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A snifter of whisky by the fireside is a wintertime cliché for all the right reasons. Nothing quite enhances the smoke of a single malt scotch or the warming jolt of a barrel strength bourbon like a flickering flame. Not fortunate to have a real fireplace in your home? Before you resort to the looping Yule log on your television, consider one of these bars. With stand-out fireplaces and fire pits, and great whisky selections, they are well equipped to warm you—both inside and out.
Bull & Bush—Denver, Colo.
Built in 1971 by twin brothers, this welcoming, British-style brewpub with lots of leather and a rustic copper-top bar from England hasn’t changed much in 46 years. Considering the brewing accolades they’ve won, that’s not a bad thing. Relaxing on one of the two tufted Chesterfield sofas in front of the secluded, brick gas-burning fireplace feels like the start of a relaxing evening with family—a family with a selection of 425 whiskies of all styles from around the world, that is. Insider tip: request to view the “unicorn” selections—a rotating list of 30 fine and rare whiskies. Past unicorns have included 40 year old Glenfarclas, Dalmore 1973 González Byass-finished 30 year old, and Black Maple Hill 16 year old bourbon.
Fine & Rare—New York City
Take a trip back in time at this upscale Midtown lounge serving dinner. Tommy Tardie, who owns this venue as well as the city’s Flatiron Room, used original Grand Central Terminal ticket windows and 125 year old floorboards to construct this New York time capsule with a finely curated whisky list. Then there’s the gas fireplace, with a surround repurposed from the entryway to an old country schoolhouse. Dine at a table by the fire, tapping your toes to live jazz performed onstage a few feet away as you select from a list of more than 500 whiskies, from classics like Four Roses Single Barrel to the exceptional Prometheus 26 year old.
The Next Whisky Bar—Washington, D.C.
Step through the high-design, gold and red interior, glowing with 2,500 illuminated custom whisky bottles, and enter the outdoor terrace of this glamorous Foggy Bottom hotel lounge with a view of the Potomac. Surrounded by boxwood topiaries, English ivy, and white hydrangeas, and lit from above by the stars and strands of incandescent Edison-style lightbulbs, the terrace is both relaxed and elegant. Choose a table with a built-in fire pit and then pair a Cohiba, Montecristo, or custom-blended Watergate cigar with one of 275 whiskies. The list is rich in rye and bourbon and also includes selections from several local distillers. Top-shelf liquids arrive in Christofle crystal, for true A-lister treatment.
Red Phone Booth—Atlanta, Ga.
Utter the secret password to enter this posh speakeasy with restored brick floors, a honey-onyx bar, and a hand-painted backlit ceiling. Located in the 100 year old Dailey’s building in downtown Atlanta, the marble bar top from the original Dailey’s has been transformed into the surround for the impressive main room fireplace. Comfy wingback Italian leather sofas invite guests to mingle, while mixologists prepare smoked house cocktails and other craft drinks. Over 180 whisky selections contribute to flights such as the Macallan 1824 series and Pappy Van Winkle. The cigar list includes a house roll and the 18th Amendment, a dark, medium-bodied blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers with a Brazilian Arapirca Maduro wrapper.
Swig—San Francisco, Calif.
Located just off Union Square, this two-floor San Francisco hotspot is equal parts cocktail lounge and music venue. Pull up a low leather stool to the natural lava rock gas fireplace and let the flickering illuminate a whisky list with something for everyone, from Irish single malts and corn whiskey to Japanese and about 100 scotches, including Johnnie Walker King George V and Longrow Tokaji. Stick around for the dance party—with live music Wednesdays and Sundays and DJs other nights—when things really heat up.