When the weather turns brisk, the spirits go dark: floral gin gets swapped for smoke-nosed Scotch, and sunny rum makes way for spicy, robust rye. The brown slugs of fall are heartier than summer’s easy-drinking sips and leagues more complex: mash percentage, grain variety, even soil disparities can profoundly alter the taste of whiskey. That’s a hell of a lot to grasp for a connoisseur, let alone a brown-bottle newbie. Thankfully, the intimate Copper & Oak on the Lower East Side have whiskey enthusiasts covered like the sealed top of an aged barrel.
ORDER THIS: Dive deep into the brown stuff at Copper & Oak, from Brandy Library’s Flavien Desoblin, which boasts a collection of hard-to-find Japanese whiskeys including Suntory’s Yamazaki Puncheon ($16 for 1oz, $32 for 2oz), fragrant with vanilla and citrus, or the 12-year-old blended Hibiki ($8 for 1oz, $16 for 2oz), partly matured in plum wine barrels to give it notes of oak and fruit.
GOOD FOR: Copper & Oak could pass for a small library, with backlit bookshelves crammed with 600 bottles of dark-hued elixirs—it’s an apt setting for those looking to expand their whiskey wisdom. The booze-geek haven takes its namesake seriously: The walls are made of deconstructed bourbon barrels and the caps from an old copper whiskey bottle act as knobs on the bathroom sink.
THE CLINCHER: Not a whiskey drinker? Copper & Oak obliges with one- or two-ounce pours of tequila and rum. There are a few kinks—Copper’s snug space guarantees that the flourescent light outside regularly flashes WE ARE FULL, making for less-than-ideal conditions if you want room to explore their menu—but like a fine rye, this whiskey temple will mature deliciously. —Elyse Wanshel