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Your "house" brands


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A comment by slkinsey on the "Crimes Against Alcohol" thread has me wondering what brands of various liquor we use in our "everyday" cocktails. Do you buy whatever's on sale, or stick to a particular brand regardless of price (or something in between)? What do you tend to have on hand at home to whip up your favorite libations?

My bar is unusually full right now, because of some research (yeah! research!) I'm doing, but here's what I have (with some comments on how usual the item is):

Gordon's gin. Always a staple in my bar. I can usually find it at one of a couple of markets for $14-$15 for a 1.75 liter bottle, so it's by far the best buy for a decent gin for cocktails.

Cascade Mountain gin. I liked this a lot the first time I got it, but now I'm thinking it's a bit one-dimensional for what I spent for it. It can't, for example, stand up to much vermouth in a martini. A more usual selection for martinis is Boodles -- or regular Bombay, Beefeaters or Tanquerey in they're available for less than Boodles.

Bacardi rum (white). I've only recently been drinking rum (really bad experience with rum and eggnog years ago put me off it) so I haven't had much exposure to different brands. I got a some for a drink I was working on for a class, and ended with a large bottle left over. Now I'm liking some rum drinks quite a bit, so I think it'll be a standby. Is there a better brand, comparable price?

Svedka vodka. Since I'm not a vodka drinker, I don't go high end with it. Three quarters (easily) of the vodka in my place goes into bloody marys. But when I do need it for other cocktails, this brand seems to be smooth and drinkable. I actually had an airline bottle of Skyy a while back, and side by side, I think the Svedka was less harsh.

Teacher's Scotch. I used to drink a lot more Scotch than I do now, and I almost always used to have a bottle of some single malt or other on hand. Now I buy them rarely, but I like a Teachers on the rocks once in a while, and it's great in cocktails. These days, I get the single malts when I go out.

For tequila, now I have Sauza Conmemoritivo, but a more usual choice is Hornitas. I don't drink tequila straight, so no need to get anything really high end. I got a mini bottle of Herradura Silver to try Gary and Mardee Regan's eGullet drink, the Mischief (because that's whay they specified), but I found I preferred the Hornitas, and it's my favorite for Margaritas, which is where about 90 percent of my tequila goes.

I don't generally have bourbon or rye on hand, but I found a good price on Hirsch 13-year-old rye, so I picked some up for Manhattans. I'd like to pick up a bottle of the Evan Williams 10-year-old bourbon after reading a glowing review of it in Wine Enthusiast, but I've only seen the 7 year old. And bourbon is something I can easily live without.

Marie Brizzard triple sec. Cointreau might be slightly better, but at less than 2/3 the price, Marie gets my vote.

Dry vermouth is usually Noilly Prat -- right now I have Martini & Rossi because it was on sale, but I really prefer Noilly.

I don't use as much sweet vermouth and haven't found any standouts, so I usually buy whatever's decent and on sale. It's M&R now. Any suggestions on good brands? I also have a bottle of Punt e Mes, but I'm not clear if that falls into the sweet vermouth category or not.

Blond Lillet. It's a staple.

Velvet Falernum is a newcomer to my bar, but I've grown very fond of it, and my favorite spirits shop has it, so I've been buying it and plan to keep it on hand.

Campari. I don't always have it, but I don't go too long without it.

It occurs to me that the one thing I haven't been keeping in stock for a while is brandy. I had a sidecar the other day and remembered how much I like them, so maybe it's time to pick that up. Any recommendations?

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Staples for mixing. Hmmmm. I usually have around:

  • Gin: Gordon's for general-purpose mixing, at least one of Hendrick's, Plymouth or Boodle's for martinis
  • Vodka: Luksusowa
  • Bourbon: Maker's Mark
  • Rye: Old Overholt
  • Rum: Bacardi Silver (or off-brand reasonable facsimile thereof), Myer's
  • Scotch: Famous Grouse
  • Vermouth: Vya Extra Dry (white), Vya Sweet (red), Noilly Pratt (white)
  • Bitter drinks: Campari, Cynar, Carpano Punt e Mes, Fernet Branca, Branca Menta
  • Bitters: Angostura, Fee Brothers Orange, Fee Brothers Aromatic, Peychaud's
  • Etc.: Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Luxardo Maraschino, Cherry Heering, Limoncello (brand differs), absinthe substitute (usually Richard or Pernod), white creme de cacao, cognac or some kind, Calvados, Poire William, Cachaca
  • Stuff I happen to have around for specific drinks: Green Chartreuse, Pineau des Charantes

That's all I can think of at the moment in terms of stuff I try to have around pretty much all the time for the purpose of mixing.


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When I first got started "stocking my home bar", and really didn't know much about different brands and such, I would pick up something that I felt might represent a good balance between cost and quality, sometimes going with names I recognized, sometimes not.

When I got close to running out of something, I would pick up as its replacement a "different" brand, then I'd compare the two side by side, both straight, as well as in a cocktail (if there was enough left :-).

I remember that when I started out, I had noticed that there was this one brand, "Monarch", that appeared to have a product in every category, and at a very good price. At the "start" of the above process, I tried a lot of Monarch... but very, very, quickly moved away from it as I compared it against other brands!


I bounce around a little on this. Sort of depends on what flavor profile I'm looking for. I've usually got a bottle of Metaxa around (although it technically is a "flavored brandy") and lately have been using Chalfonte as my normal house brandy/cognac for making cocktails with.

Also keep some Pisco around.


I "tried" to use Gordon's as my house gin, but as I compared it to slightly higher brands I just couldn't quite justify it. I've settled with Boodles as being my house gin, with usually a bottle of T10, Plymouth, and/or Hendricks also on the counter.

Also keep some Aquavit around.


Bacardi of course, but I also try to keep a bottle of Gosling Black Seal around for those drinks that need a little deeper flavor. Sometimes I have Myers, but usually Black Seal works just as well.

Also keep some Cachaca around.


Sauza Silver is what I've been using lately for cocktails. I prefer silver for cocktails. I also usually have a bottle of Patron Anejo for sipping, and randomly pick up varous other bottles. There is a lot of variation in Tequila, so it's often hard to settle on a single one for sipping.


I so rarely use vodka in any of my cocktails that I haven't done much in the way of exhaustive testing. Most of what I use is for the manufature of bitters, tinctures, or in my simple syrup (makes it shelf-stable).


Makers Mark is my house Bourbon. It just works -so- well in every bourbon drink that it just makes sense. Other bourbons might work better in something like an Old Fashioned, but then won't work as well in a Manhattan.

For Rye, I use Old Overholt. Great price, and a pretty good whiskey as well.

I don't use much Scotch in cocktails, tend to save it for sipping instead. Usually I've got a bottle of Laphroig around, but single malt prices have been going through the roof lately! I've tried some of the more bargin priced single malts, but they just don't compare.

Irish, when I have it, I usually use Powers.

Canadian, frankly I can't remember the last time I bought a Canadian Whisky.

Others: (using slkinsey's list as a template/reminder :-)

Aperitif Wines: (dry) Noilly Pratt, (sweet) Martini, Punt e Mas, Dubonnet, Lillet

Herbals: Campari, Cynar, Benedictine, Chartreause, Ferent Branca, Branca Menta, Strega, Licor 43, Torani Amer, Jagermeister (but rarely use it)...

Cordials: Cointreau, Maraska Maraschino (can't get Luxardo in the state), Cherry Herring, Sabor Absinthe, Absente Pastis, Orange Curacao (various), Triple Sec (various), white creme de cacao (various), Velvet Falernum...

Bitters: Angostura, Fees Orange (at least until Gary's comes out!), Fees Peach, Peychaud's, and my own "House" bitters.


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Gin: Bombay Sapphire for simple cocktails and martinis, Tanquerey regular for stuff where the individual taste of the gin won't shine through as much.

Vodka: Blue Hen Vodka for stuff where it matters, Smirnoff for everything else

Bourbon: Maker's Mark as an upperline mixer, Rebel Yell as an everything else mixer, sometimes a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 for good measure

Whiskey: Evan Williams and George Dickel

Rye: Jim Beam Rye, Wild Turkey Rye is good too for mixing

Scotch: J&B for mixing

Rum: Gosling's Black Seal, Bacardi 151

Tequila: Cuervo Gold (I don't actually drink anything with tequila though, so I mainly just cook with this)

Vermouth: Martini and Rossi (is there a difference in Vermouths? Also, does this stuff go bad? I've been using the same bottle for months now, I don't drink Martinis often).

Schnapps and other stuff I don't drink, but keep around for others: Stock, Hiram Walker, Hirsch, etc....

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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My home bar varies upon season, whim and what my guests drink without mind to what is on sale at the liquor store and are usually "call" or "premium" liquors. (Patron, Woodford Reserve, Glacier, Crown Reserve, Tanqueray Ten, Stoli Vanil, Absolut Citron, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Baileys, Frangelico, Tia Maria, Jager off the top of my head)

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Here is what we have in our bar at the moment:

Depending on the event, guests or us trying new “stuff” and liking it better than the old “stuff” everything is subject to change.

Roses Lime Juice

Giroux Grenadine Syrup

Hiram Walker Triple Sec

M&R Sweet & Dry Vermouth

Jameson Irish Whiskey


Gin: Bombay Sapphire

Sambuca Romana

Bourbon – Bookers, Basel Hayden, Makers Mark, Old Rip Van Winkle

Tequila – Silver Patron, Jose Cuervo Especial

Vodka – Grey Goose, Ketel One, Monopolawa

Amaretto Desaronno

Rum: Appleton Estate Jamaica, Malibu coconut, Bacardi Silver 80

Felipe II Brandy

JW Black & Red

Seagrams 7



We also have a variety of wine (we bring out different wines depending on our guests, I know it sounds snobby but I have heard too many time "yuk I don't this" and having to pour coastly wine down the drain).

Your best bet is a well stocked bar with the essentials and specials items (that you know of) for your guests. Know your audience.

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In or cupboard right now:

Vodka: Grey Goose, Absolut Citron (I didn't buy this), Ketel One and a 1.75 liter bottle of Stoli in the way back that I think we haven't touched in at least a year.

Whiskey: JD

Scotch: The Macallan 12 yr.

Bourbon: Knob Creek, Jim Beam, Bookers, Blanton's (latter two for sipping, first two for mixing)

Rye: Jim Beam

Gin: Bombay Sapphire (great martini gin), Tanqueray (for G&Ts)

Rum: Bacardi

Tequila: Cuervo Especial, Cuervo 1800

Other stuff: Martini and Rossi vermouth (both Rosso and Extra Dry), B&B, Hennessey Cognac, Chambord, Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Peychaud and Angastora bitters, plus an array of juices.

I'm mainly a whiskey and bourbon guy, but have moved over to my old standby, gin for the summer.

Pet peeve: going to someone else's home and being offered a gin and tonic then asked the question: "I don't think we have any limes, is that ok?"

"Democracy is that system of government under which the people…pick out a Coolidge to be head of the State. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies." H. L. Mencken

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[*]Bitters: Angostura, Fee Brothers Orange, Fee Brothers Aromatic, Peychaud's

I forgot bitters: I have Fees Orange and Peach, Peychaud and Angostura. How does Fees Aromatic compare with the others?

Also, I realize I forgot a few staples: Maraschino and Pimms, plus mini-bottles of things I only need a little of or use rarely -- Chartreuse, Pernod, Chambord, Ameretto, etc. I'm fortunate to have a couple of stores close by that carry fabulous collections of minis, so if I want to try a new drink that calls for something I don't have, I can usually buy it as a mini to start with, instead of having to buy a full bottle.

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just moved so we're down to a highly personal set of basics.

Te Bheag (I like this considerably more than any of the other blends in this bracket and quite a bit more than the less expensive single malts available - glenfiddich, glenlivet. It's just got such nice spice characteristics)

Basil Hayden's (When this gets near done I will get another nice bourbon though probably not this one, maybe Blantons or Elmer Lee unless the LCBO brings in something else equally interesting)

Campari (I was given this in the cold months and resisted to urge to exchange it for a bottle of wine, now that it's warm I'm glad for that decision. Also been experimenting with it in the kitchen a bit but no swe inspiring successes yet)

Centenario Anejo Rum (Brought back from Costa Rica 6 mos ago, when it's finished I'm not sure If I would replace it with another dark rum, it certainly wouldn't be a top priority.)

Armagnac de Montal 1984 (I was given a bottle of Remy XO Brandy which I returned and kicked in a few more bucks to upgrade to this)

Next purchase (read: this evening) will be gin and it will be Plymouth although I would be happy to find a local bar serving hendricks as it sounds like it would be rather tasty, following that, something anise and not french. Before the holidays I'll pick up some sweet vermouth for manhattans (christmas in a glass) and a single malt of some stripe but right now I'm enjoying the te bheag and tasting broadly wherever I can because buying a bottle of scotch just seem like such a commitment. I do (patriotically) enjoy canadian rye and find it's one of the only dark spirits I'll mix with (manhattans, or with apple/ginger juice or even ginger ale or jamaican style ginger beer) So again, by the holidays I'll pick up something, likely canadian club.

(sidenote: for a great housewarming present get someone a scrabble board and a bottle of crown royal, it just works on so many levels).

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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This being My Year of Living Penuriously, it's a half-gallon jug of Schmirnoff's red, replaced as necessary.

Yes, I've been in that situation. . . I believe the low point was infusing a jug of Vodka of the Gods (left over from bloody marys) with juniper berries in an unsuccessful attempt to make it more palatable.

I've often been down to Gordon's and Rose's Lime. Makes it really easy to decide what to drink.

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Smirnoff is hardly rock-bottom vodka though. There is always Popov for around $7 to $10 per 1.5 litre, and liquor store brand for under that.... (although State Line brand Vodka isn't any different from Popov when used in random mixed drinks from what I Can tell).

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Bacardi Gold


Herradura Anejo

Sauza Hornitos

Tyrconnell Irish Single Malt (this is a bargain)

John Powers


Lillet Blond


Cachaca (3 kinds!)

Medronhos (Portuguese brandy)

Poire William


Hartley's Amontillado/Fino


Various Sakes (I'm sorry: Saketinis rock!)

Florio Marsala

Bitters, yup, yup...

LOVE the Scrabble and Crown Royal gift idea! Get the little felt bag embroidered for a few bucks more. :wink:

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

Portland Food Map.com

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Vodka: Liter of Smirnoff Red destined for infusing, Ghezhelka (How it sounds, not spelled...) for mixed drinks, Smirnoff Vanilla and Citrus Twists.

Rum: Bacardi Select, Silver, and O. Ciclon (A Bacardi product consisting of rum, tequila, and lime...it's kind of neat. Made a Cuba Libre spinoff with it)

Tequila: Might be a few ounces of some cheap Blanco left over from a party.

Gin: Ginless*, though this needs to change.

Bourbon and Whisky products: Eagle Rare 10 Year, SoCo, Jack Daniel's.

Misc: Dubonnet, Hennessey VO, M&R dry white, triple sec, Kaluha Especial, Alize, Angostura bittera

Now, ask me again tomorrow and the list might shorten...we're having a combo birthday/housewarming party today, and other than my roommate's contributions (A handle of Bacardi "Bahama Manna", handle of ChiChi's margarhita, handle of some crap vodka, and Whaler's "Killer" Rum....) mine is the only ammunition. And YES, my list is very collegian, but I'm proud of my little stash, even if it's seen more bountiful days! Besides, the good stuff is on my wish list (Keywords: Single malt, reposado, single barrel, monk-produced, and um....gin), and now that I'm working full time again.... :cool: might pick up a thing or two on the way home for my personal party enjoyment.

-- C.S.

* Ginless, adj: Of, referring to, or the condition of having no gin

Edited to remove superfluous smily

Further edited to ask everybody to join him in welcoming Canadian Club, Rhum Barbancourt, and Noilly Prat sweet red vermouth! Yay! .....and two of the worlds most expensive bottles of Roses' Lime for tonight's party...oy, kids and their kamikazes

Edited by Chef Shogun (log)

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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My house brands are pretty stable, dictated by a) the insane retail price of liquor in Hong Kong, and b) what's stocked at the duty free locations I most frequently pass through (various China ports, Vietnam, Thailand...) and c) what I think my guests will like, in that order.

Blended scotch: Johnny Black.

Malt: The Dalmore, when I can find it. This is for me, not guests....

Bourbon: Jim Beam

Rum: Havana Club 3 yr old

Gin: Tanqueray Export , or Plymouth if Mark or Bob recently visited from the UK.

Vodka: Stoli

Vermouth: Martini

Tequila: Don Julio, only when Susi comes to visit from California. Out at the moment.

Plus a bottle of Pimms, Gran Marnier and a cheap US sherry that the delectable Ms. A likes to sip but is supposed to be used for cooking. There's also a bottle of soju (Korean liquour) and a bottle of sake in there. And 35 bottles of wine. Under the terms of my relationship, I'm not allowed more than 36 bottles of wine in our apartment at a time.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Vodka: Burnett's-we seldomly use it except for an occasional Cosmopolitan for the Fuss or to infuse so I buy some thing cheap but decent. Actually I have never done a "taste test" but read some where that Burnett's was the best cheap vodka on the market so purchase it. We also have some thing a friend brought to us fr/ Russia when she visited & a couple of bottles of flavored vodkas that were "inherited".

Gin: Bombay for every day usage but I have some Plymouth's and Hendrick's on hand when I feel like some thing different

Scotch: Fuss likes Ballantine's so that is what we buy. She also likes J&B so we usually have some of that around. There is a bottle of LaPhroig Single Malt and Aberlour Single Malt on the bar as well.

Bourbon: Maker's Mark! There are a couple of bottles of Woodford Reserve that we have been given as gifts and a bottle of Pappy van Winkle that I bought on a whim but I always return to MM.

Tequila: I usually buy Sauza as a general tequila for margaritas just b/c it is relatively decent and inexpensive but there is a bottle of Jose Cuervo on the bar for appearance sake

Rum: Cruzan for the seldom times we use rum but some how we inherited a bottle of Captain Morgan's and a bottle of Malibu

Brandy: I usually keep it just for cooking but there are a couple of bottles of E&J as well as Almaden

Rye: Old Overholt-kept on hand to have it

Irish: Bushmill's

Crown Royal and CC for those who want it

Incidentals: Southern Comfort (the Fuss likes Scarlet O'Haras in the winter months), Marie Brizzard Anisette, Luxardo Maraschino, Marie Peach Liqueur, Dubonnet Rouge, Laird's Apple Jack (primarily for cooking), Triple Sec, Apricot Brandy, Orange and Blue Curacao, Raspberry Liqueur--what ever is on sale & bought for mixing purposes

Grand Marnier, B&B, Hennesey, and assorted ports and sherries.

Rose's Lime, Rose's Grenadine, Angostura, Peychaud's, Orange Bitters

in loving memory of Mr. Squirt (1998-2004)--

the best cat ever.

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Being in the college-student boat, I have some pretty big holes in my cabinet (which actually happens to be a shelf in my kitchen). On the plus side, I live near the Quebec border, so I have both the LCBO and SAQ to choose from.

Gin: 1.75L of Beefeater. Originally intended for Singapore Slings, now doing duty in G&T's.

Vodka: Grey Goose (Christmas present) Absolut Citron (cosmos) and "SAQ Alcool 94%" (for large batch drinks at parties)

Rye: Alberta Premium

Rum: HC3, Appleton VX, Rhum Saint James, Wray and Nephew Overproof

Vermouth: Martini (red), Noilly Pratt (white)

Bitter drinks: Campari

herbal: Benedictine

Bitters: Angostura

Etc.: Cointreau, white creme de cacao, Courvoisier VS, Calvados Boulard, Cachaca, Pisco, Pineau des Charentes, Apricot liqueur, creme de banane, blue curacao, Chambord,

Of special note: Meaghers "Grand Curacao"; as good as Cointreau for the price of triple sec. :smile: Unfortunately not available in Ontario.

Cherry Heering: I bought some originally for singapore slings (see Gin section), but found that it overpowered the drink completely. I now have 2 bottles gathering dust...

I hope to add some Maker's Mark and Un Emile 68 absinthe to my collection over the summer.

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Smirnoff is hardly rock-bottom vodka though.

Correct. There's always Five O'Clock. But things haven't gotten that bad...yet. :blink:

In truth, the pendulum is on the return swing, and I'm eyeing the Charbay vodkas salaciously.

Edited by GG Mora (log)
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I drink more wine than anything, but I lve a good cocktail once in a while!

My favorites are gin martinis. I usually keep some Gordon's on hand because I think it is a good, inexpensive, all-purpose gin. I really like Hendrick's for my premium gin though. Also, I recently tried Bombay "Wet", the pear-infused gin, which I thought was quite tasty and refreshing for summer.

For vodka, I try to keep a bottle of Turi on hand. Hands down, my favorite vodka. I also like Belvedere and Chopin.

I usually have a couple boubons too, and I currently have Marker's Mark and Baker's in my cabinet.

That is about it for my house brands, though!

All the best,


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Smirnoff is hardly rock-bottom vodka though.

Correct. There's always Five O'Clock. But things haven't gotten that bad...yet. :blink:

In truth, the pendulum is on the return swing, and I'm eyeing the Charbay vodkas salaciously.

If you're anywhere near a BevMo, they are selling Charbay vodka for $15/ bottle + tax.



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