Credit: Julia Thiel

“This makes Malort taste like strawberry Kool-Aid,” Charles Joly says, pouring me the last few drops from a bottle of Amaro dell’Erborista, an unfiltered small-batch Italian amaro that, according to the back of the bottle, is prepared over a wood fire. He’s right—it’s the most unpleasant liquor I’ve ever tasted, so bitter than it makes my face contort involuntarily for a good 30 seconds. Not all of the rare liquors he has stashed away are so intense, though: Diablada, a Peruvian pisco with a production of 1,000 bottles per year, is as smooth as the amaro is aggressive, one of the few piscos I’ve tried that’s suitable for drinking neat. He’s also got some Tezon tequila, which is made using volcanic stone wheels that crush the agave rather than shredding it the way mechanical production does. The method improves the taste considerably, Joly says, but it never caught on here and is no longer imported; he bought the last three bottles his importer had. Joly is fascinated by the way production methods and provenance affect the taste of alcohol, and has every offering available from Del Maguey, which bottles the mezcals made in single villages in Oaxaca—sometimes from just one farm—allowing you to see how the elevation at which the agave is grown, for example, influences the flavor of the alcohol (there are currently ten). Possibly the rarest bottle Joly has on hand is the 108.6 proof Black Tot rum. Until 1970, the British Royal Navy issued a daily rum ration to its sailors; on Black Tot Day (July 31) the tradition ended, and the remaining stores were transferred to ceramic flagons and kept in warehouses until 2010, when they were bottled for sale to the public. A one-ounce pour at the Drawing Room will run you $60, but that’s still cheap compared to an entire bottle, which retails for $1,000.