A pub crawl may bring to mind stumbling bar-goers donning shamrock gear, but for a group of discriminating whisky fans, a well-organized bar tour can be a great outing.
“Bar crawls are a way for our members to explore venues in a neighborhood they might not otherwise visit, especially considering how big Los Angeles is,” says Kim Ohanneson, president of the Los Angeles chapter of Women Who Whiskey. She adds that these events can offer a more casual and relaxed setting for members to get to know one another. “People tend to mingle and interact more freely if they’re walking and regrouping at different venues.” Ohanneson focuses on bars that allow her to reserve a space for the group ahead of time, and finds they’re generally accommodating if the crawl takes place before the evening rush.
Organizing a crawl of your town’s best whisky-focused establishments is a simple and fun way to shake up your club’s routine. “We like to experience a variety of environments where we can enjoy whisky, and the lively, boisterous atmosphere of a pub is a nice change of pace from our regular tasting meetings,” says Darren McInnis, co-founder of the Boston-area North Shore Whisky Club. “A few years back our club was selected through a Whisky Advocate drawing to a rare tasting of single malt whiskies at a nice restaurant in New York City, and from there we organized our own little crawl of the excellent whisky bars Brandy Library, The Flatiron Room, and Highlands.”
There are plenty of tools available to help organize your crawl. “Google Maps is great for general advance planning, including public transit options,” Ohanneson says. There’s also a free smartphone app, PubRally, designed specifically for organizing your own private or public pub crawl. It allows you to map out your route, or join a public crawl already underway. It also features a location tracker to prevent crawlers from getting lost, and a messaging feature to send updates to your group. But the easiest tactic may be to participate in an established event from a company like Crawl With Us, which hosts different themed crawls, such as Whiskey & Wings, in 63 cities. Even a crawl of just a few venues can be a great way to get to know your neighborhood and local bar staff, and add a fun social element to your club’s gatherings.
Top Tips and Rules for a Group Bar Crawl
Keep these tips in mind when organizing your own whisky club’s pub crawl so everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.
Plan a route
Map out the venues you want to visit to determine a logical order, planning for one drink at each location, while aiming to keep the hike in between under 10 minutes. Ohanneson recommends walking the route ahead of time to get a sense of how accessible it is.
Do your research
Contact bars in advance, as they might not welcome a large group, or may need extra staff to accommodate one. You may be able to request a specific whisky, cocktail, or even reserve a space. Check local laws and regulations—in Baltimore, for instance, a pub crawl of 75 or more people requires a special permit.
Pick a leader—or two
You’ll need a group leader to make sure everyone is staying on track, and it’s great to have a sidekick to round up stragglers or latecomers. Make sure all crawlers have the leaders’ contact info.
If your group is large, consider hats, pins, or something similar so fellow crawlers can be identified. You can also use an app with location tracking and messaging, like PubRally, to stay connected.
With each round of drinks, order water and plenty of snacks for everyone. If there are more than just a few venues on your itinerary, consider ordering tasting-size drinks.
Plan ahead so that no one is drinking and driving—either designate a driver, use a car service or rideshare, or take public transportation. In which case, aim to start and end the crawl somewhere convenient, like at a metro stop.