Wine is a joy for most sommeliers, but it's also a job. And while plenty clock out for the night with a glass of Champagne or a sip of Sauternes, they often mix it up with other drinks from the broader world of beverage as well.
Whether seltzer, beer or spirits, straight up or on the rocks, made in Italy, Belize, Brooklyn—or at home—here's what 10 wine experts from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners are drinking when they're looking beyond wine.
Wine Spectator: What are you drinking right now—when you're not drinking wine?
Amy Mundwiler, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Maple & Ash in Chicago
Right now? It's winter. I'm drinking Bourbon. I gotta stay warm, people! I typically kick it old-school—if it's not neat, then it's a Sazerac, Manhattan or Old Fashioned. There are so many talented bartenders, I love to taste everyone's version of a classic Bourbon cocktail. I love the pride they take in it.
As soon as it gets warmer though, I'm determined to recreate the Kalimotxos I had when I was in Belize. There was this place called the Truck Stop in San Pedro and their Kalimotxos were absolutely delicious … yeah, red wine and Coke. But you have to get it just right. I'm going to do some experimenting until it's perfect. I might add it to the wine BTG list and mix it tableside. That would be awesome and hilarious. We have a serious wine program for sure, but we love to have fun with our guests and not take ourselves too seriously.
Elizabeth Kelso, beverage director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Craft Los Angeles
Beer! There are so many amazing local breweries in Southern California to explore, and I’m a huge fan of the resurgence of gose, sour and Berliner Weisse styles, as well as West Coast–style IPAs. I like that beers are session-able, have so much variety in personality and style, and don’t cause a serious hangover.
When I do have the occasional cocktail, I typically opt for a wet gin martini (I’m talking almost 50-50; long live vermouth!) or Mezcal neat.
I am not ashamed to say, anything beverage-related, I am all about it. I'm a big fan of gin, I like a good gin and tonic. I do make beer recreationally. I enjoy a light beer in the summertime in Chicago, but I also brew a Russian Imperial Stout on my own. I mimic that after the old Rasputin recipe—you can't drink a lot of those, but I do find them delicious.
Jake Lewis, beverage director of the New York–based Momofuku Group
If it's not wine, I'm usually searching for a well-made pilsner, like Vliet from Threes Brewing [in Brooklyn, N.Y.], or, when I can get my hands on them, either Qualify or Palatine pilsners from Suarez. Really, anything at all from Suarez Family Brewing [in Hudson, N.Y.].
Richard Healy, wine director of the Sydney, Australia,–based Rockpool Dining Group
A ridiculous amount of coffee (piccolos, mostly), but post-service, I’m a fan of beer out of cans. I think in the fridge now I have Yulli's Norman [Australian] Ale from Alexandria, from the Inner West in Sydney. Otherwise, I’m partial to Tommy’s Margaritas and Vespers.
Ben Teig, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Redbird in Los Angeles
I love a good after-service beer sometimes, especially if it was a long and busy service. I still find that the most important thing to drink is water; I know it’s cliché, but it really helps me to drink water all day long. Also, a nice tall cup of coffee in the morning.
Anibal Calcagno, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Indian Accent in New YorkRight now, I've recently enjoyed Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky. I'm told it's new to the U.S. market and is doing very well in the U.K. I can smell this all day, and love the fruity and aromatic nose. The lighter mouthfeel and drinkability sets it apart from other single-malts.
Gabriela Davogustto, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Clay in New York
I love a Gran Classico Spritz. Also Negronis, and gin and tonic.
I will enjoy whiskey and Scotch at some points. Some good Calvados also, but really, really good Calvados. Tea as well; I like tea.
Jon McDaniel, founder and wine consultant, Second City Soil in Chicago; former wine director of Gage Hospitality Group
I tend to have the palate of an 85-year-old Italian nonno. I love Campari, the more bitter the better, amari (loving Varnelli dell'Erborista) and barrel-aged grappa, which drinks like the finest single-malts. I have built a pretty cool collection at home from different distilleries, but honestly, if I get behind a bottle of Pellegrino or a peach-pear LaCroix, it's a win night for me.
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