Let’s get one thing straight: Brick-and-mortar wine shops, beer shops and spirits shops will never go out of fashion. They’re so often community cornerstones, serving as places to learn and gather. But for so many of us, online shopping is a way of life. According to the International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR), online beverage sales for wine, beer and spirits are projected to grow 66% between 2020 to 2025, potentially reaching $42 billion in sales.
It’s easy to see why. Today’s online retailers are more than just digital storefronts. Many offer clubs that give exclusive access to elusive bottles, online classes and more. Other spots do the legwork when it comes to finding the best discounts. And, arguably their best feature? You don’t need to get off your couch to patronize them—everything is shipped right to your door.
To pinpoint the best online drinks shops, we turned to experts from across the industry. We chose to focus on shops that ship nationally, and divvied the list into sections for wine, beer and spirits. Of course, some retailers span categories—Wine.com, K&L, Astor Wines & Spirits and others, for instance, also offer spirits, beer and plenty of other beverages. A vendor’s category was assigned based on the area of expertise for which pros deemed it most impressive.
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Best Online Wine Shops
This is one of many email-based retailers that sends daily specials. Garagiste is “kind of addicting…seductive, or hypnotic,” says Dan Fredman, a longtime wine retailer turned public relations and marketing consultant for brands from San Luis Obispo and Sonoma to Austria and Argentina. Fredman appreciates Garagiste owner Jon Rimmerman’s “eclectic selections interspersed with old standards,” including many under $20 and “mystery” wines that represent major discounts.
“I like to research the background of the wines when they get here, since it expands my horizons immensely,” says Fredman. “But oftentimes, if you don’t act quickly, the wines will have sold out by the time you place an order.”
For Varinder Sahi, the winemaker and owner of Copia Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, California, K&L served as a conduit for growing his expertise in a region without many international wine shops, even helping him earn a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification. “My wife Anita and I travel often to different international wine regions,” he says. “As we visit producers, we frequently reference K&L’s database to see if we have access to the wines stateside. If they aren’t [in the database] we buy them at the winery.”
Winemaker Ryan Beauregard, who lives in a remote part of California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, is also a fan. “The selection is solid, and there is always a value on everything from daily wines to unicorn wines,” he says.
Winemaker Ryan Pease, whose Paso Robles brand Paix Sur Terre focuses on Rhône varieties and blends, turns to this legendary Berkeley-based importer and retailer when seeking direction for his own wines.
“From Bandol rouge, blanc and rosé to Corsican Vermentino along with Grenache from the South and Syrah from the North of France, I find no shortage of inspiration,” says Pease.
Bobby Stuckey, renowned restaurateur and Wine Enthusiast’s 2014 Sommelier of the Year, stands behind Parcelle, an online retailer started by Grant Reynolds and Josh Abramson in 2018. They quickly grew into a bottle shop, which opened the same year near New York City’s Lincoln Tunnel. Later, in 2022, they opened a Lower East Side wine bar.
“It’s a great retail wine experience, from old and rare selections to learning about an up-and-coming region or producer,” says Stuckey.
“When you’re looking for a fun resource to discover new wines for the right contexts, Plonk is the place to start,” says Matt Kaner, a Los Angeles-based sommelier, restaurateur and consultant.
Kaner enjoys how they organize selections into categories like “Dinner Party Packs” and “Mystery Cases.”
“All this awesomeness for around $25 per bottle in six-to-12 bottle-bundles makes a lot of sense while inflation soars, but your glass somehow gets more empty with every second,” says Kaner.
“For those who are a bit more serious about collecting and/or finding those hard-to-get bottles, I like Wine Access,” says Michael Wangbickler, president of Balzac Communications & Marketing. “Their collection is curated by a team of industry experts and you can often find some real treasures there. I know several of the team here, and have the utmost respect for their professionalism and expertise.”
“Wine.com may not be the sexiest online wine retailer, but the selection is broad, with lots of smaller or lesser-known regions well-represented,” says Devin Parr, a wine business consultant, who approves of the annual flat fee option to make shipping free. “The wine industry is notoriously clunky and expensive when it comes to wine shipping and online shopping. Wine.com is as close as it gets to that Amazon-like experience for wine lovers and wine trade.”
Wangbickler agrees. “It’s the granddaddy of online wine retailers,” he says. “They have multiple tools to help customers find the right wine for them, from educational content to live chat with an expert.”
Fredman has respected owner Kyle Meyer’s wine evangelism for more than 20 years.
“The daily offers are truly eclectic, bouncing between the three B’s—Barolo, Bordeaux and Burgundy—and over to esoteric wines that he feels people should be paying attention to,” says Fredman. “The prices are more-than-reasonable, enabling me to rationalize the cost of shipping.”
“WineText is almost too easy,” says Tyler Tomblin, owner of Stagecoach Co. Wine Tours, when describing Wine Library’s straight-to-your-phone service. “Every morning a new deal is texted, I simply reply with the number of bottles I want and that’s it!” He praises their variety, descriptions and discounts.
“This is the easiest way to expand my palate and collection of wines around the globe,” he says. “And I don’t have to shop the deals—they do.”
Best Online Spirit Shops
By Kara Newman
While the brick-and-mortar shop is located in NYC, Astor Wine & Spirits’ online presence is top notch, the pros say, valued equally for wine and spirits.
“They have an unusually wide selection, including many options from the craft and artisanal world alongside the bigger brands,” says Dave Herman, a food and beverage consultant based in Durham, North Carolina. “Their buyer does a great job getting breadth and depth in their catalog. I think their prices are good—not always the cheapest, but never particularly expensive compared to the competition. Plus, they do a great job of the actual shipping: well-packaged bottles shipped pretty quickly.”
This site focuses on limited-quantity and “unexpected” spirits, although you’ll find some of the usual mainstays here too.
“They’ve got some really unique offerings, especially [ones] that are more cocktail-centric,” explains Brandon Cummins, director of education for Altamar Brands. He also lauds the site’s cocktail content, which includes drink recipes and bottle collections curated by bartenders and other personalities. “As a former bartender, I get a bit persnickety about online cocktail content,” says Cummins. “But they work with several [bartenders] that I enjoy watching and that have helped expand my awareness of new ingredients, history or also recipes. So, it’s much more about the added content than just an online ordering system for me!”
Founded in 2012 and purchased by Uber in 2021, Drizly has a wide footprint across the U.S., and offers not just wine, beer and liquor, but also “extras” like mixers, bitters and jars of olives and cherries to garnish drinks.
“I use Drizly on a nearly weekly basis,” says Paul Kim, a brand ambassador for Woodford Reserve, who often needs to source whiskey bottles for events or gifts. “I know that I can count on finding what I need and when I need it on Drizly. It’s a valuable asset to my success at work and parties.”
Don Spiro, a NYC-based spirits consultant, also looks to Drizly for out-of-state craft spirits. “It can be expensive, but for a lot of spirits I order it either is the only site that carries the product or the only one that ships to New York.”
Flaviar bills itself as a member’s club, offering fine and rare spirits expressions, including “tasting box” subscriptions. But it’s more than just bottles: Curious drinks aficionados can avail themselves of podcasts, a newsletter and a VIP School of Spirits.
Of note, cocktail historian David Wondrich is part of the team. No wonder Baylee Hopings, bar manager with Atlanta’s Oliva Restaurants, says she likes Flaviar “because of the emphasis they have on education for the consumer who wants it.”
A family-owned retail store founded in 1957, the brick-and-mortar store in Costa Mesa, Califonia, already has fans, particularly for its wine, whiskey and tequila selections. But it ships nationwide, too.
“It’s been my go-to for years when I need a specific bottle for a competition or personal enjoyment,” says Julian Flores Torres, beverage director for Palenque Kitchen in Orange County, California. “They have a huge selection of spirits, wines, beers, even cigars and they constantly keep track of new products.”
Randall’s has five bottle shops across Missouri. They also have “a dynamite online portal,” says Brian Colon, director of food and beverage at Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton in Missouri. “The catalog of available items and intuitive customer website make navigation very easy. I found small producer Armagnac in two clicks.”
Colon is also a fan of the store’s VIP club, which offers exclusive limited quantity items and membership discounts. Finally, he appreciates the customer service a family-run brick-and-mortar can provide, even for online orders: “When you call them, a person answers the phone,” he says.
Named for a bubbly bourbon cocktail, of course, this site is a whiskey powerhouse. “Seelbach’s is by far the best for craft spirits (especially craft whiskey) and interesting single-barrel releases,” says Aaron Goldfarb, drinks writer and author of Brand Mysticism.
Cummins likes the site “not only for unique and hard-to-find American whiskey releases, but also for just general emails and updates. I genuinely look forward to getting their emails and they’ve made me aware of a few brands and releases I didn’t think would be easily accessible, especially here in the Kansas City area. We’ve got a lot of great stuff, but certain one-offs don’t make it through.”
This e-commerce retailer, which launched in 2020, specializes in single-barrel whiskey picks, tequila, mezcal and hard-to-find spirits, and produces virtual and in-person tasting events. “First and foremost, I love that it is a Black-owned business that is democratizing how people can access craft and premium spirits across the country,” says spirits and culture writer Rashaun Hall, who has participated in selecting barrels for the site. “They are also focused on demystifying and diversifying the spirits space.”
Best Online Beer Shops
By John Holl
For more than 20 years, Half Time’s two brick-and-mortar locations have been a beer destination for New York’s Hudson Valley and Westchester County, areas that were long light on local beer options.
But even if you’re not a New York local, you can access Half Time’s thousands of beers from hundreds of breweries in dozens of countries. The shop regularly uses upcoming holidays to create in-house boxes that complement a particular season or theme. Half Time has also regularly partnered with companies like Beer Advocate or Untappd to create specialty boxes for “at home” beer festivals or to highlight brews that are popular with drinkers around the country. Half Time also puts together boxes of regional beers to give drinkers a sense of place from the comfort of home.
Drinkers can also choose their own adventure. With the ability to fill up a box of beer at a flat shipping rate, the shop offers up a chance to try a little of everything without having to change out of your slippers. Hard seltzers and ciders are available, too.
While all of the major alcohol categories are covered (plus mead and non-alcoholic options) the focus of this brick-and-mortar shop in Bellmont, Massachusetts, is, as the name suggests, beer. The online shop is well organized by state and style, giving visitors a chance to explore with ease
Co-founders Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker have curated a beer selection that inspires. From drinkers that are looking to check off the newest release, to connoisseurs that want to revisit classics, the shop is well stocked. While imports are not as popular among drinkers these days, the store does its best to stock interesting finds from around the globe.
Above all, the store is committed to freshness and making sure that the beer that arrives from around the country is at its peak and ready to be consumed when it arrives on your doorstep.
It’s hard for beer fans to avoid Binny’s when in Chicago. The chain is an institution, where it’s just as easy to get cases of large, familiar brands as it is to snag bottles of hard-to-find gems. This extends to its website and online store, where the digitized shelves seem to go on endlessly.
Binny’s has been a proving ground for any who have gone on to careers in the alcohol industry outside of retail. In an effort to create a diverse industry, the retailer launched The Women of Binny’s initiative in 2021. The goal is “to build community, expand educational opportunities, and promote the advancement of women.”
Last Updated: June 28, 2023