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Creating the perfect bar menu is no easy task. Selecting just a few great bottles to represent each spirit category can take a lot of research and forethought, but keep in mind that “top shelf” doesn’t stand for “most expensive.” What does price matter if the liquor doesn’t taste great?

Ideally, you should include the liquor basics like bourbon, tequila, rye, vodka, gin, scotch whisky, an amaro, and bitters. Small bottles of sweet and dry vermouth should be placed in the fridge.

The Best Top-Shelf Liquors for Your Bar Menu

When it comes to the top shelf, liquor pricing is especially important. If you’re off by just a little bit, you may turn off your ideal market, and you won’t want the following spirits to go to waste.

1. Top-Shelf Bourbon: Wild Turkey Bourbon

For over 100 years, premium brand Wild Turkey has perfected their bourbon by using sherry barrels in their aging process. Wild Turkey Bourbon has a complex yet subtle flavor that’s optimal for sipping. Taken straight, you’ll notice hints of raisins and nuts finished with fruit.

2. Top-Shelf Tequila: Clase Azul Reposado Tequila

Well known for its bottle, this premium tequila is masterfully crafted. From its hand-painted container to its medium, agave syrup aroma, you won’t find another tequila like it. Its vanilla, hazelnut, cinnamon, and clove flavor pairs well with pork ribs, so be sure to put it on the menu.

3. Top-Shelf Rye: Elijah Craig Straight Rye Whiskey

Elijah Craig produces one of the most famous bourbons, but have you heard of their new addition? In 2020, Elijah Craig introduced a 94 proof, cocktail-ready spice bomb that’s both easygoing and intense. You’ll love how effortlessly this recipe mixes dark chocolate and honey.

4. Top-Shelf Vodka: Absolut Vodka (Citron or Vanilia)

Can you ever go wrong with Absolut Vodka as a top-shelf option? The answer is yes, but only if you want to add Absolut Citron or Vanilia, which are fine alternatives to the clean taste of the original. If you’re really looking for something unique, try Absolut Peppar in your bloody mary.

5. Top-Shelf Gin: Monkey 47 Dry Gin

Monkey 47 is a unique dry gin that hails from Germany’s Black Forest. The 47 botanicals used in this liquor, including honey pomelo, lingonberries, and blackberries, sit on a molasses base. As another anomaly, Monkey 47 is aged in earthenware containers for three months.

6. Top-Shelf Scotch Whiskey: Compass Box Hedonism

Over a century ago, Scottish whiskies were made using grains like wheat and corn, but they were eventually replaced by single malt varieties. John Glaser rehabilitated it by mixing both whiskies together in old grain barrels and gave his concoction a caramel and coconut taste.

7. Top-Shelf Amaro: Capitoline Tiber

An amaro, or Italian bitter, is not so bitter that it can’t be drunk straight. The Capitoline Tiber is a red, naturally colored bitter that tastes of grapefruit, cinnamon, and ginger and would work perfectly in a Negroni or Americano. Its red glow will look perfect on any bar shelf.

8. Top-Shelf Sweet Vermouth: Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth

Any bar that wants to cook up a sweet Manhattan will have a Carpano Antica sat on their top shelf. Long considered the gold standard for craft cocktails, this vermouth is both bold and pleasantly intense thanks to its notes of cocoa, vanilla, orange, and subtle hints of saffron.

9. Top-Shelf Dry Vermouth: Jardesca California Aperitiva

The Jardesca California Aperitiva is one of those deliciously odd liquors that work well in a dry martini, even when it shouldn’t. Handmade in Sonoma, California, this dry vermouth mixes three different Golden State wines and fortifies it with grape, pink peppercorn, and citrus-based spirits.