The explosion of the cocktail culture over the past few decades has led to a new appreciation for high-quality spirits, and consumers now have a sense of connoisseurship previously reserved for oenophiles. These three Naples restaurants are catering to those who have a passion for rare, small-batch products that usually fly under the radar.
Last summer, bar manager Drew Martin teamed up with Ross Kupitz, beverage director for D’Amico and Partners, to overhaul The Continental’s selection of high-end spirits. They worked directly with distilleries to circumvent Florida’s strict allocation system and ended up with a list of 130 hard-to-find items.
Martin’s enthusiasm for bourbon is apparent, as seen in bottles such as George T. Stagg, E.H. Taylor Amaranth, Baker’s 13 Year, and the 2019 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch. But The Continental’s collection also extends to tequila and vodka. It reserved 100 of Florida’s 400 bottles of El Mayor Single Estate Los Lobos tequila, and has a sought-after vodka inventory that includes Clix, Beluga Gold, and Taiga Shtof. Some of these spirits, such as Eagle Rare Bourbon 10 Year, even turn up in recipes on the new craft cocktail list.
While customers can order a 1.5-ounce pour of Macallan 25 Year for $350, the emphasis is on quality at every price level. “It doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Martin. “We invest time in educating our staff, and they share that knowledge with customers who want an alternative to a mass-market product.”
Putting together the 100-plus selections on the restaurant’s whiskey list was a labor of love for co-owner Monika Czechowska. Her compendium is far-reaching and well-balanced: single malts like Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Highland Park; American whiskey such as Stranahan’s from Colorado and Little Book, the annual limited release from Beam master distiller Fred Noe; and international whiskey from Ireland, France, and Canada.
Fuse Global Cuisine’s list includes notes on what each spirit smells and tastes like, and at least half of the offerings are devoted to bourbon and rye. The rye selection boasts Kentucky Owl 11 Year, Black Maple Hill from Oregon, and Vermont’s Whistle Pig (Farmstock, Piggyback, and 10 Year). The 60 bourbons include New York’s Widow Jane 7 Year, Ohio’s Horse Soldier Barrel Strength, Jefferson’s Ocean Voyage, and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.
“Bourbon is very complex,” says Czechowska. “You have the sweetness of the corn, the spiciness of rye, and the smoothness of wheat—and they pair wonderfully with our food. It’s the native American spirit, and every bottle has a story.”
New Orleans native Chris Prattini serves Cajun-inspired pub fare in comfortable surroundings—think gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp po’boys, and bourbon bread pudding. It’s a menu that lends itself to whiskey, and there are close to 70 options at this Naples eatery.
While you can choose Irish, Canadian, single malt, or blended Scotch, the strong suit here is—you guessed it—bourbon. There are a few exotic items, but most of the 40-plus selections are mainstream and very high-quality: Bakers, Bookers, Blantons, the High West range, Hudson, and Col. E.H. Taylor, to name a few. And if you’re nostalgic for the Rat Pack days, there’s the hard-to-find Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select.
“Our passion is whiskey,” says co-owner Larry Hoelzer. “We aim to acquire rare bottles you can’t find anywhere else, and we enjoy that pursuit. It allows our guests to have a unique experience every time.”