The 10 Best Whiskeys, Beers & Drinks of 2019
It’s easy to get into overly meta discussions around what the best drinks in the world are. Well, it has little to do with taste; quality is important, of course, but it will only get brands so far. The best drink products go beyond by offering up something the competition doesn’t — such as well-aged whiskey that’s shockingly affordable or spiked seltzer that’s both fun and serious. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when they go down easy.
Products are listed alphabetically.
Allagash River Trip
Allagash’s River Trip is an entirely crushable 4.8 percent ABV, 170-calorie ale packed into a 16-ounce can. It furthers what Allagash has been doing for decades now — effectively integrating the best parts of American craft beer into traditional Belgian beer styles — and, by way of a thoughtful mix of some of the biggest trends in beer, River Trip has more than earned its spot on the shelf.
Hops: Nugget, Cascade, Comet and Azacca
Grains: Local pale malt, local raw quick oats, 2-row base malt blend and Munich malt
Price: $12 for a 4-pack
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Dims. Barbican Trolley
When Dims. launched early in 2019, it did so with a modest four-piece collection. Included alongside a solid-wood coffee table, a desk and a steel side table was the breakout hit: the Barbican Trolly. This bar cart is designed by New York-based industrial design studio Visibility and made from steel and ash wood.
The studio, which has had plenty of success on its own (Forbes’s “30 Under 30” list, Wallpaper* Design Award, Fast Co. Innovation by Design Award), describes the Barbican as “an architectural take on the bar cart.” It’s easy to see where they’re coming from: the ash-wood handle seamlessly extends from the top shelf like a cantilever, while the bottom tier’s retaining wall opens it up to far more possibilities than just beverage duty.
Colors: Green, black, white
Uses: Bar cart, trolley, rolling table, serving tray, etc.
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The Finnish Long Drink
The Finnish long drink — a carbonated, gin-based, grapefruit-forward alcoholic soda — doesn’t fit into any category of American booze. It’s not a spiked seltzer, and its founders say it’s not a canned cocktail, either. And it’s not particularly new; the lonkero, as it’s called in Finland, was invented by the Finnish government to satisfy tourists during the Summer Olympic Games in 1952, and thanks to the four friends behind the Long Drink Company, it’s now available stateside. Their canned version goes down like a cold Fresca, without the syrupy aftertaste. Pour over ice.
Distribution: Available online
Price: $16 (6-pack)
• The Best Things We Drank Last Month
Four Roses Small Batch Select
The new Four Roses Small Batch Select is a blend of six recipes (different combinations of mashbills and yeast strains), each aged for at least six years, including the four recipes that showed up in Master Distiller Brent Elliot’s one-off, the 130th Anniversary Small Batch, which took home the title of “World’s Best Bourbon” in the 2019 World Whiskies Awards.
Small Batch Select is Elliot through and through; since taking up his role, he’s been releasing blends with some of the lesser-known recipes, like those made with their more herbal yeast. Also of note: Small Batch Select is the most premium Four Roses to ever see wide release. It’s the highest-priced booze of the permanent collection and, in a nod to current trends, it weighs in at the highest proof. And the company elected to skip the chill-filtration process, giving the whiskey a thicker, more oily mouthfeel. Previously, you could only find non-chill-filtered Four Roses at this proof if you were able to get your hands on the annually released Four Roses Limited Editions.
All Natural: Non-chill-filtered
Serve: Neat, with a few drops of water
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George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond
The exclusion of a whopping 13-year age statement on this bottle was either the best or worst branding decision in whiskey this year. Old whiskey sells, especially as age statements have become rarer and rarer. Perhaps the people behind this ludicrously priced $36 bottle of Bottled-in-Bond whiskey wanted to keep it a secret unto themselves; if not for the words “Distilling Season – Fall 2005” scrawled vertically on the label, they might have pulled it off.
Age: 13 years
Mashbill: 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malted barley
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California startup Haus may very well be the first direct-to-consumer booze brand in the U.S. Its aperitif-like expressions, sold exclusively online, use grapes like wine and clock in under 24% ABV; that means Haus can bypass most states’ mandated three-tier distribution system, comprised of producers, distributors and retailers. The brand’s first offering, Citrus Flower, blends unoaked Chardonnay with lemon, cane sugar, hibiscus, grapefruit, elderflower and cinnamon for a low-sugar answer to the Aperol craze of yesteryear.
Clean: No additives, preservations, coloring or concentrates
Versatile: Mix with Prosecco, club soda or fruit juice
ABV: 15% ABV
Price: $70 (for two bottles)
• The Best Things We Drank Last Month
Legent (pronounced lee-jent) begins as straight Kentucky whiskey, produced and aged for four years at Jim Beam’s Clermont, Kentucky, distillery. A portion is then finished in sherry barrels, another portion in red-wine barrels, and then Noe tosses the keys to Fukuyo, who blends the now three whiskeys to merge styles from opposite sides of the world into one neat, 94-proof package. “Blended” used to be a dirty word for Kentucky bourbon. Not anymore.
Flexible: High enough proof to mix, low enough for easy sipping
Boundary-pushing: Finished in sherry and red wine casks
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Old Forester Rye
Available year-round across the country, Old Forester’s entry-level, 100-proof rye is something of a whiskey chameleon: it’s rich enough to sip neat or with a splash of water; strong enough to stand up in a Manhattan; and cheap enough to serve as a house whiskey. It’s got staying power, so consider it up there with bottom-shelf greats like Wild Turkey 101 and Evan Williams Black.
Age: No age statement
Availability: National distribution
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Riedel Drink Specific Glassware
Riedel consulted with bar consultant Zane Harris for the first series of cocktail glasses to give ice the attention it deserves in mixology. The six shapes — Rocks, Highball, Sour, Nick & Nora, Fizz, Neat — are sized to factor in liquid displacement (or the lack of it) from your choice of ice, elevating your cocktail game without any effort. There’s a matching mixing glass ($60) and spirits decanter ($149) for completionists.
Sold in: Sets of two
Care: Dishwasher safe
Price: $30 (set)
Don’t let the smirking, animated giraffe fool you — Shackbury Shorts is not a cutesy cash grab. Though the hard seltzer finds itself lined up against Goliaths like White Claw, it may very well be the sleeper champion of 2019’s hard-seltzer war. The Vermont cidery’s take on the biggest new category in booze is made with a New England apple cider base, featuring a touch of citrusy botanicals for complexity. It’s light and bright, with a champagne-like aftertaste. In short, it makes other hard seltzers taste like savourless sugar bombs.
Cider base: Mac, Empire, Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious Apples
Price: $8 – $10
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