Whiskey Guide, From Behind the Bar

October 13, 2014


Sales of North American whisky are soaring and consumers want to learn more about these spirits. One way to do this is to sit down in a well-stocked bar and start sampling. If your sampling is guided by knowledgeable bartenders, then so much the better. For those in Southern California, the Aero Club is a good place to do this.

With over 900 whiskies on Aero’s bar you’ll be hard pressed to know where to start, and that’s where the bartenders come in. Four of them contribute brief notes for each of the 250 whiskies featured in this book and already, there is a lesson here. Who you drink with determines what you enjoy.

Jeff and John follow the whisky orthodoxy fairly closely. With their recommendations you’ll learn what you are supposed to know about the whiskies of North America. Annie and Brandon, on the other hand are more adventurous, evaluating each whisky on its own merits. Jeff and John will help you become a knowledgeable drinker; Annie and Brandon will push you into connoisseur territory.

For those who can’t visit the Aero Club, Chad Berkey, along with Jeremy LeBlanc from the Parq restaurant & nightclub, have written The North American Whisky Guide, From Behind the Bar. It is so refreshing to read a whisky book written by someone from beyond the hard-core of the whisky world.

Berkey and LeBlanc bring original, well-thought-out perspectives of experienced bartenders to a genre that has attracted more than its share of cut-and-paste books. Yes, all the old favourites are included, but so are whiskies from off the beaten track. Billy Boy straight whisky, Roughstock Montana rye, Campbell & Cooper Canadian, Wathan’s single barrel and Cyrus Nobel small batch are not in the average whisky lover’s vocabulary. Here is an opportunity to learn about them from people who have tasted them and poured them for their customers.

The book includes an overview of what makes each whisky style distinctive, tasting notes for a broad range of selected bottlings along with bartender’s comments, whisky and cigar pairing recommendations, a whiskies-you-must-try-before-you-die bucket list, and what the authors call 30 standout cocktail recipes.

The Whisky Sour, I am told, is the most popular whisky cocktail in North America and the world. So, you can bet Chad Berkey and Jeremy LeBlanc have mixed more than a few in their time behind the bar. Here’s how they do it:

Aero Whiskey Sour

  • 2 slices lemon
  • 2 oz (60 ml) Fighting Cock Bourbon
  • ¼ oz (7 g) simple syrup
  • ¼ oz (7 g) egg white
  • Ice
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Cherry, for garnish
  • Cinnamon, for garnish

Muddle the lemon in a shaker, then add the bourbon, simple syrup and egg white. Dry shake vigorously, then add the ice and shake vigorously again. Strain over ice in a rocks glass, and garnish with a dash of Angostura Bitters, a cherry and a pinch of cinnamon.*

This is a book for those who want to learn about whisky, not from whisky snobs, but from people who work with it every day. The North American Whiskey Guide, From Behind the Bar is available here on Amazon. And if you are in San Diego why not drop by the Aero Club and have Annie, Jeff, John or Brandon recommend a whisky.

*from The North American Whiskey Guide from Behind the Bar: Real Bartenders’ Reviews of More Than 250 Whiskeys by Chad Berkey and Jeremy LeBlanc. Re-printed with permission of Page St. Publishing.

For an entirely different take on Chad and Jeremy, click here.


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