanish sparkling wine. “Lately I’ve been into Cava, trying to find as many as I can here in the city. It’s reasonably priced and of great quality. I think it’s great for sipping on its own, in a mimosa, or a French 75,” he says.
Later in the day, Ericson likes to switch it up. “My go-to drink in the afternoon though is jasmine pearl green tea. I even have a dedicated cast iron teapot for brewing it,” he says, adding that Tao of Tea is one of his favorite options. “During the week it’s a ritual to separate work time from leisure time. I’ll brew a pot when I get home and decompress if I need to. On the weekends though it’s purely for the enjoyment of the tea. I usually keep at least five or six types of loose leaf teas in my pantry.”
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