Like any other, the alcohol industry has its trends. Rum-runners once ran rum. All the gin joints in all the world once poured the piney punch. Vodka took over in the 1970s and kept people in high spirits for decades.
But whiskey—O, whiskey!—has steadily seeped into the American imagination in recent years, and (according to industry reports) is poised to overtake Russian water in U.S. sales in the coming year.
Some experts attribute the swell in whiskey’s popularity to the recent explosion of sweet whiskey-based blends featuring flavors like honey and black cherry. Others may simply be going for the Don Draper look.
Whatever the source of whiskey’s propulsion, the effect on Columbus is clear: more and more bars and restaurants in the capital city are curating their collections in the category to meet demand.
The fad hit total furor back in October when Park Street Cantina (491 N Park St.) opened its aptly-named Whiskey Library, a compilation of 300 different varieties that ownership claims to be the biggest in the state of Ohio.
You can get a shot of Jack just about anywhere with a roof and a door, but super-premium offerings can be hard to come by. Cantina purports to carry some of the last remaining bottles of certain rare labels—sure to attract a crowd.
Of course, those in the know will go to front-running cocktail bars like Mouton, Curio, and Giuseppe’s Ritrovo for a sip of something special, and Wing’s still has the best Scotch list in the state. But where else can a whiskey drinker go to wet her whistle around here? Here’s a list of newcomers, little-known nooks, and members of the old guard to light your way.
401 N Front St., Arena District
As you’d expect from an Irish-style pub, The Mare carries a fine selection of Bushmills’ and Jameson’s finer aged options. Like Cantina, it just goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to leave the lights of Nationwide to find a quality glass of whiskey.
2439 N High St., University District
Leave it to the place famous for its grilled-cheese-with-a-bottle-of-Dom special to have a sneaky good whiskey list. Locals love this dive-y Mecca where you can get bourbon and bluegrass all at once if you play your cards right.
652 High St., Worthington
At the Back Room Bar in this north-side seafood spot, you can still enjoy the fruits of the sea that grace the dining room, but you can do it sidled up to the bar with a glass of something neat. Plus you get to visit Historic Downtown Worthington.
30 S Sandusky St., Delaware
Yes, it says wine bar in the name. But if you can count on oenophiles for anything, it’s an eye for quality and detail. Vito’s carries over 40 hand-picked bottles of Scotch, bourbon, and rye served up by a focused, knowledgeable staff. Turns out Delaware is more than just Veritas Tavern.