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Cheap Booze for the pricey palate


BennyAdeline
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I'm sure a google search could help me with this but I rather have the advice of people who drink similarly to how I do as opposed to trade reviews on the web.

I've got to save up for my wedding anniversary and my booze cabinet is getting low! The wife's savings plan involves me cutting back on what I spend on booze with the exception of bourbon and rye (God bless her).

I never drank spirits before I got into craft cocktails so I don't know how the cheap stuff tastes. I still want a little quality. I need a gin (is beefeater good?) a Santa Cruz style rum, a dark rum, a cognac, and a brandy. My drink profiles are usually citrusy or boozy pre-prohibition cocktails. I love aviations and am stocked on luxardo and creme de violette.

I had a cocktail get together literally the day before she sprung this on me. I drained all my micro-distilled spirits. oops.

Help!

Edited by BennyAdeline (log)
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A couple of starting points: this thread for general spirits, and this one for Cognac/brandy. (I'm curious: why do you need both?) In general, I think Beefeater, Plymouth and Tanqueray and gold standards for gin, depending on the style you're looking for. Cruzan for St-Croix rum. What kind of dark rum are you looking for? What are you looking to make with it?

Of course, price and availability in your local market may vary. :biggrin:

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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A couple of starting points: this thread for general spirits, and this one for Cognac/brandy. (I'm curious: why do you need both?) In general, I think Beefeater, Plymouth and Tanqueray and gold standards for gin, depending on the style you're looking for. Cruzan for St-Croix rum. What kind of dark rum are you looking for? What are you looking to make with it?

Of course, price and availability in your local market may vary. :biggrin:

Cognac/Brandy: A lot of the recipes I find call for on or the other with the author sometimes calling to substitute one for the other as well (Imbibe does this a bit). I figured there was some subtle difference. Dark rum is mostly for Tiki Drinks when it gets hot. I've been using pussers 15 year.

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Matt brings up a valid point with your market playing a major role in price. In my neck of the woods (Midwest US) we can get Plymouth <$20 and Sapphire <$25, but Beefeater >$30. Needless to say, we dont drink a lot of Beefeater.

As for rum, Flor de Cana around here is <$15 and I think it is better than Cruzan. (Although Cruzan's Blackstrap is the nectar of Gods.)

David Wondrich once wrote an article where he suggested Paul Masson VSOP for brandy. They claim that they blend their stuff with actual Cognac. It lacks some of the woodiness that Cognac has IMHO, but you can get that from your Bourbon. :wink:

Edit to add the article.

Edited by Boilerfood (log)
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Doorly's XO @ $14.99 (here in NJ) is exceptional rum; Evan Williams bourbon @ $13.50 is a great bargain.

...illustrating my point about your local market being the main determinant of price. At the LCBO, Doorly's XO is $32.65 a bottle. Evan Williams is not available, and the cheapest Bourbon is Jim Beam White, at $25.95.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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For gins, Brokers (the one with the bowler hat) is my favorite all-around gin. Lots 'o juniper. Cheap too. When I can't find it I get Beefeater -- a terrific gin and never expensive.

My favorite dark Jamaican rum is Corruba. (Drinking it right now in a planter's punch). I'll second the recommendation for Flor de Cana, and add one for Matusalem. It's Puerto Rican -- not Santa Cruz -- but excellent (and the best in my opinion for a Daiquiri)

Dan

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Cognac/Brandy: A lot of the recipes I find call for on or the other with the author sometimes calling to substitute one for the other as well (Imbibe does this a bit). I figured there was some subtle difference.

Well cognac is a kind of brandy, though not all brandy is cognac (in the same way that scotch is whisk(e)y, but not all whisk(e)y is scotch). I find that Hennessy or Courvoisier VS work fine for mixing and are also nice enough to drink (though of course you can get nicer cognacs for more money). Hennessy can be obtained pretty cheaply, and if you buy the big bottles from a Costco type place, it's even cheaper. For something a bit more off the beaten path, some places have "H" by Hine in the low $30s; seems easier to find on the east coast than over here in California.

If you can get the Bulleit Rye for $22 or under by you, I think it's a pretty good value; I like it better than the Rittenhouse, though I haven't been making many mixed drinks recently, so I don't know how it mixes.

While it doesn't exactly qualify in the budget category, I would suggest checking out the Ransom "Old Tom" gin if you can find it (about $35-40), and might work a little better than the standard brands in some of the drinks you mention.

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If you have a Trader Joe's that sells liquor nearby, try their "house brand" vodka and blended Scotch whiskey. If their house tequila is available, I buy a couple of cases to hold me over until the next time it's available. (Haven't seen it in ages -- probably due to the skyrocketing cost of agave.)

In all cases, the TJ's brand is some small distillery's product with a new label slapped on it. I find the quality more than acceptable, and it is certainly the best bang for the buck short of knowing a distiller.

Seriously, their pretty-good Russian vodka is ounce-for-ounce less expensive than the plastic pints liquor stores keep on hand for the hygienically-challenged. (And why throw a lot of money at something that isn't supposed to have much flavor at all?)

The blended Scotch is...blended Scotch. I can't tell the difference between it and the average top-shelf blends. Their Trader Jose tequila reminds me of El Jimador, but half the price -- again, if they ever have it again. I may just stop by TJ's today and see what they're carrying.

I keep hoping they'll roll out a Trader Joe's bourbon.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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If you require a 94 proof, traditional-style gin, Beefeater often runs a little less than, say, Tanqueray (but obviously not where-ever Boilerfood lives). Cheaper still is Seagram's Distiller's Reserve, which is surprisingly good. If an 80- to 90- proof gin is acceptable to you, you should be okay with Bombay Dry (actually an excellent gin--much cheaper than Sapphire, more traditional taste profile, but only 88 proof), Gordon's, or even Seagram's Extra Dry. Booth's is 90 proof and rather cheap, but I find the taste kind of tinny.

For dark rum, you can't go wrong with Gosling's Black Seal, and believe it or not, Bacardi Select is quite a decent dark rum for the price. Cruzan Black Strap is certainly inexpensive and super delicious, but I'm not sure it would work in all situations.

I've used three Cognacs that are under $20 and while maybe not spectacular, are still noticeably distinct from ordinary brandy in the same price range: Chalfont, Salignac, and Landy.

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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For dark rum, you can't go wrong with Gosling's Black Seal, and believe it or not, Bacardi Select is quite a decent dark rum for the price. Cruzan Black Strap is certainly inexpensive and super delicious, but I'm not sure it would work in all situations.

This sort of illustrates the thing with dark rum, is that it is such an open-ended descriptor as to be nearly meaningless. The variations in profile between different products that could be labelled as 'dark rum' is so diverse that one could never even adequately fit the bill for any given application (though maybe a specific recipe). All of the recommendations have been sound, I'm just not so sure the best bet is not to just rotate that selection if you can only afford to have one at a time. For my own part I'd be cycling between El Dorado 12+, Smith & Cross, and Plantation Barbados 5. Of those, the Plantation is most budget-friendly.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Cognac/Brandy: A lot of the recipes I find call for on or the other with the author sometimes calling to substitute one for the other as well (Imbibe does this a bit). I figured there was some subtle difference.

I would suggest checking out the Ransom "Old Tom" gin if you can find it (about $35-40), and might work a little better than the standard brands in some of the drinks you mention.

I had a bottle of Old Tom in my hands and the wife gave me the "Are you kidding" look. I had to put it back.

Thanks for all the info everybody.

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  • 3 weeks later...

For gin, I'll recommend New Amsterdam. It is lighter on the juniper and has a nice set of citrus notes. Reasonably priced, with 1.75L going for around $20. I wouldn't use it for classic martinis, but it works well with tonic.

I second the recommendations of Salignac for your Cognac and Paul Masson VSOP for your brandy.

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I'm on a rye kick, so rye is the only spirit I pay attention to these days. I love the Bulleit Rye for drinking straight, and I'm lucky to have found a source that sells it for $21.99. But for mixed drinks I think Old Overholt is the best deal, especially if you can find the liter bottle for under $20. When I run out of Bulleit I'm happy enough drinking Old Overholt straight, which is something I can't say about the only other comparably inexpensive rye I can get, which is Jim Beam.

We do drink gin, especially in warmer weather, and for overall usefulness and value we've been buying the family size bottles of Bombay (not Sapphire.) I wish Plymouth and Hendricks were cheaper around here.

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I'm on a rye kick, so rye is the only spirit I pay attention to these days. I love the Bulleit Rye for drinking straight, and I'm lucky to have found a source that sells it for $21.99. But for mixed drinks I think Old Overholt is the best deal, especially if you can find the liter bottle for under $20. When I run out of Bulleit I'm happy enough drinking Old Overholt straight, which is something I can't say about the only other comparably inexpensive rye I can get, which is Jim Beam.

We do drink gin, especially in warmer weather, and for overall usefulness and value we've been buying the family size bottles of Bombay (not Sapphire.) I wish Plymouth and Hendricks were cheaper around here.

It seems like all Bulleit products are a bargain in SoCAl. Traders Joe's in West Hollywood has the bourbon for $19.99 and I can find their rye for about $22 anywhere I go. Old Overholt is a classic that I really enjoy and I can find it in L.A. for 12.99!

Bevmo has Buffalo Trace for $18.99 right now and I am thinking about giving it a try.

I got the best price on a bottle of Gin yet, free! I was given a bottle of Ballast Point Old Grove Gin from one of their sales guys and have been mixing mean basil Gimlets all week. Its very nice, a little citrusy and sweet for a dry gin but pleasant enough and mixing just fine.

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As you're in LA, check out Smart & Final for gin. My location regularly stocks handles of Beefeater for $22 and Tanqueray for $26. Hard to beat those prices!

 

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Matt brings up a valid point with your market playing a major role in price. In my neck of the woods (Midwest US) we can get Plymouth <$20 and Sapphire <$25, but Beefeater >$30. Needless to say, we dont drink a lot of Beefeater.

Wow - here in Michigan, Plymouth is $43 and Beefeater is $18. I drink a lot of Beefeater and stock up on Plymouth when I go to Chicago ($26) and across the border to Canada ($19 at the duty-free)...

Tammy's Tastings

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