Stocking a Liquor Cabinet

October 5, 2010

I claim to be no expert on this, as I’m still learning the best liquors to buy on a budget, but as many friends refer to me for suggestions, this may make life a bit easier on everyone.  Many of my suggestions come straight from bartenders and/or observation at quality cocktail joints – usually their well liquors are surprisingly affordable.  Any prices I list are approximate and only for the state of Washington, which is considerably more expensive than many other states.  If you have any other recommendations, please comment below!

Vodka:

  • Luksusowa – $18 – surprisingly smooth for the price point, and much nicer than its compatriots under $25.  Mineral notes with hints of citrus, as opposed to heavier citrus or spice notes of many vodkas
  • Stolichnaya – $25 – I started on this one, and it is still my second choice on cheap vodkas, as it is readily available, and drinks easier than the rubbing alcohol that is Skyy

Gin:

  • Gordon’s – $20 – a bit rough, but a solid London Dry that can stand in nicely for gins like Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, and Tanqueray
  • Beefeater – $22 – a nice London Dry with floral notes, not quite as intense as Tanqueray, but easy to incorporate in many drinks
  • Plymouth – $30 – a gin in its own category, with subtler juniper notes and a mineral taste to it – a great way for new gin drinkers to start (and a lot cheaper than Hendrick’s) – it can also fill in for London Dry quite frequently

Rum:

Yeah…I got nothing here.  I still pay primo for rums, mostly because I find myself needing some particular variety of rum, and I haven’t observed a whole lot of well rums.  I’ll get back to this at a later date.

Tequila:

  • El Jimador Reposado – $22 – a good, basic, brawny reposado.  It may not be a blanco, but it will still work well in many cocktails
  • El Conquistador Blanco – $37 – not dirt cheap, but an incredibly delicate blanco at a mid-range price

Still making observations on this one too.  I don’t get through tequila fast enough to compare a whole lot.

Bourbon:

  • Buffalo Trace – $28 – a nice peppery, deep bourbon, with a heavy rye influence

I haven’t really explored a whole lot of affordable bourbons yet…more to come as I attempt to appreciate more bourbon.

Rye:

  • Rittenhouse 100 – $22 – incredible peppery taste with lots of depth
  • Wild Turkey 101 – $24 – not quite as intense as the Rittenhouse, this does have a more stable supply and is still an excellent bonded rye
  • Pikesville – $17

Other Whiskey:

  • George Dickel No. 8 – $20 – a nice American whiskey – catches the sweetness of the corn without being cloying or shallow
  • Chivas Regal 12 – $36 – a basic blended scotch that will do for most cocktails, and isn’t bad straight either
  • Glenlivet 12 – $40 – I consider this the starter’s single-malt
  • Yamazaki 12 – $49 – this is my easy-drinking single-malt.  More character than Glenlivet, but not yet paying for the massive peat of an Islay

Brandy:

  • Korbel XS – $17 – captures the fruit very well, with a vanilla finish – a little overdone, but fine for most cocktails
  • Paul Masson VSOP – $20 – a spicier brandy with less fruit, but still quite acceptable for mixing, and closer to sipping quality
  • Hennessy VSOP – $47(?) – if you must have cognac, skip over the Remy Martin and go for this one.  The extra couple bucks are worth it.
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