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Well liquor vs. call / top shelf

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Perhaps this issue is outside the boundaries of what you folks typically deal with but as a former part-time bartender and avid cocktail enthusiast (I no longer dirnk them but remain intrigued by the art and craft), I'm curious as to your opinions on the appropriate usage of well liquor vs top shelf and even where middle-of-the-road brands fit in.

I found that some of the standard but not premium brands, (e.g. Gilbey's, Gordon's or even Seagram's gin when used in a G & T) were highly acceptable when used in certain types of mixed drinks and allowed some flexibility with the bar budget, both from a net profit standpoint and also for the customer's desired price point. My experiences were far more varied when it came to the "unknown" well liquor brands. On occasion I'd find things such as a blended whiskey that compared favorably with Seagram's Seven in a 7 & 7 or a bourbon that held up well in an A/B test against Jim Beam (white label) when tested as a bourbon and water.

Do either of you have enough experience to share some helpful perspective? I found the "unknown" brands to be so inconsistent yet there were (and likely still are) some hidden gems out there. Are most well liquors of this type just repackaged from a few larger key distillers? Are there some independent distillers that focus ont he lower end who are consistently reliable in terms of quality? Any and all thoughts appreciated.

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I think that you've covered this topic admiably all on your own! There are some incredibly good spirits out there at bargain basement prices, but they do tend to be few and far between. There are also some well-recognized name brands that are not of great quality. Usually they are the lowest priced bottlings of a well-known brand.

I have seldom found high-end bottlings to disappoint me, though. Some might not be to my taste, but they are well constructed when it comes down to it.

Hope this helps.

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It helps but as I can no longer do the taste tastes myself to assess current offerings.... :rolleyes: I'll have to rely on the input from others.

I'm planning to have a good sized house-warming party in late srping or early summer and would like to put together a respectable bar - nothing extravagant as this will be a very infrequent sort of thing (perhaps a holiday party now and again in the future). I've been out of the alcohol consumption end of things for over fiteen years so some of my choices might now be superseded by better or more popular liquors at similar price points. I need to assemble a bar stock from scratch - the only thing I keep in the hosue is cognac and small bottles of red wine for cooking.

Suggestions, comments or recommended subsititutions on this list?

  • Pouring Brands
  • Gordon's gin
  • Smirnoff's vodka
  • Bacardi rum
  • Jim Beam (white label) bourbon
  • Canadian Club blended whiskey
  • Jose Cuervo tequila
  • De Kuyper peach schnapps

  • Call Brands
  • Tanqueray gin (or Bombay Sapphire if I can swing the $$)
  • Absolut Vodka
  • Maker's Mark bourbon
  • Dewar's White Label scotch

I'm at a loss for what better quality rum, whiskey or tequila to use. I've never been a blended whiskey drinker but just have this gut feeling that Crown Royal is more marketing than anything else. I never cared for Cuervo 1800 when I did drink and am clueless about better quality rums (although I do like Mt. Gay eclipse and Myer's Dark). I did not include a pouring brand for Scotch as it seems pointless, based on my past professional experience.

My intent is not to assemble a full bar but have a few key items to meet the needs of those wanting fairly commonplace or standard drinks.

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Hmmm . . .

Here are some changes I'd make:

For a pouring vodka try something other than Smirnoff (I presume you're talking about their lowest-priced bottling)--taste it neat and you'll see why. I'm not sure about prices, but perhaps Svedka is within reach?

On the pouring bourbon I'd either spill the extra $s to get the Beam Black Label, or go with the Evan Williams 7-year-old--one of the best buys in bourbon.

Could you possibly stretch to Sauza for a pouring tequila? I don't think it's too expensive.

On Call brands

While I do like Sapphire (regular Bombay is not to my personal taste), Tanqueray has been my gin of choice for a long time.

Try TURI Estonian vodka (spicy) instead of Absolut (though I do like Absolut's flavored line), or Citadelle or Ciroc (both French) are great bottlings.

On the Dewars. see if you could stretch to their 12-year-old--it's a great whisky.

Rum wise, you can't go wrong with Appleton, Mount Gay, or Barbancourt.

And if you want a top-notch tequila go with any of the following: Cazadores, Chinaco, Don Eduardo, Don Julio, El Tesoro, or Herradura. All are highly recommendable 100% agave tequilas.

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