The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Whiskey Lovers

Lists are like opinions, everybody’s got one. Using a collection of curated rankings lists from across the internet we considered a few key factors in developing our weighted points system to identify the 12 Best Cities for Whiskey Lovers.

Based on the criteria, we developed a points system where frequently-listed whiskey bars earned their cities points based on the number of times they were mentioned, and critically-loved whiskey bars weighted higher than those that were frequently listed. This is why a city with a high number of laudable whiskey bars but fewer total bars may outrank a city with a high number of frequently-listed bars.

For example, Washington, DC, is ranked number 3 on our list; although it has only two whiskey bars that came from our curated lists, both appeared multiple times in the top 3 rankings. This is why DC ranks higher than San Francisco, which has seven notable whiskey bars; while it has more bars overall, they are not ranked as highly by whiskey connoisseurs. Simply put, quality over quantity helped boost a city’s overall ranking!

How Did We Come Up with the List?

  • How many times was a whiskey bar mentioned across the collection of lists? If a whiskey bar was mentioned in any of our reference lists, it is considered notable, and is listed as frequently mentioned.
  • How many times was a whiskey bar ranked in the top 3 of the lists? The more frequently a whiskey bar ranked in the top 3 of any of our reference lists, it becomes more laudable, and is listed here as a locale that critics love.
  • How many whiskey bars are in each given city?
  • Of the whiskey bars in a given city, how many are frequently listed, and how many are critically loved?

The 12 Best U.S. Cities for Whiskey Lovers

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Whether you prefer your whiskey neat, on the rocks or as part of a crafted concoction, we’ve rounded up the most beloved joints for enjoying a glass (or two) from coast to coast. And remember, if you out and about imbibing please enjoy responsibly.

1. New York, NY

The City that Never Sleeps has no shortage of activities for locals and tourists alike, and if you fancy yourself a whiskey aficionado, you have no shortage of options to explore your passion. The best part? No matter where you are in the city, you’re just a walk or a subway ride away from your new favorite Scotch (even if you haven’t tried it yet!) or your go-to bourbon. And because NYC is so saturated with acclaimed whiskey hotspots, you can take your time exploring the city’s finest, or treat out-of-towners to an epic day of whiskey tastings from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Notable distilleries include New York Distilling Company, Widow Jane and Kings County Distillery.

Frequently Mentioned: HighlandsNoorman’s KilSycamoreShantyAmerican WhiskeyBar & BooksBenjamin Steak HouseCaledonia Scottish PubDeath + CompanyDive BarEmployees OnlyDead Rabbit
Critics Love: Brandy LibraryMaysvilleFlatiron RoomCopper & OakKeens Steakhouse
City Walk Score: 89
Median Home Sale Price: $599,000

2.Chicago, IL

Chicago has a rich history rooted in the days of Prohibition, and many born-and-bred locals argue that the era shaped Chi-Town as we know and love it today. Fortunately, the days of banned beverages are long gone, and whiskey aficionados should add this city to their brown spirit bucket list. The city is sprinkled with spots that range from divey to dignified, and even offers the option of renting a trolley to take you from one hangout to the next.

Frequently Mentioned: Longman & EagleBig StarDrumbarSable Kitchen and BarBarrelhouse FlatUntitled Supper Club
Critics Love: Delilah’s
City Walk Score: 78
Median Home Sale Price: $289,900

3.Washington, DC

Our nation’s capital has a booming bar scene that accommodates college students, locals, politicians and sightseers alike, so it’s no wonder it is also home to the most talked-about whiskey bar on our list, the Jack Rose Dining Saloon. If you want to see the wizard behind the whiskey, rum, gin or vodka curtain, check out one of the metro’s distilleries, some of which are only blocks away from where Prohibition was enacted more than a century ago. Based on our research and methodology, one thing is clear: if you make one special trip to satisfy your whiskey wanderlust, make it to DC. Check out One Eight Distilling for some truly DC whiskey.

Frequently Mentioned: Bourbon
Critics Love: Jack Rose Dining Saloon
City Walk Score: 77
Median Home Sale Price: $580,000

4.Louisville, KY

Not only is Louisville about an hour outside of the Maker’s Mark distillery — where fans can get a behind-the-scenes peek into how their favorite booze is made, and even dip a bottle in the brand’s trademark red wax — but it’s also home to many celebrated whiskey venues. For a real taste of the nectar’s impact on the centuries-old city, take a stroll down Whiskey Row to get extra pumped for your voyage into barrel-sipping bliss.

Frequently Mentioned: Proof on MainBourbon’s BistroCharr’d Bourbon Kitchen and LoungeDoc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw BarDown One Bourbon BarJockey SilksOld Seelbach BarBrown Hotel BarSilver Dollar
Critics Love: Haymarket Whiskey Bar
City Walk Score: 33
Median Home Sale Price: $209,900

5. Lexington, KY

Kentucky is world-renowned for its amber spirits, and was the birthplace of “Western Whiskey” — a departure from the rye whiskeys beloved by the East Coast — in 1792. It’s no wonder that the tradition lives on today throughout the city, which is home to seven notable whiskey bars. Whether you want to feel as though you’re traveling back in time to the speakeasies of yore or crave a more modern feel, Lexington is a true haven for any whiskey connoisseur. Just outside of town you’ll find household distilleries like Woodford Reserve and Wild Turkey.

Frequently Mentioned: Old Bourbon County KitchenParlay SocialArcadium, Belle’s Cocktail House
Critics Love: The Bluegrass TavernDistilledPaulie’s Toasted Barrel
City Walk Score: 34
Median Home Sale Price: $279,900

6.Portland, OR

Louisville isn’t the only derby-famous city that made our list, although whiskey nerds will probably be more emphatic about the style of race that Portland offers at its famous Pope House Bourbon Lounge. After exploring the city’s lush countryside, whiskey lovers ought to drop by one of the Rose City’s many acclaimed bars specializing in selections of 100-plus whiskies, and top off the evening by working toward a coveted Pope House horseshoe for completing the derby — an honor which is reserved for those who sample 50 whiskeys.

Frequently Mentioned: Pope House Bourbon LoungePaddy’sProduce RowWoodsman TavernHouse Spirits Distillery
Critics Love: Multnomah Whisk{e}y Library
City Walk Score: 65
Median Home Sale Price: $494,450

7. Seattle, WA

Coffee isn’t the only indulgent beverage to enjoy when the rain starts to fall over Seattle. After making your obligatory, must-see rounds at the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, settle in for a happy hour at one of the Emerald City’s cozy, sophisticated whiskey joints, which offer rare pours from across the globe as well as handcrafted cocktails created by fellow devotees. Seattleite’s are fans of locally distilled Copperworks Distilling, Westland Distillery and Fremont Mischief Distillery.

Frequently Mentioned: Rob RoyLiberty BarWhiskey BarZig Zag Cafe
Critics Love: Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium
City Walk Score: 73
Median Home Sale Price: $679,945

8. Los Angeles, CA

There is a reason the City of Angels is often portrayed in period films as a liquor paradise, even when it was outlawed. While LA may no longer receive its spirits supply from covert transport via underground tunnels, the whiskey scene is alive and well. No matter if you’re looking for vintage or contemporary decor, classic or craft cocktails, or are wandering the streets of Hollywood or Downtown LA — Los Angeles has something for every whiskey buff.

Frequently Mentioned: Daily PintEdison
Critics Love: Seven Grand & Bar Jackalope
City Walk Score: 67
Median Home Sale Price: $749,000

9. San Francisco, CA

Anyone who seeks out the finest barrel-aged juices will argue it’s an artform to achieve a perfect balance of flavor and smoothness, and the arts-centric community of San Francisco agrees. The most notable whiskey bars we discovered blend an eclectic mix of industrial, vintage and neighborhood hotspot vibes — a perfect way to not only enjoy a new or established whiskey favorite, but also the diverse spirit of San Fran.

Frequently Mentioned: Hard WaterBourbon & BranchBroken Record Bar & GrillBurritt Room + Tavern by Charlie PalmerElixirNihon Whisky Lounge
Critics Love: Rickhouse
City Walk Score: 86
Median Home Sale Price: $1,289,000

10. Somerville, MA

Bostonians need not venture too far to uncover Saloon, one of the East Coast’s most beloved hidden gems harboring the best whiskeys known to man. Their approach to whiskey is as classic as Massachusetts itself, and celebrates the no-nonsense, no-frills history of grabbing a stiff drink at the end of the day from the bygone era of the speakeasy.

Critics Love: Saloon
City Walk Score: 86
Median Home Sale Price: $774,000

11. St. Louis, MO

A certain pair of golden arches may signal that grab-’n’-go burgers are nearby, but the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis beacons that amazing sips of whiskey are on the horizon. If you’re in the mood to splurge, take in a Cardinals baseball game at Busch Stadium in the summertime or a Blues hockey game at the Scottrade Center in the winter — both of which serve a variety of whiskeys — and then treat yourself to one of the city’s stylish whiskey retreats. Notable distilleries include Square One Distillery and Still 630 Distillery.

Frequently Mentioned: SanctuariaScottish Arms
Critics Love: Gamlin Whiskey House
City Walk Score: 65
Median Home Sale Price: $165,000

12. New Orleans, LA

The Big Easy earned its nickname due to its laidback way of life, and what better way to celebrate the breezy nature of the city than by enjoying a distilled delight? While N’Awlins is home to a handful of distilleries, the best way to enjoy a varied selection of whiskeys from around the world is to make a stop to one of its charming, homegrown institutions, where you can bask in the wonder of whiskey long after Mardi Gras.

Frequently Mentioned: The Avenue PubCure
Critics Love: Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon HouseBarrel Proof
City Walk Score: 58
Median Home Sale Price: $299,850

Did we miss a whiskey bar that’s locally famous in your city? Tell us about it in the comments!

This article was put together for us by Julie Keef, content creator extraordinaire at Redfin Real Estate.

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