Apple TV’s Detective Show “Sugar” Has an Affinity for Great Whiskey

The first episode gave ample time to discussing the joys of Willett and WhistlePig

Colin Farrell as John Sugar
Colin Farrell as John Sugar, a hard-drinking private detective in Apple TV's "Sugar"

Sugar is a pretty solid reimagining of the hard-boiled/noir detective genre. At least in its first episode (on Apple TV+), it might be the most interesting show currently streaming if you’re a whiskey geek.

Halfway through episode one, private detective John Sugar (Colin Farrell) runs into Melanie (Amy Ryan) at a seedy bar in L.A. He tries to order her a drink. The bartender dryly notes that it’s “Willett Distillery single barrel bourbon” and it’s about $100 per shot — which seems about right.

If you’re unfamiliar with Willett, it’s a family-owned American whiskey brand that’s been going since 1936. Located just outside of Bardstown, the distillery produces Willett, Old Bardstown, Noah’s Mill, Johnny Drum and a few other labels.

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Sugar orders the drink “neat, water back,” which means he got a side chaser of water. He’s also pretty impressed by the Willett. “That’s very good,” he says admiringly. “I usually drink Scotch but this could change things.”

Melanie overhears this and begins a discussion on rye. “You ever have rye?” she asks. “Rye falls somewhere in between that beautiful whiskey sweet spot.” Sugar says no. “I’d hear cowboys order it in westerns,” he says. “But I never thought to actually try it.” At her house later that night, she pours herself some WhistlePig and attempts to get Sugar to try it (he declines).

Sugar has received some pretty solid reviews, though apparently there’s a twist that’s potentially off-putting (I’m in the early episodes, no spoilers please). The fourth-weirdest thing about the title character is that he actually can’t get drunk due to a “strange metabolism” that Sugar claims processes alcohol at a rate 50 times faster than normal. 

Why drink, Melanie asks.

“I think I like the romance of it,” he says. “I suppose I get that from the movies.”

Cheers (with a glass of Willett single barrel) to that.


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