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good low end liquor

I've been working on a blog and my main focus is to provide a list of reviews on good moderately priced liquor.

Now, I've noticed a big difference in some prices from California. But as far as pricing I'm trying to take the whole of USA into consideration.

Anyway, my goal is to be able to recommend several different brands in each liquor category... i.e., gin, vodka, whisky, rum, tequila, brandy etc...., that are good inexpensive brands. Liquors that are under $30.00 and preferably under $20.00. (keeping in mind the cost all across the country). But I'm also looking for "good" decent brands in this category. Brands that don't totally taste like ethanol, brands that aren't totally bland and tasteless, brands that are distilled good, with less impurities so the after effects are minimal. And especially, brands that you have found acceptable for everyday drinking and that you would offer to guests when they come over.

Here is my very short list as an example.

Vodka - Tito's Handmade Vodka - $30.00 for a half gallon. Or Luksusowa Vodka - around $13.00 a fifth.
Gin - Beefeaters - can usually be found on sale for around $20.00 a fifth.
Rum - Sailor Jerry's Spiced Rum - around $18.00 a fifth.
Bourbon - Elijah Craig - around $30.00 for a half gallon.
Scotch - White Horse - William Grant's and Teacher's - between $16.00 to $20.00 a fifth.
Brandy - E&J XO - around $17.00 a fifth.
Tequila - Sauza Hornitos Anejo - around $35.00 a fifth. (tequila is expensive and I have found no acceptable sipping tequila under $30.00)

What I'm trying to do is suggest brands that would also be acceptable to drink neat and not just for mixing.

So what are your recommendations, I would love to hear them.... also keeping in mind that I'm mainly interested in brands that are widely available.

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  1. Interesting topic. In the bourbon/whiskey area, I like Evan Williams Single Barrel at about $25 and Jim Beam Rye (yellow label) at about $18. For rum, I like Cruzan Blackstrap and Whaler's Original Dark at about $10-12. For tequila, I like Cazadores Reposado at about $25-30. These are all for 750s and prices are about what I pay in California.

    1. Bourbon - Old Forester - ~ $15 / 750 mL
      El Jimador Reposado - ~ $20 / 750 mL

      5 Replies
      1. re: Papa Kip Chee

        El Jimador is agave mixed with grain alcohol. This is not sipping tequila and is not healthy for you. Please do not consider this tequila.

        1. re: MichaelG

          The implication of this comment seems to be that alcohol distilled from grain is somehow less healthy than alcohol distilled from agave, which I don't think is true: they are equally unhealthy

          Or are you saying that El Jimador contains other adulterants or congeners that make it unhealthy? I'd be curious to get more details on this. I can say from anecdotal experience that it's a bad idea to buy no-name vodkas, for instance, as they seem to cause more nex-day suffering, so I always at a minimum look for a charcoal-filtered vodka -- my inexpensive standbys are Smirnoff and Skyy. (I think most super-premium vodkas are a swindle for the gullible and the brand-obsessed, a triumph of marketing and packaging rather than actual craft).

          Now if you are saying that sipping a mixto rather than a pure-agave tequila is unhealthy for your reputation as a discriminating drinker, I would agree.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Or you could buy bad vodka and run it though a Brita filter =D I wonder if that works.

            1. re: The Chemist

              Apparently, the Brita filter trick does indeed work, but it burns out the filter pretty quickly. It's cheaper to buy a slightly better brand of vodka that has been charcoal filtered, like Smirnoff.

              http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          2. re: MichaelG

            "El Jimador is agave mixed with grain alcohol."

            NOT TRUE. Used to be the case, but El Jimador is back to producing a 100% agave tequila. Not fabulous, but serviceable, certainly for margaritas, and reasonably priced.

        2. I'd add Spirinoff vodka (ranked #1 by NYTimes against Grey Goose and others).

          Puerta Vallarta is the cheapest 100% agave tequila I've seen. The problem with El Jimador (recommended above) is its a mixto - that's 49% grain alcohol and 51% agave - hangover city!

          6 Replies
          1. re: MichaelG

            'Grain alcohol'... what do you think is in all those fancy 'premium' vodkas?

            It's all ethanol. Drink too much, and you'll feel bad. I don't believe there's a panacea in 100% Agave. To each his own...

            1. re: Papa Kip Chee

              My point is, if you drink vodka, you'll most likely be fine unless you drink the whole bottle. If you drink 100% agave all night, same thing. But mix vodka and tequila (which is essentially what mixto is) and I believe the hangover will be worse. Maybe it's just me, but I find that if I stick to one acohol, I generally avoid hangovers. Start with a cocktail, then move on to wine, and finish with a cognac, and it just doesn't feel that great the next day.

              1. re: MichaelG

                fair enough - I usually randomize the drink options the whole night, if I don't have to drive...and then knowingly pay for the fun the next day!

                1. re: MichaelG

                  "But mix vodka and tequila (which is essentially what mixto is) and I believe the hangover will be worse. "

                  Absolute nonsense. No basis in science. It's the alcohol silly.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I don't think that mixing two different types of spirits matters, but I don't think it's conclusive that only ethanol contributes to hangovers. There's a fair amount of research implicating congeners, non-ethanol by-products of the distillation process, as partial culprits in morning-after misery. Most researchers agree that dehydration, a consquence of breaking down alcohol, is a huge factor, too.

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Sure on congeners et. al...

                      but if you drink enough ethanol it'll kill ya.

                      Drink a lot, but not enough to kill ya, you'll feel like crud the next day.

                      Not rocket science, really.

            2. Ron Abuelo Anejo for rum. I know you can find it for under $14 a fifth. Terrific value, although I am not about to give up the Barbancourt. If you prefer Sailor Jerry to this, one might also jump to the assumption that Cisco Red is something you think of as a fine vintage wine.

              1. I like the Smirnoff family for less expensive, smoothness, including their flavors. Seagrams for ryes and whiskey and CC. Agree with Eand J