How to Pick an Excellent Spirit to Drink?

Your next trip to the bar deserves a cocktail made with award-winning spirits with a top bartenders’ stamp of approval.

When you walk into a bar or restaurant, there are the usual bottles on offer. But there are also the hidden gems, the award-winning bottles chosen by leading bartenders themselves from across the world. So why not try something par excellence which also doesn’t break the bank. 

At the Bartender Spirits Awards, the judges are committed to pick the best spirits from every category. They taste spirit after spirit be it a vodka, whiskey, rum, gin or brandy. Scores are given for quality, value and packaging. 

Quality is judged by blind-tasting the spirit and is further refined by mixability, balance and versatility, and taste. Judges want to know how good the spirit will be when had on its own or when mixed into a cocktail. They want to know if we will order this drink at a bar or restaurant again and again. 

After the quality, judges score products on the value they offer. Is the price at par with the liquid in the bottle? Finally the packaging is revealed and the judges go to town judging the bottles by the ‘cover’. They see how well information is represented on the bottle, the shape and texture, the design of the label and how attractive it is to the eye. Will it attract you from a shelf amongst thousands of other bottles at a retail store? Will you pick it out when it is sitting on a shelf at a back bar. 


With a heavier weight on the quality, a final score is arrived at. Depending on the score, it will be determined if the spirit has qualified for an award or not. A score of 96 and over gives the spirit a Double Gold medal. Scores between 90 and 96 mean a Gold medal. A silver is awarded to spirits scoring between 80 and 89 points and bronze to those that score between 70 and 79. 

The judges also pick the best by country for the countries that have the highest number of participants. For the best in their spirit category there will be the highest honor of rum of the year, whiskey of the year, gin of the year and so forth. 

Who is judging?

The judges that evaluate these spirits are of the highest order, from many leading bar and restaurant chains, and some of the best bars and restaurants in the country. They have collected accolades for their decades of excellent work in the industry. 

Some of the names representing 2021’s competition are Nora Furst who is a partner at West Beverage Consulting and Beverage Director at Uma Casa, San Francisco; Natasha Mesa - Head Bartender and Bar Manager at Deadshot PDX, Portland; Meg Abraham - Brand Ambassador at Bartender Meggs and more. 


These judges know what people love to drink, they know the pulse of the drinks industry. 

À ta santé from around the world

The Bartenders Spirits Awards sees a wide array of spirits from all everywhere, including Japanese whiskies, German gin, Irish bourbon, ready-to-drink cocktails, Mezcal, Tequila, and many more. 

French Cognac VSOP by Drouet grabbed the highest rank of them all, taking home the title of Spirit of the Year, Best Value of the Year, and Brandy Cognac of the Year. Drouet spirits was also awarded Best Brandy Cognac Producer of the Year. 

Hailing from Japan, the Meiyo 17 Whisky was crowned World Whisky of the Year, making it a top-of-the-shelf choice for restaurants and bars. The competition also awarded spirits like Vermouth, a dash of which brightens up cocktails. The Rockwell Dry Vermouth scored a whopping 95 points with a gold medal to its name. 

This year the Bartenders Spirits Awards will be taking place on May 17th in San Francisco. While you wait for the best spirits for 2021, check out some of the judges’ favorites of 2020

So what would you rather be drinking this year? Something run off the mill or top of the shelf? With the best spirits in the world at your disposal why look any further. 

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