You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.
Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.
“This Kentucky brandy is beautifully bold and elegantly delicious. It’s finished in both ex-bourbon barrels and new American oak and perfect for the whiskey lover in your life.”—Keli Rivers, bartender at San Francisco's Whitechapel and brand ambassador for Monkey 47
“Brandy harkens to a simpler time, and there's no way to fake or speed up a true V.S. cognac. Delamain is delicate and clean. Notes of apricot, fig, honey and green fennel are all there. Delamain stands in equally well as an apéritif, while family gathers in the kitchen around a plate of cheese, and as a digestif after a big meal before a roaring fire. There's something generous and classic about giving a friend a bottle of cognac. It's almost like a secret, a wink between conspirators, an acknowledgement that not everyone has a bottle of good brandy to tuck into when the temperatures drop.”—Greg Best, co-owner and bartender at Atlanta's Ticonderoga Club
“Made in Mendocino, Calif., this X.O. is as good as any brandy or cognac I've had at twice the price.”—Chad Michael George, co-owner of Denver's Way Back
“It has complex flavors of oak, sherry and dark fruits. It’s velvety with chocolate, orange and caramel notes.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas' Dorsey
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“Delicate oak aging allows the fruity base spirit to shine through.”—Neal Bodenheimer, owner and bartender at New Orleans' Cane & Table and Cure
“This is a great mid-price-range cognac. It’s elegant and dry with lovely dried petal notes.”—Kellie Thorn, bar manager at Atlanta's Empire State South
“It’s one of my favorite spirits of all time. A 50-year-old cognac for this price point is crazy cheap. It has notes of marzipan, caramel, candied orange peel, vanilla and crème brûlée.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Mina Group
“This is for those who want a bigger, bolder and more expressive cognac with nothing added to it.”—Franky Marshall, beverage director at New York City's Le Boudoir
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“This cognac hailing from the Grande Champagne region packs a lot of power. It shows its rancio off in the form of well-developed tropical fruit notes and spice, and the finish just keeps going.”—Thorn
“This is a beautiful cognac in which the terroir shines. It’s definitely the right way to finish any holiday dinner.”—Sam Willy, restaurant manager at New York City's Gabriel Kreuther
“It’s America's oldest distilled spirit. Drink it with pride.”—Matthew Voss, head bartender at Minneapolis' Marvel Bar
“The region requires that for 30 percent pears are added to its calvados, and there are few better examples of how brilliantly pears can feature in distillate than products from the Lemorton family. Neat or mixed into cocktails with a restrained touch, this product stands resolute, elegant and proud.”—Peder Schweigert, general manager at Marvel Bar
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“This is a great product for cocktails and is a fine example of a product that doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves.”—Nicholas Bennett, head bartender at New York City's Porchlight
“Aged between 10 and 25 years with a high Borderies eau-de-vie, you’ll find notes of sweet spice, ginger, roasted cocoa, plums, apples, cinnamon, honey, orange tree flower and toasted almonds. It’s complex yet smooth flavor gives it an elegant characteristic that’s truly enjoyable.”—Kang
“Park cognac as an entire cognac house is beautiful and relatively unknown. Its Borderies label is one of my favorites. Impress your friends with your nuanced grasp of cognac (even if you just googled it after you bought it) by giving this gift.”—Jonathan Shock, head bartender at Detroit’s Prime + Proper
“This balanced yet complex cognac has notes of honey, saffron, gingerbread, vanilla and cranberry. It is full of flavor, with a long finish, and goes great with a cigar. It’s simply great to have in your hand on a cold winter night.”—Kang
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“This beautiful cognac pushes the boundaries of what you can do to brandy and still call it cognac. I've always loved this company’s experiments (including its rums), and the packaging is always impressive as well.”—Jamie Boudreau, owner and bartender at Seattle's Canon
“With beautiful baking spices, this cognac is highly mixable and makes a beautiful Sidecar.”—Willy
“Legally a brandy, this spirit from Bolivia is like no other. With notes of orange blossom, it makes a beautiful sour.”—Willy
“Aged in solera, it has walnut, almond, bright vanilla and citrus.”—Karen Fu, former bar director at New York City's Donna