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Jan 2, 2008 06:25 PM

What booze do you keep on hand to cook with?

In an effort to keep my pantry well stocked at all times, I'm trying to compile a list of different types of alcoholic beverages that are typically used in cooking (as part of the dish itself, not as a beverage). So far, wine (red or white) and beer come to mind. Is marsala wine necessary, or can vermouth be used instead? Or should I have both on hand? I have also heard that cooking sherry should be avoided, but what is a good sub?

As for harder stuff, I have used tequila in marinades and Amaretto in cookie recipes.

What do you all use???

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  1. i cook mostly asian, so i always have a bottle of sake, shaoxing wine, and sometimes mirin...

    1. There is no way that vermouth can sub for Marsala. I keep Brandy, Bourbon, Vodka, Sherry, Marsala, Madeira, and dry vermouth on hand for cooking. We don't drink any of these, but they all seem to keep practically forever.

      23 Replies
      1. re: pikawicca

        If you add Port to your list, we keep the same larder. I will admit to drinking these as well as always having red & white wine available. From time to time, I also use pear and raspberry eau de vie as well as cointreau & triple sec. Oops, almost forgot beer ....... cannot make Belgian beef stew without Chimay.

        We keep a pretty well-stocked bar here, so if I want a dash of tequila et al, I have only to open a cabinet.

        1. re: Sherri

          I keep pretty much all of the above, though I haven't bothered replacing the Chambourd, but I also keep Pernod, rum, and Grand Marnier (similar to Cointreau and triple sec) on hand for cooking.

          1. re: Caroline1

            You know, Cooks Illustrated recently did a taste test, and they actually recommend using triple sec (Ledoux is their preferred brand) for cooking purposes over Grand Marnier, and after trying it, I agree entirely. It delivers a cleaner orange flavor at about 1/3rd the price.

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              I've tried both triple sec and Cointreu, but prefer the Grand Marnier. Other than the occasional duck or goose,I don't use it for cooking but for baking. It's great in combination with chocolate (cakes, ganaches, etc.) and other baked goods. I do like Cointreu more than triple sec though. Just don't see any purpose in keeping them both on hand. I think my bottle of Grand Marnier is a couple of years old.

              1. re: Caroline1

                I used Grand Marnier in my Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Nothing tastes exactly like it because it is added at the end, after the cooking is essentially done. Cointreu is a bit more orange flavored, if that is what you are going after. I save the Triple Sec for when I am mixing drinks for the masses.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  I use Grand Marnier in my holiday cranberry relish. It's not cooked and has fresh cranberries and orange supremes plus orange zest in it, so Cointreu just fades into the background with the zest, but the Grand Marnier stands its ground. And acts as a great preservative! I still have some left!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    We must have similar recipes. I don't use orange supremes -- what are they? I think the Cointreau blends too much with the orange zest too.

                    1. re: RGC1982

                      Orange supremes are just the segments of the orange removed from the "membrane". Did this yesterday with a grapefruit and for the first time used a serrated knife - made it much easier.

                      1. re: RGC1982

                        Yup, /as MMRuth says, the supremes are just the orange without the yucky parts. I've seen recipes for cranberry relish very similar to mine but that use the whole orange. Tried it one year because of the work reduction, but paid for it in the bitterness using the whole fruit produces.

                        I microplane the zest off of two oranges (Valencias if I can find them), then supreme the oranges. A bag of cranberries. Put it all in the food processor with sugar -- the amount depends on how sweet the cranberries and orange are, but anywhere from a half cup to a cup and a half if I have sour berries and have to use naval oranges -- and process everything to a fairly fine "chunk." Then add Grand Marnier to taste. I make it at least a couple of days ahead so it can blend. Is this the same as your recipe?

                        One year I made a lot and gave some to a friend to take home with her. She added some walnuts and used it in a red Jell-O mold. It was good, but I'm not the Jell-O mold type... But it was good.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I have to get better at making supremes. When I've tried it, I get chunks, not nice segments. MMRuth -- is there a trick? I will try the serrated knife.

                          1. re: karykat

                            I find that a really sharp paring knife is best, as is holding the thing in your hand and taking time picking the spot where you cut.

            2. re: Sherri

              Oops! Overlooked the Port, a must-have.

              I friend brought me a bottle of wild strawberry liqueur from France last year, and I used it to macerate strawberries for Strawberry Shortcake -- unbelievable! It's very difficult to get this stuff in the U.S., however. If you're in a big city, give it a try.

              1. re: pikawicca

                Sounds delicious. I only remember the Italian brand -- can't think of the name of it now... Fragioli? something like that -- with the little wild strawberries in the top of the bottle. Haven't seen it lately, but then haven't been looking. Is the French liqueur similar to that? Not that there are a lot of strawberries in the local farmer's market these days.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  I'm not familiar with the Italian version (sounds delicious), but my French bottle does not have berries in it.

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I want to try this now, wonder if BevMo carries this? Preferred brand anyone?

                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      That sounded so intriguing I had to find the wild strawberry liqueur page at BevMo.....

                      1. re: Gio

                        Thank you for doing that! I'll be getting one of these!

                      2. re: chef chicklet

                        Here's the one I was talking about (and misspelled):
                        I haven't been able to find it on the web not in the gift pack except for UK websites, and who want to pay shipping from there!

                        There are several other brands of wild strawberry liqueur, from Marie Brizzard to DeKuyper. BevMo does carry Bol's strawberry liqueur, but it's not "wild" strawberry. But it's about 1/3 the price of the Fragola.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Thank you for posting the link, all of these are helpful. I'll be going to BevMo its closer and I pick up other things too.. right around the corner from TJs so its a fun trip!

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            If I'm not mistaken, DeKuyper does artificially flavored stuff. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              I think that is the case - I really just avoid that brand and Marie Brizzard or whatever.

                  2. re: pikawicca

                    What kind of Madeira do you have? I was gifted a nice bottle of California Madeira from a Napa winery, which is now gone, and I don't know what variety it was, only that it was some nice hooch. I notice that Brits like Nigel Slater are apt to pour a slug of Madeira into many a dish. What should I get?

                    1. re: heidipie

                      Mine is "Rainwater" from Portugal. I've never tried California madeira so don't have any recommendation for you on that.

                  3. There's always an open bottle of red & white wine around :-D.

                    Also, I currently have a bottle of vodka, port, gin, and brandy -- all work nicely for a variety of reductions and/or sauces, e.g. I like adding gin or vodka to seafood bisque; port works really well with pork or pan-seared liver.

                    1. We're not big drinkers(actually DH is a non-drinker and I'm a not much drinker) but we keep a well stocked liquor cabinet that I mostly use to cook with.

                      I mostly use red or white wine when cooking but also regularly pull out vermouth, cognac, sherry(not the cooking wine stuff!), port, and marsala.

                      I always have rum, gin, vodka, bourbon and tequila on hand too. I'm not a beer drinker but keep a few bottle around to toss in things(those pumpkin ales during the fall make great stews for instance!)

                      I also have a healthy collection of liqueurs that mostly get used in baking.

                      For being essentially non-drinkers, friends are always amazed by what we have on hand...and even more amazed when I point out I mostly cook with everything!

                      1. Even though neither of us drinks, I keep marsala, dry vermouth, sherry and port on hand, along with red and white wine and beer. We are lucky that we live near liquor stores that carry those tiny bottles of a wide variety of spirits, so if I need any liquor, I can get one of those for just a couple of bucks. I also keep some mirin in the cupboard. We always try to have a few things on hand for those who like to drink, but we have to be careful that they don't sit around too long.