Virtual Booze Tastings Are the Closest Thing You'll Find to a Bar Right Now

Drink with the world’s best bartenders (or budding wine connoisseur Jon Bon Jovi) from the safety of home

April 24, 2020 7:27 am
Virtual booze tastings are taking off during quarantine
Wanwisa Hernandez / EyeEm / Getty

A week ago I had my first “virtual” booze tasting via a small get-together on Zoom.

I thought I’d hate it, or it would be difficult to interact or appreciate the spirit without the camaraderie of fellow drinkers. Instead, I’ve now done four and I’ve got two more lined up next week.

As terrible and lonely as quarantining can be, now is actually an ideal time to get access to bars, bartenders, brands and alcohol professionals to pick their brains about cocktails, tasting notes and whatever else you want to geek out on in the spirits world. Getting a drink online isn’t exactly the ideal replacement for a bar, but it’s the closest thing you can find right now.

“I didn’t know how these virtual tastings were going to go,” admits Greg King, the brand ambassador for the Scotch brand Benriach, which hosted a media-only tasting a week back that I attended. King says the virtual events he’s hosted so far (primarily with private whiskey clubs) have been going well, noting that the tastings have been more comfortable and open and “less like a lecture” than events he’s hosted at bars.

A scene for this writer’s fun and awkward virtual tasting last week (photo: Kirk Miller)

Note: it’s not a requirement, but it does help if you have the hooch the bar pros are discussing in hand when you’re attending a tasting (utilize your delivery service of choice here, and plan in advance).

While my first foray into virtual tastings was for press, the events and cocktail seminars below are public. Many are free, but some have a suggested tipping mechanism or even a set ticket price — with those funds usually dedicated to helping out-of-work staff or COVID-19 related causes.

To attend a virtual tasting or booze class, you’ll want to scour the following online resources:

A sample tasting/cocktail class you’ll find on Eventbrite (Screenshot via Eventbrite)


The closest you’ll get to buying a “ticket” to an event, several virtual tastings and classes have come to this event-based app. One recent event included a talk by the head bartender of the perennial “world’s best bar” The Dead Rabbit; there are also weekly Wednesday virtual happy hours with bartenders via the Professional Bartending Academy. Doing a quick search, we found upcoming tastings/classes with folks from Hendrick’s Gin, mixer brand Double Dutch and the Sip Better wine club.

Boozy associations

Napa Valley Vintners, a trade association representing 550 Napa Valley wineries, just launched an aggressive schedule of winery virtual tastings, with over 70 listed in the upcoming few weeks and with prices ranging from free to $299. But chances are that whatever region you prefer, somebody’s hosting a happy hour or tasting.

Online marketplaces just launched a series of free online wine tastings (they’re obviously encouraging you to buy the wines from them in advance) with seriously big names: Lisa Vanderpump, John Legend and Jon Bon Jovi will be on hand to talk about the wines they’re associated with (along with skilled winemakers and educators).

Flaviar recently hosted a home-blending session with its members (with help from WhistlePig), and they also host a weekly live booze-centric show on YouTube called The Nightcap Live, with upcoming episodes featuring guests from brands such as Angel’s Envy, Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Dewar’s, Royal Brackla, Bacardi, Banks and Santa Tereza.

The Crafty Cask has started hosting virtual tastings for free (with optional tipping) that run the gamut from beer to wine to cocktails. 


While it’s a pain to search through, go the Events page on your Facebook and search under “drinks” or just type in a search like “virtual tastings.” In the next few days alone, I discovered an online exploration of Scotland’s whisky regions and a virtual whiskey-making and -tasting call with Brooklyn’s Kings County Distillery. Public FB groups like Whiskey Events also have been posting tastings from around the country. And for a daily tutorial, the Cocktail Guru (a cocktail consultant who’s worked with the Campbell Apartment and The Empire Room) hosts a live FB show at 5 p.m. EST called “Some Good News.”


Do you have a favorite bar, bartender or spirit? There’s a very good chance all of those people are utilizing Instagram Live for both scheduled and impromptu classes, talks and how-tos (just one example: besides a virtual happy hour, whiskey brand Uncle Nearest also hosted a trivia night this week). If you’re a fan of, say, DC’s Republic Restoratives, they’re hosting virtual cocktail classes and even brunch parties, as are beer brands like Sierra Nevada.


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