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Bartenders Reveal the One Bottle of Booze They Can’t Live Without

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Asking a bartender to pick their favorite bottle of liquor is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid—but that didn’t stop us from doing exactly that. Whether it’s a certain spirit that mixes well with everything, a liquor that does double duty as a cocktail ingredient and straight shot, or a bottle that gets them out of a jam, here are the bottles bartenders can’t live without having behind the bar.

Espolón Blanco Tequila

“A nice bottle of Tequila—Espolón Blanco to be specific—is an absolute must behind the bar. Not only is it great for a classic lime Margarita, but it’s the perfect spirit to infuse and create flavors with; for example, our jalapeño infusion makes a delicious spicy Margarita. You can also enjoy tequila with a mixer of your choice or simply as a shot with a beer.” —Elizabeth DiCarlo, Gypsy Bar at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City, NJ

Abbott’s Bitters

“The one bottle I can’t do without behind the bar is a bottle of Abbott’s bitters. I usually make my own, and it lifts any classic Manhattan or dark, stirred drink to new heights when using in place of regular Angostura bitters. Simple, yet very effective.” —Luke Whearty, Operation Dagger, Outram, Singapore

Clear Creek Pear Eau de Vie

"In almost any bar situation, if there’s one bottle I’m unwilling to move forward without, it’s Clear Creek Pear Eau de Vie. It’s delicious, clean, floral, flavorful, and again, delicious. I love using it as a modifier, or letting it soar as the star in cocktails.” —Dave Fernie, Honeycut, Los Angeles, CA

Grey Goose Vodka

“It mixes well with everything, but does not actually require said ‘everything’ to taste good. Less is always more in my book.” —Yulia Phifer, Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar, Manhattan, NY

Aged American Whiskey

“If you had asked me this question even 10 years ago, I would have said unequivocally vodka. It was impossible to think of any other bottle that could be the one everyone grabs for. Now, American rye and bourbon seems to be on its way to conquering the world. I would say the darling of the bar today is that special bottle of aged American straight whiskey. Choose your favorite brand and insert.” —Dale DeGroff, author The Craft of the Cocktail and The Essential Cocktail, Holland American Line, Seattle, WA

Ocho Tequila

“It’s an amazing, complex product that is easy to enjoy on his own, or you can create delicious drinks with it. The tall and thin bottle makes it very comfortable to work with it behind the bar.” —Balazs Molnar, Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao

“As a modifier, it is the gift that keeps on giving. It works to elevate the complex nature of classics like Manhattans and Mai Tais and allows for the exploration of a broader scope of flavour profiles. It’s also pretty delicious neat.” —Jake O’Brien Murphy, Callooh Callay, London, UK

Suze

“Aside from being delicious, it is the perfect balance between bitter and sweet. It is a brilliant ingredient for drinks, as well as the best shot you can have.” —Rémy Savage, Little Red Door, Paris, France

Dry Vermouth

“Its addition to a Martini is like the addition of salt to steak.” —Declan McGurk, The Savoy, London, UK

Italian Vermouth

“It would be hard to imagine working behind a bar without vermouth. It’s a must-have—especially since our Manhattan (made with Italian vermouth) is such a favorite among our guests.”  —Danilo Bozovic, Employees Only at the Washington Park Hotel, Miami, FL

Angostura Bitters

“My first instinct was to say Campari or Aperol, but I think the most important bartender bottle is Angostura bitters. They are the quintessential bar tool. Just try making any classic cocktail without them.” —Antonia Joannides, The Bar Room, Manhattan, NY

Also Angostura Bitters

“Works in almost every brown spirit cocktail and the majority of clear-spirited cocktails as well. There are many great bitters out there, but if you could only have one, this is it.”  —Jamie Boudreau, Canon, Seattle, WA

And, Once Again, Angostura Bitters

“I think Angostura bitters are the single most important ingredient in cocktails. No other bitter is as good or as ubiquitous. Sometimes it’s frustrating that a dash of Angostura can make almost anything better.”  —Alejandro De La Parra, Tear Drop Lounge, Portland, OR

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