DI Annual Bar Report: American Whiskey

17 January, 2017

Bulleit is right on target once again. Hamish Smith explains why it’s the favourite

The cocktail bar, whiskey with an ‘e’ is king. That’s because its backed by classic cocktails (and any number of twists). Three of the top five classics sold at our sample of world’s best bars – the old fashioned, manhattan and whiskey sour – all call for american whiskey.

Conclusion: american whiskey is big business. As such you might have expected a goliath such as jack daniel’s or jim beam to come out top and in the earlier iterations of this list they did indeed dominate. But now, with a plethora of america’s best available to the worldwide bar audience, there has been fragmentation of the offering.

So it makes it even more impressive that bulleit took top spot by a landslide. Last year, it was something of a surprise to see diageo’s american whiskey rise from fifth to first, but this year it seems more a continuation of a new american whiskey world order. You are twice as likely to be served bulleit as another american whiskey brand in our 100 polled bars. A glance at the trending list also shows this brand is still in the honeymoon period with consumers. In tom bulleit and his family recipe, diageo has built a global brand without even having finished building a distillery (which is due for completion anytime now).

Maker’s mark heads the chasing pack. The beam suntory-owned brand pepped up its offering last year with its first new recipe in 50 years, maker’s mark 46, but it is its more competitively priced classic bourbon that is more likely to finds it way into cocktails.

In third place is woodford reserve, an early trendsetter for quality american whiskey exports. More bartenders attested to stocking the brand than last year, and so it moves up one place.



The Drinks International Annual Bar Report looks to gauge the buying habits of the best bars in the world by conducting a survey of their owners, head bartenders and bar managers.

The bars that took part – what we refer to as the best bars in the world – are a sample of 108 bars that finished in the top 250 places of the World’s 50 Best Bars survey, now owned by William Reed Business Media. Given the depth and scope of The World’s 50 Best Bars poll (voted for by 476 global bar experts) we feel this is the most credible place to source our sample of bars.

In each instance we asked the bartender to rank their three best selling products in each category, giving us an indication of the brands that are selling best.

As we know, a best selling brand, even in the best bars in the world, earns its place on more than taste, so we also wanted to know the brands that are not necessarily doing huge volumes but have cool-appeal right now. This is where the Trending brands come in. These are the brands customers are increasingly asking for, perhaps because of word of mouth, or even on bartenders’ recommendations.

For more on the methodology see How we did it

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