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Good Enough Spirits for an Average Day


TAPrice
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Cocktails are becoming an expensive hobby. :laugh:

Recently, I've been trying to buy some "good enough" spirits, which are cheap enough to not feel like a splurge or to let me experiment without feeling like I wasted something precious. Cruzán rum is a decent example of this.

So what "good enough" liquors does everyone recommend? Or what higher dollar mass marketed liquors that could be found in 1.75 L bottles (big savings there, normally)? I'm looking for liquors of every type.

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Well here is my well guide.

Rye; Alberta Premium 39.95 for 1.75l ( i live in alberta canada ) but if you can find it, it is worth it.

Gin; Plymouth 20.00 approx for .75l

Bourbon; Jim Beam 45 for 1.75l

American Rye; rittenhouse bonded if you can find it

brandy; there is a thread that discusses this. But I like the south african one it is good and cheap.

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Good news, with the success of marketing millions worldwide morons everywhere are buying bad overpriced booze leaving plenty of the good stuff under the radar at your service.

Rum- Skip the Bacardi and Ten Cane and have a field day. Real cheap Barbancourt (white especially cheap and fine, fine, fine). Appleton V/X great price makes great cocktails. Just must mention it Ron Zacapa 23 liquid silk for about 35 to 40 dollars a bottle.

Skip the makers and JD, get your paws on some fine whiskey Rittenhouse Bonded perhaps dollar price to quality the best bottle of booze on earth considering its price. Old Overholt and Wild Turkey Rye also under 20$$. Buffalo Trace ridiculously cheap for quality.

Gin- Beefeater find it in jug size drink in moderation. Lets not forget about Gordons either, its not fantastic but the price is.

Tequila- Heradura silver(tequila is expensive), Siempre Azul, and Centenario are very good options, the most important thing to remember is to turn your nose up at the Patron and scoff while reach past it for the heradura. Beware of many fakers in this catagory.

Brandy- Laird's 100 Apple Brandy Laird's 100 Apple Brandy Lairds 100 Apple Brandy Could be a in Second place behind the Rittenhouse in quality versus Price

If its cognac you desire the HINE H is very good and priced well.

Drink well Drink cheap.

Cheers

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a few others --

gin: brokers (~$17), seagrims distillers reserve (~$13)

bourbon: buillet (~$22) and another vote for buffalo trace

i agree that herradura silver is really, really good stuff for $32, but despite the marketing hype and possibly being overpriced, patron silver is a pretty great tequila.

also, prices vary greatly. i can't get wild turkey in PA for under $20, nor any cognac other than chalfonte for under $38.

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Todd, if I understand your question, what you're after is high-value spirits: the highest quality for the least amount of money. Except for the occasional splurge, that's how I stock my bar, too. Here's what I'm using now:

Beefeater in the 1.75 is scary cheap -- about $4 more than the liter. Lately it's been on sale here for $25. For a lower proof gin, I like Plymouth. I don't think Gordon's or Bombay are in the same league as these two.

Cruzan and Appleton are fine light rums (they're my back-ups), but I think Flor de Cana is a better value -- a couple of dollars gives you a much better product. If you can find it, Montecristo white is really good, too.

In darker rums, Bacardi 8 is very tasty and not too expensive. I think it's the only Bacardi product worth buying.

I agree with everyone else here regarding Rittenhouse, but it can be hard to find. Whether you choose between Wild Turkey and Old Overholt might depend on how you like your ryes. WT is more expensive, but has a nice high proof.

Laird's Bonded is terrific and deserves to cost a whole lot more, but it's also hard to find. Their applejack is great and more widely available, but doesn't always work as a substitute for the brandy (in a Jack Rose, for example, the difference is startling).

For cognac, I've settled on Landy, a versatile VS from the people that make Pierre Ferrand and Claude Chatelier.

Tequilas: for silver and reposado, my go to is Milagro or Cazadores, depending on availability and price. When I can find El Grito, I snap it up. It's a dirt-cheap 100-proof silver that makes great margaritas.

In going through this list, I've realized that if my usual isn't in stock, I'm more likely to spend a few extra bucks for the next thing up the quality scale than sacrifice quality to save the money. For example, if Beefeater isn't on the shelf (hard to imagine, but it does happen), I'll buy the more expensive Citadelle, Boodles or Tanqueray rather than Seagram, Bombay or Gordon's.

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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Powers Irish Whiskey - The working man's shot for under $20.

Chalk me up as a fan of Herradura Silver too.

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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Todd, if I understand your question, what you're after is high-value spirits: the highest quality for the least amount of money. Except for the occasional splurge, that's how I stock my bar, too.

I guess that I'm asking two questions: 1) what are the high-value spirits, and 2) what widely marketed spirits, available in 1.75L bottles, are worth drinking (because those big bottles are often a deal).

When you can get 1.75L bottle of Tanquery for $29.00, it's hard to go wrong.

Flor de Caña is a good call. I'm using the light rum for mojitos. At $9.99 a bottle, it's a bargain. Not quite like a 1.75L of Cruzan for $14, but still a good deal. The Cruzán is a good for a party.

What about value in Bourbon? I would guess they would be more common, since it's more tightly regulated there should be less variation, right?

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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My only additions to Phil's fine list would be the Appleton white rum, and Gosling's for a dark rum.

The Rittenhouse bonded is scary good. Really scary.

I agree with Dave about the Plymouth gin too.

I still maintain that the Evan Williams Black Label bourbon is delicious for the price at about $11/bottle. If you're willing to go higher than that, hit up a bottle of the Bulleit.

If you want cachaca at your bar, go for the Mae de Ouro. Better quality than most others and it's a liter bottle, rather than a 750ml.

If you must have vodka at your bar, seek out Sobieski vodka from Poland. It's taking aim at the high end overpriced Grey Goose and Belvedere at the price of well liquor. Sobieski is made with rye and is a bit more complex. It's a true Eastern European style vodka, with lots of peppery notes and a bit less of that isopropyl alcohol smell you get from wheat vodka. Great QPR at about $11 bottle.

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

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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Todd, if I give you my opinion on this I expect to be invited over for some well mixed quenchers....

Gin-I am a huge fan of Plymouth and Beefeaters, but, as a mixer in stuff like G and T, I find Gordon's to be remarkably acceptable

Rum-Flora de Cana is, in my mind, the gold standard of bargain priced rums. They make several ages, at different distilleries around the Carib rim, but they're all pretty good, though I'm partial to the 4 year old.

Oh, and if it's light rum that you need, I am rather fond of the lighter flora de cana, but I also like Ron Zapaca and Old New Orleans (which is cheap where you live).

Bourbon-this is a category where you can do lots of good things for cheap, but, my personal taste, runs to Old Charter (if you are really on a budget, and you, of all people, know that I have been for a while, Jim Beam is pretty good stuff). But, I think that has more to do with the way that I grew up-my dad can hammer a few old fashions out on the dock after 5-just make sure that you don't wipe out the ice before 5-he gets crazy pissed. If you need a rye, the Wild Turkey works (though, this weekend, the Van Winkles hit us fryers up with some 23 year old Pappys and while it's crazy expensive, I might mortgage my car for one of the cases of 3000 bottles that they just packed up. It made a Sazerac at 11 Mad Park that would make you yell and spank your gramma)

Vodka-I hate the stuff and have no respect for it. It's what it is, I don't care what any of you say. I buy Taaka and dump stuff in it. I ain't paying much for the stuff. Giant waste of money. THe discussion of how good a, by definition, tasteless spirit is just cracks me up

Tequila-this is a tough one, but while I was working in MX, the lads went for Cazadores when I was buying, so it's good enough for me. It's good straight and is light enough to make a great mixer. If you are hitting the blender with a lot of junk, once again, you might as well buy local-Torada! You can barely taste it anyway.

As a former resident, and major consumer, of Irish Products, I completely agree with JohnnyD-Powers will get the job done and it's delicious. Unlike Bushmill's, which some pubs don't even stock, Powers is ubiquitous and delicious. It makes a fine, crazy good, hot irish, among other things.

I'll be awaiting a call...

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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. . . . When you can get 1.75L bottle of Tanquery for $29.00, it's hard to go wrong . . . .

It's a slippery game. Here, a Tanqueray 1.75 is $30, Beefeater $25. The Tanq isn't quite worth $5 more to me (please, do not figure out how little the cost-per-cocktail difference is!). If the delta slips down to two dollars, I'm going to reach for the green bottle. You have to have a line, though, otherwise you get Tanqueray instead of Beefeater, El Tesoro instead of Herradura, Dom Girraud instead of Hardy -- just a few bucks here and there, but when you hit the checkout, you start wondering if you can make the mortgage payment and drink, too.

If you go to a butcher with your heart set on lamb chops, that's what you're going to buy, even though it's September and lamb costs more than gasoline. If you go set on just getting the best-looking piece of meat in the store, you'll get value. So I try to go to the liquor store for gin, not for Beefeater. What's great about the lists people are posting here is that I can be more flexible, knowing that a few people I trust have approved some alternatives.

To be specific, Flor de Cana 1.75L is about the same as Cruzan -- $14 or 15. Very specifically, the last time I was in your fair city, Vieux Carre Wine still had a couple of 1.75s of FdC 2-year old (which I've never seen anywhere else) for $11.

I'm with Katie -- I like Bulleit, but the 1.75 size isn't much of a bargain. I also like Wild Turkey 101, and it is: $26 for a liter, $33 for a 1.75L.

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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Needless to say, a LOT of the discussion is predicated on where you live. Being in Boston, I have the options of Boston, as well as New Hampshire state stores, and every once in a while, a bargain out of Rhode Island. One of the great by-products of being a rep for a wine importer is that I find myself in liquor stores constantly, so price shopping is easy. :hmmm:

My picks:

White Rum: Flor de Cana, although Cruzan isn't bad - Flor de Cana wines in both categories, as I can usually find the 1.75L for $20 in the summer

Gold Rum: Cruzan Estate Diamond 5yr. Hard to beat.

Dark Rum: I've got a weakness for Goslings.

Tequila: again, I used to be able (haven't bought in a while so don't know) find El Tesoro for $20. In lieu of that, in Boston, I find a store that carries the Herradura round liters. They're cheaper than the 750mls, around $25-$28 for a liter (it's a bar special that stores can get too).

Bourbon: Evan Williams

Gin: still exploring this category. Used to be able to get Plymouth for $15/bottle retail. Now, I think I need to revisit Beefeaters.

The Holy Grail, for me: Orange Liqueur. I've played around for a while and can't decide. Any thoughts?

Marty McCabe

Boston, MA

Acme Cocktail Company

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The Holy Grail, for me: Orange Liqueur. I've played around for a while and can't decide. Any thoughts?

Luxardo Triplum as a Cointreau-alike. Gran Gala or Torres Gran Orange for a Grand Marnier-alike.

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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I can't find Triplum, so I can't comment on it. I used Marie Brizard triple sec for a long time, until slkinsey convinced me that -- for a home bar -- it was false economy. If you're pouring 100 sidecars, margaritas and applecarts a night, I'm not so sure that a good substitute isn't smart. After MB, I like Patron's Citronge.

For curacao, I've been through Prunier, Marie Brizard's curacao and Grand Orange, and Liqueur Creole Clement. For now, I've settled on MB curacao, but when it's gone, I'll go back to Grand Marnier. I don't go through enough of the stuff to make a big dent in my bar bill, whatever direction I choose.

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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For bourbon, I find Ezra Brooks to be far superior to Evan Williams and they are exactly the same price. EB is practically good enough for sipping, so it makes a great everyday mixing bourbon and is cheap enough to replenish at will. I tried EW once when the store I was in was out of EB and didn't care for it.

Another vote here for Cruzan Estate light rum and Goslings Black Seal as significant upgrades from Bacardi with little difference in price.

Orange Liqueur: None of them are really cheap (and still adequate), but in PA, Patron Citronge is $7 less than Cointreau and Gran Gala is $15 less than Grand Marnier, and so make perfectly acceptable substitutes when the budget is tight. Gran Gala really is a good value--with GM being $34 (750ml) and GG at only $19, the choice is obvious.

Perfectly acceptable vodkas under $20: Iceberg (grain)

Luksusowa (potato)

Someone mentioned Seagram's Distillers Reserve Gin (102 proof). A rather good gin with a price that beats the pants off the premium gins, plus, other than Old Raj (at $60), I don't know of any other gins that top 100 proof.

ETA: lostmyshape, where are you getting Broker's?

Edited by brinza (log)

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Perfectly acceptable vodkas under $20: Iceberg (grain)

Luksusowa (potato)

If one is intent on having vodka around, this is an area in which there are significant savings to be had. I'd add Smirnoff to that list.

Someone mentioned Seagram's Distillers Reserve Gin (102 proof).  A rather good gin with a price that beats the pants off the premium gins, plus, other than Old Raj (at $60), I don't know of any other gins that top 100 proof.

Plymouth Navy Strength is actually a bit higher than 50% abv.

--

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For bourbon, I find Ezra Brooks to be far superior to Evan Williams and they are exactly the same price. EB is practically good enough for sipping, so it makes a great everyday mixing bourbon and is cheap enough to replenish at will. I tried EW once when the store I was in was out of EB and didn't care for it.

I'll have to try this. I've not noticed it in the store, but then again, I'm usually purchasing the more top shelf bourbon for home use. I've still got the better part of two 1.75 liter Eagle Rare 10 year old bottles to get through before I need to do any bourbon shopping for recreational use. But perhaps for having at the bar for use as a well bourbon, the Ezra Brooks sounds intriguing. Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

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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There is a lot of love on this thread for Gosling's Black Seal rum.

IThere is also a bit of like here for Cruzan rums.

Put these two things together and what do you get?

Cruzan Black Strap.

A more than worthy rum for use any application where you'd use Gosling's.

Did an A/B taste test of both of them one day, and I like the Cruzan Black Strap a LOT better than Goslings (which by no means sucks), and I believe it is cheaper.

-James

My new book is, "Destination: Cocktails", from Santa Monica Press! http://www.destinationcocktails.com

Please see http://www.tydirium.net for information on all of my books, including "Tiki Road Trip", and "Big Stone Head", plus my global travelogues, and more!

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The Holy Grail, for me: Orange Liqueur. I've played around for a while and can't decide. Any thoughts?

Jay has a pretty good write up on orange liqueurs over on Oh Gosh.

I agree with the Luksusowa it is a relatively cheap vodka that easily compares to the high dollar ones. My Vodka snob (if you can believe it) friends who only buy Chopin never have a problem going through my bottle.

I have not been able to find the Rittenhouse or Goslings in the New Orleans (north shore) area. Brooks or Todd, if you know who has either please pass it on.

The real question is when a bottle of the green fairie will be less than $55

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Well here is my well guide.

Rye; Alberta Premium 39.95 for 1.75l ( i live in alberta canada ) but if you can find it, it is worth it.

There is a 25 year old version out right now that is $30/bottle. Not sure if it's all 25 years old, or just some of the blend but it's good and cheap.

Also, I'm jealus of all you American's with your different priced liquor. We have very little variety in pricing up here. It's mid level pricing or high end pricing. The cheap stuff costs the same as the medium stuff. We also have very little selection.

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Yeah.. Getting into the cocktail thing has cost me a lot of dough.

I don't buy tequila like I used to.. Good stuff, like Herrudura Silver, is so damn expensive. I can get the same amount of good gin (like Plymouth) for half the cost.

Really, there are a lot of affordable base spirits out there. You can create a whole plethora of cocktails from them. You don't always *need* to have really expensive things. Plymouth gin is great, and not expensive. Laird's Applejack is affordable. Also, a bit "unique" to many people. I can make a tasty Sidecar with E*J VSOP Brandy (of course, I use Cointreau in it, and that stuff is expensive). Vodka? For me, it's Tito's Handmade. Good. Affordable. And "local".

This thread will certainly get me to look at alternate stuff, especially in the category of rums. Something I really know little about. (and I just go and by Bacardi)

One thing about bottle size. I buy the 750 ml size. The 1.5 L sizes can be a batter value, but their larger size means few bottles (therefore, fewer varities) fit in my storage cabinet. Also, I find the 750 ml sizes much easier to work with and pour from.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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For bourbon, I find Ezra Brooks to be far superior to Evan Williams and they are exactly the same price. EB is practically good enough for sipping, so it makes a great everyday mixing bourbon and is cheap enough to replenish at will. I tried EW once when the store I was in was out of EB and didn't care for it.

I'll have to try this. I've not noticed it in the store, but then again, I'm usually purchasing the more top shelf bourbon for home use. I've still got the better part of two 1.75 liter Eagle Rare 10 year old bottles to get through before I need to do any bourbon shopping for recreational use. But perhaps for having at the bar for use as a well bourbon, the Ezra Brooks sounds intriguing. Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

The first Ezra Brooks I tasted was their higher-end 12 Year Special Reserve. I thought it was excellent. So I figured if they can make something that good, their black label product should be worth a try, and I was right. Also, the Ezra Brooks is 90 proof compared to 86 for Evan Williams.

That Cruzan Black Strap sounds great.

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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I don't know if this happens on a national level or not -- maybe this is a topic where we could figure it out. Today I went to replenish my supply of Beefeater. The 1.75 L was $24.98; the liter was $25.98.

(If you're in Atlanta, get yourself to Pearson's.)

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

Eat more chicken skin.

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