The best Spirits of 2021 from top-notch US bartenders

Drink, shake and mix your way through the best spirits of the year as selected at the Bartender Spirits Awards.

With so many new spirits popping up on shelves, how does one choose if anything new is worth trying or if they should stick to the classics? What if you could get a recommendation from some of the top bartenders in the country about the best new spirits you should be trying this year? 

Every year at the Bartender Spirits Awards, some of the most renowned bartenders across the USA get together and judge spirits based on their quality, value, and packaging.  They do this based on the everyday drinking choices that we make. Is a spirit attractive to buy, does it offer great value, and how good is the drink in the bottle? 

Depending on the scores given, Double Gold, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are awarded to the spirits brands. These scores and medals offer an insight into which spirits are good for your shelf, for a cocktail, for your bar, or a night out. You can choose the best vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, brandy, cognac, liqueur, or tequila that were picked by judges after tasting thousands of spirits from across the world. 

The winners are a great guide in deciding what spirits you can try at a bar, restaurant, or for drinking at home.  

Like perusing the aisles in a liquor store, but now armed with a knowing eye, you will find some new and innovative products amongst the winners. A grapefruit-flavored rum, a vodka from Tasmania, a blood orange liqueur, great Japanese whiskies, cucumber water flavored vodka are but a few to name. 

Winning a Double Gold medal

What does it mean for a spirit to win a Double Gold?  The Double Gold medal at the Bartenders Spirits Awards represents the highest form of appreciation any spirit can receive. To be crowned with a Double Gold medal, a spirit would have to excel in all three parameters: quality, value, and packaging and would have to emerge with a score of 96 points and above.

The Bartenders Spirits Awards Final Score is based on M (Mixability Score) + B (Balance and Versatility) + T (Taste, Mouthfeel, and Finish) Score) + Package Score (P) + Value Score (V). 


First off, all spirits are tasted blind for judges to be able to focus on the quality of the spirit they are tasting. At this point, judges will score the spirit on how well it mixes to make a cocktail (M), the flavor and aroma that make up its balance (B), and the sensory mouthfeel and finish of tasting the spirit (T). 


Judges are then provided with additional information on these brands like price and whether it’s meant for at-home consumption, or to be placed in restaurants and bars. Based on this, a score on value is given.   


This is the final reveal. Judges now see the label, the shape of the bottle, the colors used and decide how attractive the bottle is when placed on a retail shelf amongst thousands of other spirits. Will it catch your eye as you walk by?

[Bartenders Spirits Awards: Judges Rating Spirits’ Packaging]

The combination of excellent quality, value, and packaging is the only way for a spirit brand to win the coveted Double Gold medal. 

The Vsop Cognac by French producers Drouet was one of the Double Gold winners at the 2020 Bartenders Spirits Awards. Noting its excellence in quality, value, and packaging, the judges also crowned the French cognac as ‘Spirit of the Year’ and ‘Best Value of the Year’, while Drouet took home the ‘Distillery of the Year’ award. 

Bartender Spirits Awards ensure that if you pick a winning bottle to drink, it should hit all the right notes - great to taste, delivers well on the pocket, and is a treat for the eyes. 

Who’s judging?

David McPhillips from Buffalo Wild Wings, Juyoung Kang from The Dorsey inside The Venetian Resort, Aom Aphiradi Lee from W Hotels, David Rowe from Four Seasons, Kristopher Van Zanten from BBC are just some of the prominent names that are part of the judging panel at the Bartender Spirits Awards. 

With years of experience along with the flair and knowledge they have, the judges at the Bartender Spirits Awards are known to be the leaders in the world of spirits.

These are the top bartenders at bars, pubs, clubs, and restaurants across the country. They come across a multitude of new spirits every day. Many make buying decisions for their establishment and are accomplished in making excellent cocktails. They know what people would love to drink, whether at home or a bar. We put our faith in our judges knowing that they are placed to pick the best spirits from the massive selection in front of them.  

3rd edition: ‘Best Spirits to Drink’

2021 will mark the 3rd edition of the ‘best spirits to drink’ list by some of the best bar talents across the USA. Rest assured that the spirits that have made it to this list have been looked over and tested by professionals who can differentiate the best from the rest. 

From the wide range of spirits tasted, we will be curating a list of the experts’ top 100 picks for this year. Meanwhile, check out 2020’s Double Gold winners - the judges’ top picks. Maybe you’ve tried some of these winning spirits, and maybe you’ll find something new to try out.

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