From got-it-all, big-box retailers to tiny shops with laser-focused collections, these retailers are ready to help shoppers get in the spirit.
We’re using “spirits shops” as a catch-all term for the broad range of venues that sell distilled spirits, including generic liquor stores, wine shops with carefully-curated spirit selections, sprawling chains and other purveyors large and small. Some specialize in specific categories, such as Kentucky bourbon specialists, while others have wide offerings.
Of note, some states are subject to alcoholic beverage control laws, which can limit access to many spirit bottlings. Some people opt to cross state lines to take advantage of broader options in non-control states; others pick up favorite bottles at distillery gift shops, package stores and other alternatives to government-run retailers.
For this list, we connected with dozens of bartenders, beverage directors, distillers, writers and hospitality and booze pros, and asked them for their favorite shops across the U.S.
Explore the Regions
- The South
- The Southwest, Southeast and Texas
- The Great Lakes
- The Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New York
- The Midwest
- The Northwest Pacific and California
- The Mountain States
This shop is “small but mighty,” says Matt Pietrek, author of Modern Caribbean Rum, with an “expertly curated collection of spirits (and wine) tailored to enthusiasts.”
NOLA spirits experts are unanimous in their fervor for this spot. It’s “the gold standard,” according to Mark Schettler, manager and bartender of Bar Tonique in New Orleans.
“I don’t think there’s any better place,” adds Neal Bodenheimer, owner of Cure in New Orleans. “They meticulously curate their library walls of booze and wine,” Bodenheimer adds. A further seal of approval: CureCo. has joined forces with the store for unique barrel picks sold in each of its bars.
LeNell, “the first lady of liquor,” has plenty of fans who have followed her relocation from Brooklyn to Birmingham. “You’ll recognize her signature touches at once,” says Abigail Gullo, creative director at Loa Bar in New Orleans. “A claw-foot bathtub filled with gin in the front window, a naughty boy cherub fountain and LeNell herself supervising over special barrel picks.” Expect hard-to-find liqueurs—a particular get in a control state—and entire wine selections dedicated to celebrating women and POC winemakers. It’s also become a community hub, hosting yoga classes and other gatherings.
Claiming the largest selection of wine, spirits and beer in the state, the offerings at this 15,000-square-foot emporium is “pretty solid,” according to Shaun Traxler, general manager of The Vault in Arkansas. “They’re our store that offers everything including the obscure amaro, aquavit, vermouth and the like. Their frequent barrel selections aren’t half bad either.”
Robin Robinson, author of The Complete Whiskey Course, praises this superstore for its huge selection. Further, this shop is a good bet for those who seek out bottles released in limited quantities: “They always seem to get the allocations,” says Robinson.
Best Spirits Shops in the Southwest, Southeast and Texas
“My absolute favorite liquor store in the Nashville area,” says Samuel Stephens, lead bartender at Henley in Nashville. “[Owner] Tim [Brinkmann] and his entire staff are all very knowledgeable and have a fantastic selection of wine and spirits across the board. As a frequent customer, I’ve been introduced to and educated about several of my favorite tequilas, whiskeys and gins alike.”
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
“We’re based in North Carolina, which is an alcoholic beverage control state,” explains Justin Rankin, lead bartender at The Katharine Brasserie in North Carolina. “This can sometimes put you in a pinch as the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) stores are closed on Sundays. Luckily, you can purchase bottles on Sundays from Broad Branch Distillery, a personal favorite that I use in several of The Katharine’s cocktails. This is a super nice thing to have if you ‘forget’ to purchase alcohol before the ABC stores close and are in need of a nice whiskey for a Sunday gathering.”
This bright and airy bottle shop “has an awesome, well-thought-out selection of craft spirits and wine,” says Baylee Hopings, brand ambassador for rum outfit Santa Teresa. “But more important than that, the staff is very knowledgeable and will assist you in finding something new and different based on what you like!” Vintage glassware and cocktail tools are also part of the draw.
Fort Mill, South Carolina
The original Frugal MacDoogal opened in Nashville in 1983, but this outpost, located just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, is considered a juggernaut in the Carolinas. It’s a “great option,” says Rankin. “They have been around for nearly 30 years and have a huge 21,000-square-foot location with a wide selection of liquor, wine and beer, and their pricing is generally on point!”
“Like being in a candy store,” says Bobby Dagostino, a board director with the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild, who makes the trip from Cleveland—Ohio is a control state—to take advantage of this super-sized store with “very friendly and knowledgable” staff. There is also “an unbelievable selection of spirits” as well as brewing supplies, balloons and other party essentials, as the name suggests. Bonus: There is “a brewery and distillery on site, and a great selection of cigars, wines and more.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” says Robinson. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but “this is where you get all the great bourbons you can’t find outside of Kentucky,” says Chris Morales, manager of Prosecco Restaurant in Chicago. “If bourbon is your drink, Toddy’s Liquors is your spot. Located downtown and with a drive-through, its juxtaposition as corner shop and library of classic or rare bourbon is always fantastic.”
Fort Worth, Texas
This beloved bottle shop is “the only real game in town,” and “is absolutely exploding with cocktail culture,” says Nico Martini, author of Texas Whiskey. Owner and hospitality pro Megan McClinton is, “a driving force behind the Fort Worth cocktail scene for years,” sources esoteric and unique spirits for the store and organizes collaborations with various bars. Woodford Reserve brand ambassador Random Ward describes it as a “bartender’s bottle shop,” adding, “it’s the one place I shop when I need samples or inspiration to create the drink strategies for our brands.”
Best Spirits Shops in the Great Lakes
Ann Arbor, Michigan
“Yes, it does look a little like a castle from the outside, ” says Tammy Coxen, owner of Tammy’s Tastings and host of the My Tiny Bottles podcast. But inside, “it’s a tiny shop with bottles all the way to the ceiling and really knowledgeable staff. If they don’t have a bottle I’m looking for, they’re happy to order it. Sometimes they’ll even give me a call to let me know something has come in that I’d be interested in. Plus every fall they host a holiday spirits tasting event, where I have the chance to taste a ton of different spirits, including high-end bottles I wouldn’t want to buy on spec.”
“While some Chicagoans might think of it as a corporate chain store, Binny’s has been privately owned since its inception in 1948 when Harold Binstein opened the first store at Clark & Sheffield, just a block away from iconic Wrigley Field,” explains Michael Trow, director of bar operations for RPM Restaurants, which have locations throughout the U.S.
Now Binny’s is run by his son Michael and there are 45 retail locations across the state. “Their staff prides themselves on both product knowledge and customer service, and are quick to assist and educate their customers and help with product selection,” says Trow.
This sprawling South Loop spot, open since 1983, gives Binny’s a run for its money, Robinson says: “[Owner] Gene [Charness] runs this place like it’s his home and you’re the guest of a thousand great bottles waiting to be opened.”
“I’m a huge fan,” says Zach Beeson, bartender at Bar One Fourteen in Indianapolis. “They are a newer shop in town, focused on providing access to exceptional-quality and limited-production products. [Manager] Denis [Lynch] and [wine expert] Simon [O’Grady] provide an unparalleled level of knowledge and impeccable service while also remaining entirely approachable. Their passion for connecting great producers with eager customers is apparent in every aspect of their business, including remarkably affordable tasting opportunities [and] truly educational marketing materials.”
Best Spirits Shops in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and New York
“My favorite shop in Portland—hands down,” says Sylvi Roy, the bar manager at Twelve in Portland, Maine. “They not only have an extensive wine and local beer and cider selection, but they carry nearly everything available Maine spirits-wise, and have an extensive selection of mixers, bitters, tools and cocktail books. If there is something they do not have, they’re always willing to work with different companies and the state of Maine to bring them on for their customers.” Roy also flags the “beautiful tasting room with a full bar” as a draw.
It’s not all wine, despite the name, and gets the nod from Ally Marrone and Patty Dennison, beverage director and head bartender respectively of Grand Army Bar in Brooklyn. “Besides being less than a 10-minute walk from Grand Army, they carry a well-curated selection of spirits featuring local products prioritizing quality over big-brand names,” says Dennison.
“It’s a place where every bottle has a story to tell,” says Nicolás Andrés Martianhes, head sommelier at Balvanera in New York, of this East Village shop, noting the large selection of New York State-made spirits, plus other hard-to-find-bottles. “Thanks to their passionate team, every time you go to this store to buy something, you not only leave with the perfect bottle, but with that extra bit of wisdom and storytelling to pair with it over dinner.”
Cochecton, New York
This shop focuses on small-production and locally-produced spirits and wines.
“The owner, who also owns and runs a restaurant in the old town firehouse, is supremely knowledgeable and really fun to talk to about amari specifically,” says Lauren Schaefer, general manager of Giusto in Rhode Island.
“Going to this shop is like exploring aisles of very curated, special spirits you don’t know about yet,” says Claire Marin, founder, head distiller and beekeeper of Catskill Provisions and Pollinator Spirits.
As the owner of a Catskill brand, she appreciates Cocheton’s attention: “The shop truly supports local producers, they don’t just support a little—all of our Pollinator Spirits lines are there.”
Founded by three long-time industry pros from Oxalis, Leyenda and Frankly Wines, this small Crown Heights shop focuses on natural wine and ethically-sourced spirits. “It is really an oasis in a desert of liquor shops in this area,” says A.J. Ojeda-Pons, an NYC-based wine educator. “The selection is curated towards very cool, unique, smaller producers, a broad selection of mezcal and quite an array of local Brooklyn distillers for aperitifs, amari, digestifs and whiskey. It is one of the only places where I can find everything from sotol to Cognac, with the most helpful, down-to-earth staff.”
Inlet, New York
Started by The Violet Hour alum Stephen Cole, this upstate shop understands how ingredients work in cocktails, notes Lynnette Marrero, co-founder of Speed Rack, a women-only bartending competition, and a cocktail MasterClass host. “Their mission is to drink together, providing an eclectic selection of wines and spirits so that both beginners and experienced wine lovers can walk into the shop and find something familiar or be challenged to try something new.”
“Housebar is such a great addition to the D.C. area,” says Kapri Robinson, president and engagement ambassador for Chocolate City’s Best in D.C., of this newcomer in the city’s Navy Yard neighborhood. “The shop has a beautiful modern aesthetic. It is an interactive space encouraging their guests to create tasty cocktails with the spirits in their shop,” including a draft system that allows visitors to sample new spirits.
“I call up Chris [Leon, owner and wine director] from Leon & Son if I’m stocking up for a party or need to find a gift,” says James O’Brien, owner and wine director of Gus’s Chop House in Brooklyn. “I’m always diving deep into their current stash, whiskeys in particular, whether a new discovery or old favorite. But what I really love is that they always have new amaro or vermouth to try. Whether wine or spirits, I always get to walk away with something new to try. I love their commitment to exploring and never getting stale.”
Beacon, New York
Featuring only New York wines and spirits, this shop is run by Paul Brady, whose sommelier credentials include Gramercy Tavern and Rouge Tomate; he also has his own irreverent wine label, with fun marks like Rock and Rolla Mouthwash and Fauxjolais. A bonus, Marrero notes: a full bar inside the shop.
It’s “small, but super-well-curated on all fronts,” says Schaefer of this Southie shop. “And the staff knows every bottle they sell.”
This boutique bottle shop run by husband-and-wife team David Spencer and Pamela Lynn opened in March 2020, is already a go-to for Schaefer: “Very impressive whiskey selection and a lot of wacky amari,” she says. Bonus: “Any place that has an excess amount of Fernet is gold in our book!”
Note: They also have outposts in Noank and Groton, Connecticut.
“Walking into the Wine Merchant often feels like stepping into a bookstore,” says Donna DeClementi, director of sales and marketing at Kimpton Monaco Baltimore Hotel. Founded in 1977, the wooden shelves stacked with bottles create a “warm and cozy feel.” Further, “the friendly and knowledgeable staff are helpful and kind, and with great deals on featured distilleries, as well as wine tastings each Friday and an impressive deli, it’s easy to see why it’s a constant Baltimore favorite.”
Best Spirits Shops in the Midwest
With locations in Milwaukee and Waukesha, this family-owned duo of shops has been a neighborhood mainstay for six decades. “They are reasonably priced, but also really knowledgeable,” says Jeanette Hurt, author of Wisconsin Cocktails. Keep an eye out for single-barrel picks that are exclusive to the store, too.
Kira Webster, beverage director of Indo in Missouri, describes Intoxicology as her “one-stop shop for quite literally everything spirits related.” Offering cocktail classes, cocktail kits, bar tools, beautiful vintage glassware, books and “a cool selection of wine, saké, and bitters” in a well-organized space, it doesn’t hurt that co-owners Andy Foerstel and Melissa Pfeiffer are both former bartenders, so they’re a wealth of information about spirits and cocktails.
“One of my favorites,” says Justin Rankin, lead bartender at The Katharine Brasserie in North Carolina. “They offer a free membership that gets you exclusive discounts and rates, and they have a vast selection of bourbon and whiskeys, including store-picked barrels.”
“Otto’s has several locations in the greater Milwaukee area, and they’re usually my go-to if I need something or if I’m working on a project, because if I need something weird, they’ll have it,” says Hurt. “They’re really laid back, but they’ve got depth.”
New Albany, Indiana
Founded by Lauren VanCleave and Jason Searby, who have over 35 years of combined wine, spirits, hospitality and retail management experience, this new tasting bar and boutique opened in November, and already is drawing plaudits. “Low-risk, high-reward shopping is at the core of what they do,” says Marrero. “Customers will be able to try before they buy, plan an event or simply enjoy a drink in the neighborhood.” Education and collaboration with the local food and beverage community are among the shop’s priorities.
Best Spirits Shops in the Northwest Pacific and California
Access to plenty of small, under-the-radar and hard-to-find spirits makes visiting this “go-to” Silverlake retailer “the boozy equivalent of visiting a cool independent record store,” says Claire Mallett, beverage director at Catch One in Los Angeles. But what really sets this store apart, says Matthew Brodbine, beverage director at Pasjoli in Santa Monica, is the incredible collection of vintage barware and glassware.
“Joe [Keeper], the owner, makes it his mission to source rare, antique and unique pieces of spirit hardware from around the country and world,” says Brodbine. “I believe he often takes vacations to thrift in the Midwest and other nook-and-crannies of the U.S.”
Costa Mesa, California
“This place has the largest selection of quality spirits and wine I’ve seen,” says Chris Hanson, master distiller at Hanson of Sonoma Distillery, of this family-owned store. “Anything new on the market, any coveted whiskeys, specialty size bottles or gift packs—they will have.”
San Anselmo, California
“It has a bit of a Harry Potter look and feel,” says Hanson, referring to the maze-like sprawl of dark wooden shelves and the glassed-in humidor room. “They have a great selection of wine and spirits, and they have knowledge and experience with all of the brands they support. They’ve been a strong supporter of Hanson since we started. Because of that, they’ve been one of the few places that has sold most all of our vodkas, including our limited edition seasonals, which we don’t sell in stores anymore.”
“This is where most industry folk go to snag a quick bottle after a long shift,” says Jacob Matson, assistant general manager at Shaker + Spear and Pennyroyal in Seattle, Washington. This small shop tucked in a “nondescript location” off Eastlake “tends to carry one-of-a-kind, select items from other parts of the Northwest you don’t typically see in Seattle and that is personally a huge draw for me,” Matson says. “Don’t let that dissuade you, as they also carry product from other regions as well. A visit could be an all-day adventure walking up and down aisles looking at old favorites, as well as back vintages and new bottles yet to be tried.”
“One of my go-to shops in the area,” says Kyle Loughman, guest experience and operations manager at Dawn Ranch in California. “The shop has a large variety of spirits at all different price points,” making it “a great place to try something new.”
Best Spirits Shops in the Mountain States
“Billed as the ‘world’s largest liquor store,’ a terrifically knowledgeable staff roams the aisles looking to help find your selections,” says Robinson.
Note: There’s a second Daveco in Brighton,about 16 miles away.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Shorthanded as TLS, this is “the go-to spot in Jackson, Wyoming, for your craft spirits, wine and beer,” says Andrew Boczar, vice president of strategic planning at Grand Teton Distillery in Idaho. “You would be hard pressed to find what you looking for elsewhere. Their staff is extremely knowledgeable and helpful at locating the new or local products that will fit your tastes.” Added benefit: There’s almost always a tasting or store contest going on.
“The staff is highly knowledgeable and always willing to tell a story about a producer, vintage or even a particular vineyard,” says Matt Delgado, sommelier and assistant general manager at Panzano Denver. “As a wine and spirits buyer for Panzano, I can appreciate that, as these are the stories that help educate our waitstaff and customers to create a more memorable dining experience.”
Last Updated: June 28, 2023