Plus, see who won our annual Sunset International Spirits Competition.

Parche Oakland Cocktail
Thomas J. Story

There’s something special about hotel bars. They combine the romance of travel and the deliciousness of a well-made drink in a welcoming space that’s the ideal version of a home away from home. And the drinks at hotel bars these days are better than ever.

I recently had the pleasure of dining at the excellent restaurant Maleza at the Drift Palm Springs, a stylish new hotel in the heart of the desert getaway. We were having a lovely meal of some of the best modern Mexican food I’ve had in Palm Springs, and it was the margarita that took the experience over the top. Maleza’s version, called Tequila, A Love Story, had all the flavors you expect: the herbaceous hit of good blanco tequila, zippy lime, just a touch of sweetness to smooth it all out. But there were other elements that I couldn’t quite put my finger on and that made it a delightful, mysterious experience. I asked the bartender and it turned out the secret ingredients were a house made lime cordial spiked with fresh ginger and a salted rim flecked with rose petals. You think you’ve had it all and then you have something entirely new.

Tequila A Love Story Cocktail from Drift Hotel Palm Springs
The excellent Tequila, A Love Story, at Maleza at the Drift Palm Springs.

Phyllis Langley for Drift Palm Springs

To help you find the best cocktails to order, the most delicious drinks to make at home, and the best bottles to buy, we’ve put together this issue celebrating the winners of the 2023 Sunset International Spirits Competition. In these pages (which you can read below) you’ll find the brands that stand apart in their categories for their excellence. From vodka to tequila to whiskey and beyond, each and every one of the brands featured in the directory is worthy of its awards and worth seeking out.

Similarly the people and places celebrated in the feature stories are the tops in their fields and are devoted to serving exceptional drinks made with exceptional spirits: a vibrant Colombian restaurant in Oakland, a hotel that designed its restaurant around the bar program, a stunningly designed lounge, and more. To these practitioners of pleasure, hospitality, and beverage excellence, we heartily raise a glass. Cheers to one and all!

Read the 2024 Spirits Issue

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