For ages, bartenders have been giving to us. They’ve been pouring us crisp beers, shaking up the cocktails we crave, and the best of them, filling shot glasses and pushing them across the wood with a wink and a sense of comradery.
But with the pandemic shutting down bars across the nation, our bartenders are in a tough spot. Many have lost their jobs, and if they haven’t, they’re working on a limited income.
While many of us have taken up being our own bartenders or purchasing take-out cocktails, there’s no hard-and-fast replacement for sliding up to a bar and sipping on an excellent cocktail. Simply said, we miss bartenders, and they miss us.
So a handful of booze brands have stepped in, funding bartenders through virtual happy hours and limited-edition bottles. The best of these are releasing baller bottles that give back, like Santa Teresa’s bartender-designed bottle and Garrison Brothers’ rare blended bourbon. Below, the best bottles to drink (for a cause).
Garrison Brothers Laguna Madre
Texas’ oldest legal whiskey distillery has built quite the following producing unique, wheated bourbons using all local, organic ingredients. So fans of the brand had heart palpitations when Garrison Brothers announced that not only would they release a collectors bottle of bourbon, but $400,000 from the release would go towards Covid-19 relief. The funding has been spread across 53 Texas bartenders, as well as Team Rubicon, Southern Smoke Foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund, and the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s TX Restaurant Relief Fund.
The generous donation is endearing, but what is particularly enticing is the elusive, limited-edition bourbon the distillery released into the world. Made with the rarest, collectors-only bourbon the distillery has had tucked in hiding, the liquid is aged for four years in new white American oak, then four more years in barrels made from French Limousin oak.
It is “intense A&W Root Beer meets Dublin Dr. Pepper,” describes master distiller Donnis Todd. “Vanilla bean, hazelnut, saltwater taffy, Hershey’s Kisses, frosty white chocolate and “ADULTS ONLY” Almond Joy candy bar finish—pucker up, it’s 101 proof.”
The award-winning, old-school sipping rum is launching a limited edition bottle. To craft this iteration of the high-end sipping rum, the Venezuelan rum brand worked with a team of 25 out-of-work bartenders, including Meaghan Dorman of New Yorkes’ Raines Law, Liana Oster from Dante, and Erin Koral from Bar Goto, to create a limited-edition label. Each bartender is given the chance to add their creative flair to the bottle before handing it off to another bartender of their choice. A portion of the proceeds is going towards the USBG National Charity Foundation.
Expect an elegant, aged sipping rum, made with a blend of rums aged up to 35 years in bourbon oak barrels. On the nose, ripe plum and cypress, with a palate of nuts, leather, and honey.
Banks Rum—a rum that expertly blends 21 rums from five islands with the help of Master Blender Arnaud de Trabuc—has recruited a series of all-star bartenders from across the globe to host happy hours on the brand’s Instagram, including Sam Baxendale, from Kin in Edinburgh; A‐K Hada, of Existing Conditions in New York; Pietro Collina, of The Nomad in New York; Patrick Alvarez, from Chicago’s Kumiko and Kikko; and Emily Chipperfield, from London’s Callooh Callay. Each bartender hops online and teaches home drinkers to make the recipe.
All bartenders are paid for their work, but for home drinkers, we get tips, tricks, and recipes from some of the bar world’s top guns. Expect sherry-spiked daiquiris, breezy highballs, and complex cocktails.
Just as the pandemic started to take hold, Los Angeles bartender Aaron Polsky was watching his first run of canned cocktails come off the production line. The concept of his project? Bring craft cocktails to the masses, with innovative ingredients and masterful mixology packed into a canned format. Polsky’s own creation blends vodka, grapefruit, kumquat, jasmine, and ginger, but he’s also enlisted an army of equally as talented bartenders to make their own iterations—like a Honeydew Collins by Joey Bernando, with gin, honeydew, coconut, lime leaf, and elderflower). Drinks from Broken Shaker’s Christine Wiseman, Amoy y Amargo’s Sother Teague, and The Spare Room’s Yael Vengroff are on the way.
The company puts bartenders in the spotlight, placing them front and center in the marketing campaigns and completely compensating them for all work. Royalties are paid out with every drink purchased.
The beloved bourbon brand has teamed up with the USBG (United States Bartender's Guild) National Charity Foundation to hire a roster of bartenders across the country to craft unique cocktail recipes with Bulleit. Each bartender demos out the recipe on the brand’s Instagram channel, sharing techniques and tips to perfecting your home bartending game.
Don’t feel like flexing your bartending muscles? Bulleit is also working alongside Sourced Craft Cocktails to hire bartenders to mix up and deliver cocktails straight to your door. Try out the Soul Rush, with lemon juice, elderflower, and Tiki bitters, or the Maybe Tomorrow, with demerara syrup, chocolate bitters, vanilla extract, and topped with Topo Chico. All taste great with original Bulleit or pick up a bottle of the brand’s limited-edition Blenders’ Select, aged between six and eight years with notes of lingering vanilla and toasted oats.