Build the Ultimate Bar Cart with These Award-Winning Spirits
We canvassed the liquor landscape, convened a quorum of experts, and sipped through huge swathes of spirits. The result: three stylish carts stocked with some of the best booze out there.
For the Sunset International Spirit Awards 2020, our panel of judges gathered in Sonoma County at the end of last year to sample hundreds of spirits comprising the inaugural competition slate. Together, they arrived at a consensus group of winners, some of which you’ll see marked in bold below. (The complete list is here.)
Agave on Board
Mexico’s national spirits are making a splash in the West. Roll them out on this ultimate party-ready bar cart.
Edith Bar Cart in natural, $675, selamatdesigns.com; David Wondrich Berry Wall Footed Mixing Glass, $50, cocktailkingdom.com; Del Maguey Copitas, $25, cocktailkingdom.com; Sip Straws, set of 6, $22, us.hay.com; Gold Cobbler Shaker, $115, umamimart.com.
314 Huellas Bacanora Plata
Winner: Best of Class, Double Gold
This bacanora, a variety of mezcal from Sonora, balances spice, earth, subtle sweetness, and smoke, making it eminently sippable. $50.
Comiteco d’Antaño Blanco
Distilled from agave and cane, this bottling tastes like a cross between mezcal and artisanal rum. Ideal in tropical cocktails or on ice. $90.
Super-complex with notes of citrus, grass, and pepper, this rare micro-batch mezcal from the Miahuatlan region of Oaxaca is prized by restaurateurs and bar owners. Snap it up if you find it. $130; netaspirits.com.
Greenbar Ixá Silver Tequila
A tree is planted for every bottle of this super-approachable tequila from L.A.’s first and only organic distillery. $42; greenbardistillery.com.
Pro Tip: Keep your drinks chilled in style with these tips on making the coolest-looking cocktail ice.
Quick Mix: 2 oz. agave spirit + 3/4 oz. lime or lemon juice + 3/4 oz. simple syrup = 1 margarita-esque sour cocktail.
Whether distilled in the West or just damn delicious, this collection showcases some of the best brown liquors you can place in your cart.
Treviso Bar Cart, $199, lampsplus.com; Talon Tongs, $18, cocktailkingdom.com; Akagawa 24K Gold Teardrop Barspoon, $45, umamimart.com; Nick and Nora Glass, $34 for 6, cocktailkingdom.com; Watakoma Gold Circle Cocktail Pin, $8, umamimart.com; 24k Gold Jigger, $35, umamimart.com; Ninomiya Diamond Cut Mixing Glass, $43, umamimart.com; Stainless Steel Ice Bucket in Gold, $20, target.com; Orasella Washington Maraschino Cherries, $19, orasella.com.
Jefferson’s Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet Cask Finished
This Kentucky bourbon spends 12 months in French oak barrels from the iconic Chappellet winery, adding notes of espresso and vanilla. Napa royalty meets Kentucky’s best. $60; jeffersonsbourbon.com.
Four Roses Small Batch Select
Take a step up from Four Roses’ wonderful small batch with an attainable “trophy whiskey” suitable for celebrating life’s everyday triumphs. You’ll get candied fruit, spice, and vanilla with each sip. $60; fourrosesbourbon.com.
From Pappy Van Winkle to George T. Stagg, the Buffalo Trace distillery is known for producing excellence. The lineage shines through in this high-proof whiskey with notes of spicy rye, brown sugar, cloves, and cherries. $50; buffalotracedistillery.com.
Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey, Collectors Art Series
Colorado’s Breckenridge Distillery Colorado whiskey shines in this grain-to-bottle bourbon that’s rich with spice and butterscotch on the nose and palate. High praise for one of the world’s highest distilleries. $125; breckenridgedistillery.com.
High West High Country Whiskey American Single Malt
100 percent distilled and aged at the Utah brand’s Wasatch facility, this single malt-style whiskey competes with the best of its Scottish forebears. $80; highwest.com.
Black Butte Whiskey
Winner: Best in Show
This young, tasty, sipper from Bend, Oregon, benefits from aging in Black Butte barrels from one of our favorite Western breweries, Deschutes. $85; bendistillery.com.
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea
Aged for four years in new American white oak and then transferred to a fresh barrel for another year, this fine Texas whiskey is a crash course in vanilla, honey, and brown sugar. Or as founder Dan Garrison calls it: “bourbon candy.” $200; garrisonbros.com.
Quick Mix: 2 oz. amber spirit + 1 oz. sweet vermouth or other liqueur + 1 maraschino cherry = Manhattan-ish aromatic cocktail
From Washington gin to Hawaiian rum, these superlative silvers are clearly made for mixing.
Luxembourg Wheeled Bar Cart, $1,146, fermobusa.com; Kimura Glass Company Stella Coupe Glass, $75, umamimart.com; Itaya Jagged Grip Ice Tongs, $14, umamimart.com; Mount Rainier Glass, $18, welltolddesign.com.
Ada Lovelace Gin
Winner: Best of Class, Gold
A gin with subdued juniper flavors, citrus, and floral notes. Made with Meyer lemons and rose petals grown on the Francis Ford Coppola estate in Sonoma County, it’s perfect in a fifty-fifty G and T. $39; thefamilycoppola.com.
Oakland Spirits Company Automatic Sea Gin
Foraged nori, bay leaves, sage, and other botanicals go into this Bay Area gin that’s custom made for briny locavore martinis. $34; oakland.ventures.
Ko Hana Agricole Rum
Made from freshly squeezed sugar cane instead of the standard molasses, this small batch, farm-to-bottle rum is grown, hand-harvested, and distilled on Oahu. The resulting rum is smooth and tastes of anise, fennel, and sugar cane. $40; kohanarum.com.
Tahoe Blue Vodka
Winner: Best of Class, Gold
Using pristine water sourced from Lake Tahoe, this super smooth and crisp vodka makes for easy drinking and mixing, with a portion of the proceeds going to help preserve the lake. $20; tahoebluevodka.com.
Heritage Distilling Co. Elk Rider Gin
This Washington state gin pairs the flavors of a traditional London dry gin with appropriately Pacific Northwest piney notes. $29; heritagedistilling.com.
Quick Mix: 2 oz. silver spirit + 2 oz. effervescent mixer + citrusy garnish = 1 refreshing highball.
The bitter, herbal liqueur is growing in popularity with American makers, alongside cocktails like Negronis. Now the style can be found using botanicals from the West Coast, from California bay leaf to pink peppercorn.
Greenbar Grand Poppy Amaro
California poppy is a main ingredient in this floral, bitter liqueur from Los Angeles. Use it in place of Campari for an herbaceous kick. $30; greenbardistillery.com.
Colorado’s take on a classic alpine liqueur involves a mix of herbs, fruit, and bitter roots. $29; breckenridgedistillery.com.
Almost port-like in its body and sweetness, this Santa Barbara amaro gives off aromas of sage, thyme, rosemary, and mint. Its deep flavor makes it ideal for after-dinner sipping. $50; margerumwines.com.
Viva Western Vermouth
A key ingredient in many classic cocktails from Manhattans to martinis, vermouth has its roots in Europe. These locally-made fortified wines also make a great aperitif for drinking neat or with ice.
Ransom Sweet Vermouth
Oregon-based Ransom Spirits ages aromatic white wine varietals in French oak with botanicals like wormwood, hibiscus, and cacao nibs. $20; ransomspirits.com.
Napa white wine is scented with Seville oranges for a creamsicle-inspired flavor that’s great in a classic martini or Vesper. $22 for 375 ml; winesearcher.com.
T.W. Hollister Oso de Oro Dry Vermouth
This floral vermouth from Santa Barbara uses orange peel, hyssop, and rosehip for a balanced vermouth. $37; twhollister.co.