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weinoo

Do You Substitute and What's Worthy?

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I was having a discussion with a distinguished friend about ingredients that bars will sometimes use, and how much can they possibly save by using them?

It started because I mentioned that sometimes when you go to a "standard" bar, and you'd like a Manhattan (or a real martini), there may be decent bourbon and even, watch for it, some bitters behind the stick (rye, hah!), but when you see the sweet vermouth they're using, it's like, yikes!

Let's see, do they even make Doc's Dry or Steven's Sweet Vermouth, if you get my point. And his. How much can a bar be saving per drink if they're pouring Steven's? It's about $4.99 for a bottle of M & R retail. Doesn't have to be Antica or Vya. Because then the bartender is just going to free pour like 5 ounces of Maker's into the mixing glass, so who cares anyway? Can't be the owner, worried about cost per drink, 'cause then they'd be using jiggers. And tell me this doesn't happen.

However, on the upper end of the price scale, maybe there is a point - and especially if the substitute is a good product. So, is Brizzard triple sec a worthy sub for Cointreau? How about Stock maraschino instead of Luxardo or Maraska? Anything cheaper than Martini & Rossi or Noilly? GranGala for Grand Marnier?

How low will you go? How low do you go?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I'm not telling you something you don't already know, but . . . it depends.

For a long time, I used Marie Brizard triple sec as a compromise between the mostly-sugar cheap brands and the expensive Cointreau (around here, it's usually 50% more than MB). Then, about six weeks ago, the price on MB went up and the price of Cointreau went down, so much that the differential dropped to less than 20%. Afraid that someone would come to their senses, I snapped up the Cointreau, even though I wasn't really in need of triple sec.

This has given me a chance to do some comparisons. In the Pegu Club, Cointreau makes a big difference; in a Sidecar or Applecart, not so much. It makes a different but not better Margarita. What's nice about this situation is that now I know that I can save the Cointreau for the places where it matters, but continue to contain my costs, because I can't imagine the current price situation will last forever.

As for maraschino, all I can get is Luxardo, so I haven't done real comparisons. On the few occasions where I've had a chance to try Stock, I've found it to be a much flatter liqueur. Of course, I'm dealing with very few data points.

I have no problem substituting MB curacao for Grand Marnier. I acknowledge that there is a qualitative difference, but it's not one that bothers me, given that I don't make many cocktails that call for it, and that the cost differential is even larger for those two than for the triple sec comparison.


Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Living in a bereft cocktail bar city, I've decided that I have to go with what's there, and try to turn it into a bit of a game. The key is not to choose a crucial element from the mediocre-to-bad stuff: start with something good and go from there.

The other night at Al Forno, I started with a decent bourbon, asked about bitters (Angostura -- check), and then asked about Italian vermouth: not much there. (Much could be said about the lack of decent Italian vermouth at Al Forno, but I shan't say it.) So I went with a bourbon Old Fashioned, which was just fine, thank you.


Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I was having a discussion with a distinguished friend about ingredients that bars will sometimes use, and how much can they possibly save by using them?

It started because I mentioned that sometimes when you go to a "standard"  bar, and you'd like a Manhattan (or a real martini), there may be decent bourbon and even, watch for it, some bitters behind the stick (rye, hah!),  but when you see the sweet vermouth they're using, it's like, yikes!

Let's see, do they even make Doc's Dry or Steven's Sweet Vermouth, if you get my point.  And his.  How much can a bar be saving per drink if they're pouring Steven's?  It's about $4.99 for a bottle of M & R retail. Doesn't have to be Antica or Vya.  Because then the bartender is just going to free pour like 5 ounces of Maker's into the mixing glass, so who cares anyway? Can't be the owner, worried about cost per drink, 'cause then they'd be using jiggers. And tell me this doesn't happen.

However, on the upper end of the price scale, maybe there is a point - and especially if the substitute is a good product.  So, is Brizzard triple sec a worthy sub for Cointreau?  How about Stock maraschino instead of Luxardo or Maraska?  Anything cheaper than Martini & Rossi or Noilly?  GranGala for Grand Marnier?

How low will you go?  How low do you go?

on the orange liqueur front we started using hiram walker's 60 proof triple sec on people that are indifferent... its nice because it has more alcohol than the other super low proof generic versions... i'm starting to develop solid recipes to make orange liqueurs from scratch when seville sour oranges are in season... if you master your orange intensity and master your sugar you are free to experiment with different base spirits...

for vermouth you can't get doc's dry or steven's sweet up here. you can't even get antica. i hold stock, niolly, cinzano, and m&r all in high regard... i favor stock and hold m&r in the lowest regard of the four... its sweet doesn't seem as complex to me as the others. its all cinnamony and simplistic. and the wine base of their dry has some serious identity and creeps me out... its very muscaty but reminds me of concord grapes from some reason in its frutiness...

if you get any of the big four vermouths you should be all set... getting it as fresh as you like is another story...


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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When a "standard" bar appears to show an effort by having good bourbon, rye and bitters but other ingredients are generic well brands - a few things may be happening. First, individual bartenders are often the ones asking the house for non-standard ingredients like maraschino but may not know to specify Luxardo (if that is what they were hoping for). Then the beverage director or manager orders from the catalog the cheapest and easiest liqueur to get, which in this case would be Stock. Second, the bar itself may have the good intention of expanding it's inventory but doesn't have the vast, sommelier like knowledge of spirits and their availability. It may not be about saving money by deliberately choosing less expensive brands. It's a lot of running around, researching and favor asking to source things like Carpano (I imagine). Most bars call up their rep or fax and place their orders. A lot of the stuff you see at serious cocktail bars, I bet, did not arrive in boxes on a hand truck with an invoice attached.


"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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I think a lot of it depends on the bar, its clientele and its profitability model. There is little reason to stock Cointreau and 100% agave tequila if you're selling Margarita slushies to frat boys for five dollars a pop.

Most of the time when you hear of people making compromises, they're cutting corners on modifiers. This doesn't make so much sense to me, since these normally represent a high return for your investment. Let's say you're making a Pegu Club with with 2 ounces of gin and 3/4 ounce of Cointreau (the Pegu Club calls for orange curaçao rather than Cointreau, but that's for another discussion). Astor currently sells a liter of Beefeater for 25 bucks (~ $0.75/oz) and a liter of Cointreau for 35 bucks (~ $1.06/oz). Not only will that bottle of Cointreau last you through three bottles of Beefeater's worth of Pegu Clubs, but the Beefeater represents around 59% of the liquor cost for the drink.

The other reason I don't think it makes sense to cut costs on modifiers is that they often make a very significant contribution to the quality of the drink. Looking at the Pegu Club example above, using Cointreau over MB triple sec makes a huge difference whereas one could use, say, the equally high quality (albeit lower in proof) Gordon's over Beefeater at a substantial cost savings.

For my palate, I've never been satisfied with any of the lower-cost substitutions for the iconic modifiers such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, etc. I would never think of making something like a Sidecar with triple sec instead of Cointreau -- why adulterate good (and expensive!) cognac with something lesser? If all I have is a low-quality brandy, I'll just make something else.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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My best substitutions are:

Luxardo Triplum for Cointreau. Less expensive and wins every time in a blind side by side taste test.

Appleton white for Bacardi.

Sailor Jerry for Captain Morgan.

Both of the rums are far better tasting than the name brand folks ask for.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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My best substitutions are:

Luxardo Triplum for Cointreau.  Less expensive and wins every time in a blind side by side taste test.

Appleton white for Bacardi.

Sailor Jerry for Captain Morgan.

Both of the rums are far better tasting than the name brand folks ask for.

I don't agree that Triplum is a replacement for Cointreau, but it's a good product.

I think that things like the rum choices you're listing here are perhaps not quite the same thing as "substitutions" as we're talking about them. I think of Bacardi more as a "Cuban-style white rum" rather than the leader and perhaps defining example in a given category (as is Cointreau). Using Appleton or Brugal or Flor de Cana is not so much a "substitution for Bacardi" as it is your choice for a Cuban-style white rum. To my mind, "substitution" in this context has the inherent connotation of "choosing an inferior product because it costs less money." If you would choose the other product if the prices were the same, you are making a substitution. So, in my mind, using GranGala over Grand Marnier or Marie Brizard triple sec over Cointreau is a substitution, whereas using Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira over Amaretto DiSaronno or Sailor Jerry over Captain Morgan is a choice. Personally, I like choices and am not so happy about substitutions.

(Fixed typos)


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I think a lot of it depends on the bar, its clientele and its profitability model.  There is little reason to stock Cointreau and 100% agave tequila if you're selling Margarita slushies to frat boys for five dollars a pop.

Most of the time when you hear of people making compromises, they're cutting corners on modifiers.  This doesn't make so much sense to me, since these normally represent a high return for your investment.  Let's say you're making a Pegu Club with with 2 ounces of gin and 3/4 ounce of Cointreau (the Pegu Club calls for orange curaçao rather than Cointreau, but that's for another discussion).  Astor currently sells a liter of Beefeater for 25 bucks (~ $0.75/oz) and a liter of Cointreau for 35 bucks (~ $1.06/oz).  Not only will that bottle of Cointreau last you through three bottles of Beefeater's worth of Pegu Clubs, but the Beefeater represents around 59% of the liquor cost for the drink.

The other reason I don't think it makes sense to cut costs on modifiers is that they often make a very significant contribution to the quality of the drink.  Looking at the Pegu Club example above, using Cointreau over MB triple sec makes a huge difference whereas one could use, say, the equally high quality (albeit lower in proof) Gordon's over Beefeater at a substantial cost savings.

For my palate, I've never been satisfied with any of the lower-cost substitutions for the iconic modifiers such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, etc. I would never think of making something like a Sidecar with triple sec instead of Cointreau -- why adulterate good (and expensive!) cognac with something lesser?  If all I have is a low-quality brandy, I'll just make something else.

It seems to me that you're simply making different compromises -- you compromise on gin, I'm willing to compromise on Cointreau. Neither one of us will get the cocktail we really want. However, your arithmetic makes sense: given my local pricing, using MB instead of Cointreau saves only 7% on the cost of a Pegu Club!


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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It seems to me that you're simply making different compromises -- you compromise on gin, I'm willing to compromise on Cointreau. Neither one of us will get the cocktail we really want. However, your arithmetic makes sense: given my local pricing, using MB instead of Cointreau saves only 7% on the cost of a Pegu Club!

I probably wasn't clear: I don't view using Gordon's gin as a compromise. I think it's a very high quality gin that just happens to be less expensive than Beefeater. I would consider using Gordon's a compromise only if I needed a gin with a higher proof. One could make a similar example comparing more expensive Baby Saz against less expensive Rittenhouse BIB (although the proof differential goes in the other direction).


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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You know that Cointreau is now available in 1.75L, which I doubt the Brizard is.

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I probably wasn't clear:  I don't view using Gordon's gin as a compromise.  I think it's a very high quality gin that just happens to be less expensive than Beefeater.  I would consider using Gordon's a compromise only if I needed a gin with a higher proof.  One could make a similar example comparing more expensive Baby Saz against less expensive Rittenhouse BIB (although the proof differential goes in the other direction).

I think it's becoming clear that people's tastes vary, and we might differ on what constitutes a "compromise."

I bought Gordon's gin as my "house gin" for a couple of years because in San Francisco I could almost always get it on sale for $12-$13 for 1.75 liters (compared with Beefeater at $26-$30). I was on a budget, and for that price it was fine for most cocktails (I saved the more expensive gins for martinis). Once I started using Beefeater or Boodles or Tanqueray regularly, though, it was really hard to go back to Gordon's. I don't think it is a "very high quality" gin. It's a good gin, for the price. If I were back on my old budget and could get it for the old price, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. But it definitely would be a compromise for me.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
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To each his (or her) own, I suppose. I think Gordon's is held in pretty high esteem, and sometimes I wonder what people might think about it if it were sold in the US at a comparable price point to Tanqueray.

Let's see if I can explain better: I feel largely the same way about Bombay that you seem to feel about Gordon's. I don't care for it. Most people whose opinions are worth valuing agree, however, that Bombay is a very high quality gin -- and I guess I'd agree with them, despite the fact that I don't like it all that much. Other people have posted to these forums about how much they hate Tanqueray, as hard as it may be for me to fathom that. Choosing Tanqueray over Bombay (or vice-versa) doesn't strike me as a compromise, and it wouldn't strike me as a compromise even if one were chosen over the other on the basis of price. Rather, while it might represent a compromise on an individual basis due to a personal preference, it's not a compromise on a more universal basis because both products are high quality -- it wouldn't be a "substitution." I would argue that Gordon's is an equally high quality product although, as noted, I'd like it better if the proof were higher. If it's going to be your only gin, it's probably a compromise because of the limitations of the proof (although I'd say the same thing about Plymouth). But if a skilled bartender reaches for a bottle of Gordon's instead of a bottle of Beefeater, that selection is being made on the basis of flavor and I don't necessarily think he's making a compromise.

What is a more universal compromise is choosing a clearly inferior product (MB triple sec) over a clearly superior product (Cointreau) on the basis of price. There may be a few, rare instances when MB triple sec is preferable over Cointreau, but not too many (and most likely you could get a better result using Cointreau cut down with simple if you don't mind the extra step). 95% of the time, if the bartender reaches for a bottle of MB triple sec instead of Cointreau, that selection is being made on the basis of price and represents a compromise.

The larger point I was making about the usual trend to compromise on modifiers is that I believe that a Pegu Club made with Gordon's and Cointreau would be better (not to mention less expensive) than one made with Tanqueray and MB triple sec. I also believe that, even if one does consider Gordon's a compromise from Tanqueray, it's a significantly smaller drop than it is from Cointreau down to MB triple sec. Plenty of people with well-founded opinions hold Gordon's in high esteem alongside the other "top" brands. I don't think too many people would hold MB triple sec in the same company as Cointreau. And this is perhaps another part of the reason I think it is usually unwise to compromise on modifiers. Usually there is one iconic modifier that defines the category, and almost all the other brands are less expensive copies. With gin we have Tanqueray, Plymouth, Beefeater, Bombay, Junipero, etc. -- all of which are considered top quality. What's Grand Marnier's competition? Drambuie's competition? Bénédictine's competition? Chartreuse's competition? No one, really. This is often the case with modifiers.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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The last few time I've had Gordons, some of them even semi-blind (handed a drink without knowing the brands), I found it somewhat sweet, low-proof, and one-dimensional. I imagine these might be the same complaints some would have against MB Triple Sec (though I haven't had it myself). I think that might be the point trying to be made. That said, Gordon's is, imo, no worse than other gins in the same price range, although really good gin is so cheap already (compared to other spirits qpr) that why not just buy the Beefeater's?


Andy Arrington

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Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Would Galliano Vanilla be a workable substitute for Licor 43 in drinks? Even if not perfect, would it leave the drink in the general ballpark of what it should be? The LCBO used to stock Licor 43 but I didn't grab it and they no longer have it. They still list it so I can hope it will return at some point but for now...


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

Would Galliano Vanilla be a workable substitute for Licor 43 in drinks? Even if not perfect, would it leave the drink in the general ballpark of what it should be? The LCBO used to stock Licor 43 but I didn't grab it and they no longer have it. They still list it so I can hope it will return at some point but for now...


 

It's a pretty noticeable difference.

Licor 43 is much more vanilla-forward in nose and body, and Galliano has wintergreen / herbal flavours that are much more prominent. Licor 43 is also a fair bit sweeter.

If Licor 43 is prominently featured in the cocktail, you're going to end up with something quite different from a balance and flavour perspective.

For example, a Tijuana Lady made with Galliano doesn't deliver the same experience as one made with Licor 43.


 

Tijuana Lady

1.5 oz Tequila

1 oz Licor 43

3/4 oz lime juice

2 dash Angostrura


They stock it in Alberta, if you have friends or family who might visit from out West; otherwise it's a suitcase import until it lists again.
 


Edited by J_Ozzy additional info (log)

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Thanks. Thought it might be worth a try since the only Galliano the LCBO stocks is the vanilla but it sounds like it won't work. It's primary use for me would be in tiki drinks from the Smuggler's Cove book.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I'm wondering about something like Benedictine with a touch of vanilla extract....Or even Velvet Falernum... If you were close by, I'd give you my bottle. I don't seem to ever use it, but then I'm not a tiquiphile.

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Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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Someone once gave me a bottle of Tuaca which I use in recipes calling for Licor 43. But that may be even more hard to find. 

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7 hours ago, EvergreenDan said:

I'm wondering about something like Benedictine with a touch of vanilla extract....Or even Velvet Falernum... If you were close by, I'd give you my bottle. I don't seem to ever use it, but then I'm not a tiquiphile.


Benedictine I can do but it's not really a major concern, more just curiosity. I have a whole list of drinks that are going to take me quite a while to work my way through that don't ask for Licor 43 so I'll just toss those that do on the back burner for a while.
 

5 hours ago, Craig E said:

Someone once gave me a bottle of Tuaca which I use in recipes calling for Licor 43. But that may be even more hard to find. 


Yeah, none of that at the LCBO either. But like I said above, I'm not broken-hearted over not having it. Just figured it wouldn't hurt to ask about the Galliano Vanilla since it's easy to get. Even my local store stocks that one.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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