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A Budget friendly liquor cabinet?

Care to recommend your favorite compromise brands for decent cocktails on non special occasions? Martinis, daquiris, gimlets, margaritas, bloody marys, manhattans, negronis, cosmopolitans. For instance:
Gin: Gilbey's.
Vodka: Smirnoff. I can't understand any need to spend more for mixing.
White rum: Almost any cheap brand tastes less harsh than Bacardi! Ron Rico, Ron Diaz.
Whiskey: ?
Vermouth: Here, compromise does not pay. At least get Noilly Prat or Martini and Rossi.
Triple sec: Searching for something halfway between Jacquin's and Grand Marnier.
Tequila. A tough one. Sauza?

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  1. Looks like a pretty good list. My standard Vodka is Luksusowa. More expensive than US made vodkas but well worth it. For Bourbon, Old Crow. Blended whiskey, Seagram's Seven Crown. Cheap Scotch blend-Lauder's. Canadian, McMaster's. I don't have triple sec because I can't give up my Grand Marnier and I can use it to upgrade a triple sec drink.

    3 Replies
    1. re: davebough

      Another good inexpensive blended Scotch is Teacher's, apparently not well known in the US, but quite tasty for the price.

      1. re: davebough

        How about GranGala for a Grand Marnier substitute? I picked up a bottle out of curiosity and have been pleased, especially for the price.

        My budget-friendly gin choice is Gordon's, although I've not tried Gilbey's.

        1. re: davebough

          Second the rec for Luksusowa; my standard and all-round favorite is Youri Dolgoruki.
          I don't drink rum.
          Whiskey - Maker's is the best value to me
          Vermouth - I recently bought Lillet, but don't find it much differnet than dry vermouth like Martini & Rossi,
          Triple Sec - I only use it for cadillac margies and I prefer Cointreau; I've tried Patron's Citronage and didn't like it although it's priced low.
          Tequila - got to be 100% agave; not a mixto that's half sugar. Sauza hornitos is a good budget tequila; I spend $10 more for Herradura plato.

        2. For tequila, I like Margaritaville (HATE the name though, too cheesey) or the one by Sammy Hagar (can't remember the name). They are no Patron, but they're not Montezuma either.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sheilal

            You are thinking of Cabo Wabo. It around ~$50 a bottle. Not a budget tequila and I would argue that its better then Patron. I would also argue that Margaritaville is no better then Montezuma however....

          2. I like Monopolowa (not spell checked) Vodka. It is made from potatoes and is from Austria , I think. Smoother than Smirnoff, and about the same price. Evan Williams Black is good Bourbon, pretty cheap. Jim Beam used to be my inexpensive Bourbon, but I like the EW better.

              1. If you want a fairly good guide for almost anything you could have in a bar, and both top shelf and budget items for all of these thigns, check out: http://www.tastings.com/spirits/best_...

                I think it's on with both the Gordon's Gin and Vodka.

                I'd probably go with a Bowmore for a single malt.

                I have not shopped for a cheap amber rum for a while, but I would add one to any bar. I know a lot of rum drinkers that would never touch a rum and coke or a fruity rum drink like a daiquiri, but would instead rink it with tonic or ginger ale, or if drinking good rum straight or on the rocks. All of these rum drinkers, drink amber or darker rums. Appletons, Mount Gay, Barbancourt, are all good enough choices.

                1. My standard for cheap-but-drinkable bourbon whiskey is Ancient Age. They have 4, 6, and 10 year varieties, and all are reasonably priced and very flavorful, without being sickly sweet.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ditdah

                    I completely agree. It's dirt cheap, but very drinkable, especially if it is to be mixed in a cocktail. At about $15 for a 1.75 liter bottle, it's a bargain. Although I do sometimes feel strange buying liquor bottles whose labelling prominently displays the letters "AA."

                  2. Evan Williams Bourbon is a great value for the taste and quality.

                    1. I have several problems with the original post.
                      Vodka: Smirnoff isn't exactly the bee's knees of budget vodkas. Solbieski is far superior and at the same price
                      Whiskey: Ancient Age bourbon easily
                      Gin: Gilbey's is cheap but tastes like pine sap. Don't have a better suggestion though.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: nathanj37

                        Gordon's is a pretty good cheap Gin. In Gin and Tonics, I can't taste much difference in Tanqueray, which I believe is made by the same company.

                      2. When I go ghetto:

                        Vodka- Skyy- I only use vodka for mixing, so this is fine for me
                        Rum- I don't drink rum
                        Gin- New Amsterdam- pretty easy drinking, with citrus and lighter juniper
                        Whiskey- Jim Beam is $20 a handle. Why look elsewhere?
                        Tequila- Cazadores- it's respectable, middle of the road, 100% agave tequila

                        1. Flor de Cana rum (amber) $14
                          Marie Brizzards makes a good triple sec, but I use so little that I feel like this is one area where the Grand Marnier is worth it.
                          Look to the ryes for whiskey:
                          Old Overholt makes a great Manhattan - $12
                          Rittenhouse 100 is less than $20 and also very good.
                          Casadores is my go-to for affordable tequila. Def. beats Sauza.