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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.


          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.


                    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

                1. I agree with you about Tito's, it is a good vodka for any price, much less $30 or so for a handle.

                  Another gin recommendation, although I'm cutting it close price-wise - it's $30:


                  That said, if you are drinking it in martinis or other drinks where the gin is the star, it might be worth it - save the cheaper stuff for more complicated mixed drinks.

                  1. Vodka - Tito's and Luksusowa are both good, but Moskovskaya is simple, clean, and dirt cheap. Back in the days of the CCCP, I think it was the domestic label for what was exported as Stolichnaya.

                    Gin - Like the Beefeaters call. Hendricks and Plymouth both come in under your maximum price, too. But Gordon's--at $15 / half gallon on sale--is a true bargain: good gin at a great price. I like it in a martini.

                    Bourbon - can't ignore Jim Beam.

                    Scotch - is Teacher's available in California? Haven't seen the stuff in years. The best moderately-priced blend around here is The Famous Grouse.


                    4 Replies
                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Agreed on Gordon's Gin for the budget concerns. A very nice martini. Also Old Overholt rye, Ballantine's blended scotch -- bonus points for the wonderfully classic "bellboy, bring me a bottle of scotch" bottle and label.

                      1. re: Up With Olives

                        I give the nod to Ballantines Finest as well. Other great scotches for the price: Tomatin $24.99, single malt, and Bowmore Legend, for $19.99. The Bowmore is very young 6-8 yr. old single malt. Fabulous stuff if you're into a more aggressivley young and smoky scotch.

                        Rum- anything Cruzan silver and gold. I feel they are the best value out there at roughly 12-13 a bottle. Their 5yr sippin' scotch is great @ just 16.99.

                        I really like Napoleon Brandy as well for 10.99. I use it to mix with Benedictine for a real B&B.

                        Stock Amaretto is good in a pinch at 10.99 as well.

                        1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles

                          Which of the Napoleon brandies do you like? I am finding a few different brands with that name.

                      2. re: alanbarnes

                        For the money, Jim Beam is hard to beat.

                      3. Woodford Reserve - fantastic bourbon $29.00 for 750ml
                        Glenmorangie 10 - great scotch usually around $39.00

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: CA Scotch Chick

                          Finlaggen scotch from Trader Joes if you can find it.

                          1. re: ozbuc

                            I don't much care for Finlagen for drinking, but it's great for marinating tri-tip.
                            I don't recall the price, but Trader Joe's has a 10 year old Macallen that I prefer for drinking.

                            1. re: David Carlson

                              the finlaggan is an islay malt (and i suspect a lagavulin distillation) and as such, is going to be quite different from a speyside like macallan. a generic lagavulin for less than $20 is a pretty decent deal - if you like islay malts.

                              but stay away from the tomatiin distillation. there's serious burn in the finish.

                        2. Vodka - Can't beat Titio's. Great stuff.
                          Monopolowa - Polish potato vodka that you can get for 1L for $9.99 at TJs is probably the best value ever.

                          Rum - Barbancourt 5 star - a delicious sipping rum aged 8 years you can get for $19.99 (Rum is surprisingly affordable if you find the lesser known good brands.)

                          Bourbon - Big fan of Evan Williams, normal stuff is easily on par with Jack at a fraction of the cost

                          Tequila - Oreindain Ollitas - now this one is difficult to find but its a great value at <$20 for 100% agave.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: trojandude

                            Not to be too nitpicky, but Monopolowa is Austrian, not Polish, and it is a fantastic value at Trader Joe's @ $9.99 for 1L. Great for gimlets and martinis, it is very clean with little aftertaste.

                            I'm also a big fan of Evan Williams, particularly the Single Barrel designations, for about $24.00 at BevMo, they are a great deal. But even the EW black label is great at about $8.99.

                            1. re: ed1066

                              Have you tried the Monolopowa Gin? It's fairly new.

                          2. Vodka- Smirnoff's, Monoploya, Tito's
                            Gin-Plymouth, Beefeater's
                            Bourbon- Beam Black, Bulleit,
                            Scotch- Dalemore (10 y/o single), Grouse blended
                            Tequila-Sauza Hornitos Reposada
                            Rum- Barbancourt 5 star, Cruzan estate. These are my rec's although the only ones of these we drink regularly are the Vodkas the Plymouth, and thr Sauza. Budget allows higher quality, of which we avail ourselves in the brown liquors.

                            1. Vodka -- Smirnoff, Skyy
                              Gin -- Plymouth used to be cheap, but is now priced more like a super-premium (~$30), alas; Gordon's is still a great value.
                              Rye -- Old Overholt (super-cheap, but a bit rough) and "Baby" (6-year-old) Sazerac
                              Blended Scotch -- The Famous Grouse and Grant's
                              Tequila -- Cazadores, El Tesoro (two good pure-agaves with little marketing mark-up)
                              Brandy -- for Sidecars only: E&J, Christian Brothers
                              Orange liqueur -- Marie Brizzard Triple Sec, a lovely alternative to Cointreau for ~$20

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                I've found Plymouth at Blanchard's in Allston and the Harvard Wine Shop on Mass Ave in Cambridge (the one across from the hair salon closer to Porter, NOT the one near the Law School), for about $16. Last time I bought a bottle at each was a few weeks ago. I hope the high prices you're seeing are the result of unscrupulous liquor store proprietors, and not the distiller jacking up prices.

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Slightly off topic, but do you know where to find the Sazerac 18 in the Boston area?

                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                    You shouldn't have any trouble finding it. I looked it up on the Buffalo Trace website and used their little availability matrix. Nice tool.


                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                      Brix or a friendly bartender are probably your best bets. Brix does a good job of making the 6 year available, which my local merchant has been unable to coax out of the distributor (Buffalo Trace is becoming a bit easier).

                                  2. Vodka- pretty much stick w/ Stoli
                                    Gin- ditto Beefeater
                                    Rum- we don't do spiced; one of the Appletons is a value and a big step above Bacardi
                                    Bourbon- ditto Evan Wm.s Single Barrel for value; I'd go with Rittenhouse over Old Overholt for $5-6 more
                                    Tequila- just finished up a bottle of Pueblo Viejo reposado (100% agave, <$20); definitely was a bargain but I've only seen it at one ATL shop that's in a very Latin area

                                    1. Vodka - I was a big fan of Smirnoff, until I discovered Sobieski, a rye vodka from Poland.
                                      Gin - Gordon's over Beefeater. Plymouth is my favorite but priced at $32
                                      Bourbon - Old Overholt
                                      Scotch - (blended) Ballantine

                                      1. I like Lukoskova potato vodka.
                                        For sidecars, current selection is Chateau des Plassons, in general the cheapest french actual cognac with VS or VSOP on the label. (There is excellent non-french brandy, but it's expensive...)
                                        Wild Turkey both bourbon and rye, not the cheapest but excellent and great value.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jajjguy

                                          That's Luksusowa. It's been my vodka of choice for years, although I haven't been drinking as much vodka as I used to. It's inexpensive, but it regularly ranks with or beats most of the super-premiums twice its price, because it's made how vodka should be made and it tastes like vodka should taste.

                                          I'm thinking I may finally pull the trigger on getting a bottle of Plymouth gin -- I do keep hearing over and over again how great it is. Does anyone know if the Plymouth sloe gin ever made it into Boston stores?

                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                            Another big thumbs up on Luksusowa. I'm not looking for something life changing from vodka. I want it smooth, and as close to tasteless as possible. This vodka satisfies both of those requirements in spades. It also has a "creamy" mouthfeel. Best vodka I've ever tried.

                                        2. Here's another one: Glenrothes Select Reserve. It is an excellent scotch for as low as 39.99. I tried it last night and found it to be quite good. I had only had their more expensive offerings before.

                                          CA Scotch Chick

                                          1. Korbel Brandy in a walk. Costco has the 1.5 liter bottle for about $13.95 and I think it's as good as both E&J and Christian Bros.' XO grades (Korbel has only a single grade)

                                            Brandy's the only hard stuff I drink, so I can't comment on the others.

                                            1. I think Wild Turkey is very good for the price. I think a lot of alcohol where I live is cheaper than in other parts of the country but I can get 750 ML for $19.99.

                                              Stoli is a little $ but for vodka I really like it. I think Skyy and Smirnoff are also acceptable.

                                              1. Poland Select Vodka...$19.99 per bottle and it blows the doors off any top shelk vodka out there. SMOOOOTH as can be.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: vino5150

                                                  Buffalo Trace is my favorite sub-$20 bourbon. Bulleit, Beam Black, Elijah Craig, W.L. Weller's reserve and Old Ezra 7 yr/101 are good choices as well. Evan Williams black label is my 'cooking bourbon', a good choice if someone wants a bourbon and coke.

                                                  Rye - Old Overholt, Rittenhouse 100, Wild Turkey 101 rye

                                                  Blended scotch - Grants and Teachers, White Horse. If you're really on a budget Clan MacGregor is blended by the same man who blends Grants. Fewer 'name' singlemalts, but still pretty tasty. He's very good at his job.

                                                  Gin - Beefeater's, Gordons, Seagrams Distiller's Reserve. Beefeater's is my fave. Gordon's gin (and their vodka) is copper distilled (getting rare in US white liquors), and all three of these are distilled with the botanicals rather than with a later added infusion. All three make a tasty martini. Burnett's is decent 'well' liquor in Gin and Juice or a Seabreeze, another 'distilled with botanicals' choice. I like Plymouth but it's no longer sub $20 here.

                                                  Vodka - Most Wanted (multi-distilled local product) Stoli, Finlandia and Svedka. I hear good things about Sobieski but we don't have local access. Burnett's is a decent 'well' choice for juice/mixed drinks.

                                                  Rum - Gosling's Black Seal, Cruzan 2 yr, Appleton's. Bacardi Solera

                                                  Irish - Powers, Jameson

                                                  Brandy - Another vote for Korbel. Maxim's cognac offers great QPR if you can find it.

                                                2. Rum...Ron del Barralito 3 star PuertoRican , Barbancourt 5 star Haitian, Goslings Black Seal Bermudan.
                                                  Bourbon.. Woodford Reserve
                                                  Tequilla..Sauza Hornitos, For a Margarita I love Sauza Conmemorativo (a mixto), Cointreau and fresh lime juice.

                                                  1. Just bought Plymouth gin 750 ml. $16.99 and Barbancourt 5 star 750ml. $17.99 at The wine market.

                                                    You must bring the ad and pay cash. Print the ad from website.
                                                    They also have Gordons gin 1.75 lt.$15.99
                                                    Gilby gin 1.75 lt. $16.99

                                                    1. How about suggestions for inexpensive rums for mixing mojitos?

                                                      My wife likes Bacardi, and I like Appleton. I think she just doesn't like the coloring of the Appleton I buy (IIRC, the "Special Gold") when mixed in a mojito. I bought a bottle of Cruzan to make a batch for a function the other day, and it smells a bit odd (higher alcohols).

                                                      Definitely not looking for spiced, and anejo seems overkill. I like Wray & Nephew Overproof for its huge cane nose, but it's actually expensive due to alcohol content (and hard for me to mix so that the results don't curl your eyelashes).

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: ted

                                                        The 2Yr. Cruzan Silver rum is what your looking for. It is stellar stuff for 12.99 per 750ml. The 2 yr. gold rum is also fabulous. also not spiced.

                                                        1. re: ted

                                                          There must be some other good white rum. I would agree with the Cruzan recommendation, but please get your wife off the Bacardi. Have her try it straight anf just feel the super duper burn. It mixes well, cause it loses its weak character.

                                                          1. re: Xaga

                                                            Although not truly "white", the Ten Cane light is excellent for mixing .It makes a terrific mojito .

                                                            1. re: chazzerking

                                                              But, unless I'm mistaken, the 10 Cane ain't cheap.

                                                              I almost picked up Brugal instead of the Cruzan when I bought it. I just looked and the Cruzan is the "Estate Light."

                                                              1. re: ted

                                                                Cruzan costs between $17 and $20 in this area (MA), while 10 Cane costs about $10 more. So while not as cheap, it's still not extremely pricey (although for a light rum, that is getting up there). Personally, I like both of them equally well, and find that each has its own charm; the 10 Cane is creamier and more flavorful, the Cruzan lighter, more refreshing, perhaps a touch smoother. Not that you would probably notice the smoothness difference when they're mixed with lime and sugar...

                                                        2. I'm not sure if my taste is very discriminating, but I would like to nominate Whaler's Rum. It is a dark rum with a heavy vanilla taste and is very affordable! Maybe I'm just a cheap date.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Dave Childress

                                                            Most everything listed isn't excactly cheap. Here's my list of best mixers and some are quite good on their own. Almost everything is under $15 and some of them are under $10.

                                                            Bourbon: Evan Williams 1783, Fighting Cock
                                                            Rye: Rittenhouse, Jim Beam
                                                            Vodka: Smirnoff, Lukskowa(previously mentioned)
                                                            Rum: Anything Cruzan, Castillo(is actually bacardi, but cheaper)
                                                            Tequila: Sauza
                                                            Applejack: Captain Applejack(actually Laird's)
                                                            Gin: Seagrams, Bombay Dry Gin(not Sapphire)

                                                          2. My husband lovs Sailor Jerry's, it is his absolute favorite. For Vodkas I have to say my favorite is one I cannot pronounce (it is russian standard potato vodka)

                                                            1. Vodka - Svedka - $19.99
                                                              Spiced Rum - Admiral Nelson's - About $10 cheaper than Captain Morgan and quite comparable

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: FLBoy

                                                                One thing we're certainly seeing here is the variety of pricing, not just state to state, but even block to block. The Plymouth Gin price swing is intense here in Boston. As sailormouth noted, it's $15.99 at Blanchard's (and Marty's) in Allston, MA. $22 at most other locations. I have seen it go as ridiculously high as $36 a bottle here as well. My fav dark rum, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva is usually now $33 a bottle, but it could be had at Marty's recently for $28! That said, they have the lovely St Germaine and Domaine De Canton at $39.99 (with Blanchards down the road keeping pace at those prices) while it's $7-$8 cheaper almost everywhere else... Of course they had the Canton for an astonishingly low $20 for a while- I kick myself for not buying more!

                                                                What am I saying here? I guess I'm saying that it really REALLY can pay to shop around and keep a keen eye on prices. What is a premium priced liquor in one shop can be a real bargain right next door!

                                                                THAT said, my fav general affordably-priced booze will always include Old Overholt, Applejack, Gosling's Black Seal, Plymouth Gin, Eagle Rare 10 yr (okay, maybe a bit up there, but damn!),

                                                                1. re: Scortch

                                                                  OK, late to this game, but I agree that Svedka vodka is a very good buy, though I usually buy Rain. Sure, it's in a silly bottle, but it's not too expensive, and I prefer it to Tito's. For real. I'm also a big fan of Eagle Rare 10, though I'm not a big bourbon drinker, so a small bottle lasts a while for me. It's my #1 spirit for nog.

                                                                  And after reading all these posts, more than ever I'm behind the privatization of liquor sales in my state. I'm currently paying way more than everyone else for pretty much everything listed. Though much of it is not even available here.

                                                              2. Whatever you do, don't even consider purchasing Bacardi's "Premium Select" rum in the brown bottle. It was not even ingestible to myself or my Husband -- and we both can palate anything short of lighter fluid.

                                                                1. Got some pretty good recs on this old thread. My only addition:


                                                                  Brugal Anejo

                                                                  Lemon Hart Demarara

                                                                  1. Since the thread's been bumped ...

                                                                    Tequila: I have to ring in for Azul Reposado, a new, 100-percent blue agave offering from the House of Centenario. $19.99 for a fifth, $29.99 for a 175 here in the ATL. Gran Centenario Anejo is also a great buy here ranging from $24.99 - $29.99 for a fifth.

                                                                    Vodka: Fris is a nice choice and can be had for $15.99 a fifth.

                                                                    Scotch: Make fun of me, but I am kind of fond of Dewars White Label.

                                                                    Gin: Hendricks. No other. $29.99/fifth.

                                                                    First post. Great thread!

                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                        Or Plymouth gin. Hendricks has its uses, but as an everyday gin, no.

                                                                        1. re: JonParker

                                                                          i thought the title of this thread was Good Low End Liquor,
                                                                          Plymouth or Hendricks certainly don't qualify

                                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                            I agree with you completely, but to be fair, the OP defined "low end" as under $30 per bottle. You can quibble with the definition, but you can't dispute that Plymouth and Hendricks fit within it.

                                                                            If you want to try a very good gin in the "budget" price range, pick up a bottle of Monopolowa. A straightforward London dry gin (well, actually, it's bottled in Vienna...) it can hold its own against the standards of that style and is only $10 per liter at Trader Joe's.

                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                              It's stretching it a bit: here in the northeast, even at the legendarily cheap state-run liquor stores in New Hampshire, a bottle of Hendrick's runs about $32, and even Plymouth is around $27.

                                                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                Ouch. Here in California, you can pick up a bottle of Hendrick's at Trader Joe's for a price that's somewhere in the low $20s.

                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                  Alas, grocery stores can't sell liquor in MA.

                                                                                  1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                    It's not a state-wide thing; it varies from town to town. In most towns it is not allowed, but in Malden, for example, it is. The Stop and Shop there has a fairly nice liquor section, albeit without many obscure selections.

                                                                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                      Pretty sure it's a state law. I think it's something silly like a supermarket chain can have 3 statewide licenses to sell beer and wine. Most don't bother at all but a few do.

                                                                                      1. re: ac106

                                                                                        There are also loads of town laws. Arlington Heights, for example, is a dry town, so the Trader Joes there can't even sell wine. Amazing how in 2009 we still have these antiquated laws on the books...

                                                                                      2. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                        The Stop and Shop has actual spirits, not just beer and wine?

                                                                                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                          Yes--lots of vodkas, a few gins, a handful of rums, and a single single malt (I can't remember which it was, but I was trying to figure out why they even bothered). Plus a fairly nice wine selection and a rather tiny beer selection (well, lots of beers I wouldn't even look at and then maybe 10 "micro" choices).

                                                                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                            The Shaw's at Copley in Boston has a full line of spirits, at least they did when I lived there ~ 2.5 years ago, so it's not a statewide issue. I could never keep up with the wacky alcohol laws.

                                                                          2. re: jbatl

                                                                            I've found I really like the Pueblo Viejo reposado at that same price or a touch less. Haven't tried the Gran Centenario. FWIW, the Piedmont and Bu Hi Tower have carried the Pueblo Viejo, but I haven't seen it elsewhere.

                                                                            If you're going to spend $30 on gin, I'd go ahead and get Junipero.

                                                                            1. re: jbatl

                                                                              I think Hendrick's is a lovely gin, but its strong rosewater and cucumber notes make it an unseemly choice for many gin cocktails. I like it with quality tonic water or in a Gimlet and not many other ways.


                                                                              1. re: jbatl

                                                                                I just bought a bottle of Azul Reposado Tequila. Very fruity and approachable neat. Very easy to sip. Great price from the House of Centenario. I do like Centenario Tequilas

                                                                              2. Great thread - don't think I've seen so far:

                                                                                Old Monk rum from India (under $20 for 750 ml) - unique and great mixing flavor

                                                                                Seconding the following:

                                                                                Gin: Beefeater (under $30 for 1.75 l and great for most drinks)
                                                                                Bourbon: Eagle Rare 10 year ($21.99 for 750 ml at NH stores -a steal!)
                                                                                Rye: Rittenhouse bonded ( as good as others 2-3x the price)

                                                                                7 Replies
                                                                                1. re: rlh

                                                                                  Gin- Broker's Gin and Boodles are both very good, and can be had for much less than $20/fifth, sometimes as low as $14.99/fifth.

                                                                                  Rum- Best is Barbancourt 5 Star (5 years) from Haiti, at about 17.99/fifth. You can cheaper rum, but not better.

                                                                                  1. re: CubanHillbilly

                                                                                    +1 on the Barbancourt 5-star (actually 8 years old). Delicious stuff; in my opinion it's far better than the company's top-end 15 year old rum, and a fantastic value. Definitely one of the best cheap liquors I've found.

                                                                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                      I did not like the Barbancourt at all. DH thinks it's ok.

                                                                                      My favorite rum is Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, but it's pressing the top of the price point (although it would still be excellent at $45).

                                                                                      1. re: Coconuts

                                                                                        I assume you're sipping, not mixing? Diplomatico is, in my opinion, way too sweet to mix with in most recipes (unless you have a sweet tooth); pretty good sipper, though. Barbancourt Five Star is one of the most versatile mixing rums I've encountered, but probably not something I'd sit down with a snifter full of.

                                                                                    2. re: CubanHillbilly

                                                                                      I haven't tried the Brokers, but the Boodles is excellent.

                                                                                      I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned it on this thread, but Old Overholt rye is very good.

                                                                                      1. re: JonParker

                                                                                        Ahhh Old Overcoat.

                                                                                        Hope it never changes. Good stuff.

                                                                                        There was a day when you could only find it in old man bars. Glad it could hang on til it got some justified respect the second (of maybe eighth) time round.

                                                                                      2. re: CubanHillbilly

                                                                                        I like Broker's, agree it's a bargain, but that 100-proof label should be made larger. I snockered a couple of guests with it unintentionally not long ago: it's lethally sneaky.


                                                                                    3. For white rum, for Mojitos etc. either Don Q or Brugal white are excellent. My buddy from Puerto Rico won't put anything other than Don Q in a mojito.

                                                                                      1. I'll second:

                                                                                        Scotch: Ballantines (My dad's favorite -- a superb Scotch for the money)
                                                                                        Vodka: Nobody does it better than Smirnoff, especially for the $$

                                                                                        I'll add:

                                                                                        Brandy: St. Cyr French V.S.O.P. -- I've used this for 30 years. The smoothness and character are exquisite for the price. I don't know how they do it!

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: shaogo

                                                                                          Was sipping some Ballantines at my teatotalling dad's this t'giving. It really is pretty decent. Now I'll have to grab some St. Cyr.

                                                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                            Where have you seen the St. Cyr in the Boston area - can't find it yet? While looking I did get Ferrand Ambre cognac for $33 at Fresh Pond next to Whole Foods, which is $6-8 less than usual- best price I've seen for it.

                                                                                        2. Rum: Meyer's White Rum is great in mojitos, as is Cruzan Light. I'm also a fan of Sailor Jerry's. Bacardi Solera or Bacardi 8 year old (both the same) is very good for sipping. Looking forward to trying the Barbancourt which has been so frequently recommended here!
                                                                                          Vodka: Found 360 Vodka on sale for only $10 after a $10 rebate, and am enjoying it. Also find Pinnacle to be a solid choice for about $12 on sale, as well as Original Polish Vodka, Van Hoo, and of course Monopolowa. Looking forward to trying Tito's based on recommendations here.
                                                                                          Gin: My hands down favorite is Brokers, but New Amsterdam is very serviceable for only $12.99 a fifth.
                                                                                          Tequila: Lunazul is hard to beat for a 100% agave under $20, but I recently scored some Milagro Limon 100% agave for $10.95 on close-out (in Oregon). They also have a Mandarin for $15.99. Both are solid 100% agaves and you can hardly taste the flavoring. 1800 also makes a quality line. When on sale, Hornitos is an old standby (recently tried and liked their blanco, too) , as is Cuervo Tradicional.
                                                                                          Scotch: Teacher's is the best for the money. When I "splurge," Highland Park on sale in the low $30's is great.
                                                                                          Bourbon: Usually I drink it on the rocks or neat, and Buffalo Trace is easily my favorite, whether I find it for $20 or have to pay the regular $25. Easily beats out Eagle Rare 10 year old IMO. Evan Williams Single Barrel is also excellent. Corner Creek is also a regular visitor to my liquor cabinet, especially when I find it discounted down to $19 or so. And let me not forget Elijah Craig, great straight or with a little soda.
                                                                                          Irish Whiskey: I'm fond of both Tullamore Dew and Bushmills, but not a fan of Jameson.

                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Dazer

                                                                                            Was reading through the thread wondering if anyone had noted New Amsterdam or Lunazul

                                                                                            1. re: Icantread

                                                                                              I do like Lunazul and use it in my margaritas all the time. I have been to Mexico several times and have tried all the high end tequilas and lunazul is just as smooth as most of them.

                                                                                              1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                                                                                I followed this tip here and agree: Lunazul is a great pure-agave tequila for the money. Cazadores was my standby, but it has been creeping up in price for a while now, increasingly hard to find under the $28-$35 range in Greater Boston.


                                                                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                                  Yah, don't know why Cazadores has gotten so pricey...

                                                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                    Probably because everyone discovered it, unfortunately.

                                                                                          2. VODKA: Luksusowa, Bak's Bison Grass (infused), Grey Goose La Poire (flavored), Firefly Original (flavored), 360-degree (great for infusing)... Outside the price limits, my hands-down favourite for cocktail is Hangar-1 Fraser River Raspberry, because you can taste the seeds!

                                                                                            GIN: Gilbey's, Gordons, Hendrick's

                                                                                            TEQUILA: Sauza Blanco (plata), El Jimador (reposado), Tres Generaciones (anejo--out of the range, and not as good lately... but the best buy for an anejo)

                                                                                            RUM: Cruzan Estate Light, Cruzan Blackstrap (black), Kilo Kai (spiced--same price as Capt.Morgan, but waaaay better), Kraken (spiced black), Coconut Jack (flavored), Cruzan Guava (flavored)... I haven't really found a golden rum that's worth the price... though Cruzan Single Barrel is supposedly not bad (though the name is a fraud, imo)

                                                                                            CACHACA: Pitu (fruity, with a light smokiness which makes a killer Caipirinha)

                                                                                            LIQUEURS: Berentzen Apfelkorn (German apple schnapps), Domain de Canton (Ginger-Vanilla cognac liqueur--under $30), Regency "DaVinci" Amaretto, SoHo (lychee), Pama (pomegranate)

                                                                                            WHISKEY: This category is tough. Seagram's 7 is decent for mixing... otherwise, I've found few whiskeys under $30 that are worth the trip to the store. Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve Rye is pretty good. But Basil Hayden is still my favourite bourbon (after Woodford Reserve Master Distiller's Selection).

                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: scQue814

                                                                                              Oh... as for VERMOUTH: Martini & Rossi for both the dry and sweet versions. I've tried Noilly-Pratt, Spatola, Stock and Tribuno and they all seem to ruin a Manhattan, where M&R does not. (Incidentally, I prefer my Manhattans "perfect", with a twist.)

                                                                                              1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                I'll revise my previous post. Some new things have come to light in the past year or so...

                                                                                                VODKA: Luksusowa (straight, mixing), Bak's Bison Grass (infused... straight, mixing), 360-brand (great for home infusing)... Hangar-1 Raspberry and Chipotle are still my favourite top-shelf vodkas, which I will often treat as liqueurs when mixing.

                                                                                                GIN: Gordon's (for mixing), Gilbey's (straight, mixing), Tanqueray Rangpur (for tropical cocktails), New Amersterdam (for Negronis), Hendrick's (straight, mixing)

                                                                                                TEQUILA & MEZCAL: El Jimador reposado (mixing), Herradura reposado. Otherwise, I've found no other tequilas to be palatable enough to purchase below $45. My current to-shelf faves are Corzo Silver (straight, mixing), Milagro SBR reposado, Don Julio reposado, El Gran Jubileo Extra-anejo.

                                                                                                RUM & CACHACA: Cruzan Light, Cruzan Black Strap, Cruzan Guava. Chairman's Reserve spiced (straight, mixing). Kraken black spiced (mixing), Kilo-Kai spiced (straight, mixing). Oronocco blended (straight, mixing). Pitu is still my favorite cachaca, hands-down.

                                                                                                WHISKEY: Again, I've found very few whiskey's under $30 worth leaving the house for. That said, Bulleit bourbon and Eagle Rare single-barrel bourbons (though both seem to give me a gluten reaction--I'm Celiac) are excellent buys. Because of the gluten-reaction, though, I usually drink Basil Hayden (which is priced outside the scope of this thread).

                                                                                                LIQUEURS: Berentzen Apfelkorn, Domaine de Canton, Regency Amaretto, SoHo lychee, Luxardo Maraschino.

                                                                                                1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                  I'll rescind my previous comment about M&R vermouth. I definitely think they are second-best. Best vermouths I've found (sipping, mixing) are definitely Dolin de Chambury. Unfortunately, their distribution seems to have a few issues. If they can seem to get that ironed out, they'd take over the market.

                                                                                                2. re: scQue814

                                                                                                  Wow...no whisky under $30 worth leaving the house for? I realize regional prices are different, but Elijah Craig 12 is excellent both straight and in cocktails and goes for around $18 in the MD suburbs of DC. Jim Beam white label is always under $20 and is a reliable mixer, as is Old Forester. If you don't mind rye, Rittenhouse BIB (which is quite trendy these days among cocktail buffs) is about $20 in DC. At least around here, Knob Creek and Buffalo Trace are usually around $22 a bottle. I'm not a terribly big fan of Bulleit neat, but it's an excellent cocktail bourbon (what with the high rye content) and is usually around $20 a bottle. Oh, and Weller (which is a heavily wheated bourbon) also comes in under $20 and is a terrific sipper. Honestly, I think for cocktail purposes, you could choose from literally a dozen bourbon whiskeys that are all excellent values for under $22 a bottle, and frequently under $20.

                                                                                                  Maybe we might just have really different tastes in whiskey. Seagram's 7 is a whiskey I simply wouldn't buy - too harsh with a lot of off notes. There's a reason that it's primary use is for college kids to mix with 7 Up. I would never suggest it for good cocktail use. Basil Hayden is smooth, but of the four Beam small batch bourbons it's my least favorite. Woodford Reserve is tasty and an excellent cocktail whiskey, but at least around, it's just over $30 a bottle.

                                                                                                  For vermouth, I am now fully committed to only using Dolin Rouge and Blanc, unless I feel like splurging on Carpano.


                                                                                                  Scotch: Agree with Ballantines and would suggest Black and White as well. Famous Grouse also comes in around $20 in these parts. Those are all blends, all decent sippers, and all excellent for cocktails.

                                                                                                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                    Knob Creek for $22? That's way cheaper than I've seen in Boston. I just saw it on the internet for $18 ... for a 375ml!

                                                                                                    I do get 814's point, though. Whiskey, tequila, aged brandy, and good fruit eau-de-vie tend to be quite a bit pricier than spirits that are faster or cheaper to make.

                                                                                                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                      I picked up a bottle of Knob Creek last year for $22 online - from Merwin's I believe, though it was on sale and the regular price was $28.

                                                                                                      I agree with Big Crunch on his bourbon selections, and I would add a couple more in that price range that I have yet to try but have heard excellent things about - Evan Wiliams Single barrel and Elmer T Lee. Also I find Bulleit Rye and Sazerac 6 yr to be very nice sippers in the ~$25 range.

                                                                                                      1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                        agree with you both. there are solid options under $30.

                                                                                                      2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                        New Hampshire, my friend. Whenever I need a bottle of Knob Creek, it almost always happens to be on sale for $22 a fifth at the NH stores. I wouldn't make a special trip, but if I'm heading northward anyway, why not?

                                                                                                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                          One more I forgot about - Bernheim's Original Wheat Whiskey - I picked up my second bottle of this today when I saw it on sale for $22, doesn't have the depth or complexity of a good Bourbon but it is quite nice in its simplicity.

                                                                                                        2. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                          Elijah Craig has been known to give me the worst heartburn of any liquor I've ever consumed. So, yes, it's personal.

                                                                                                          But Bulleit Rye is my new go-to for under-$30 whiskey. That said, Basil Hayden is still my #1.

                                                                                                          ALSO, if you want to save money on the Carpano in cocktails, simply substitute equal parts Dolin Rouge + Bonal Gentiane-Quina (a quinine infused "vermouth"). Works like a charm to get about the same effect.

                                                                                                          Finally, does anyone know whatever happened to Pappy Van Winkle? Are they still making that stuff? I've been saving money to buy a bottle and now can't find it anywhere!

                                                                                                          1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                            Yeah, the heartburn thing is something I haven't experienced with bourbon, how much of the Elijah Craig are you consuming? ;)

                                                                                                            I've not seen the Bonal around here, but I'll keep an eye out for it. Truth be told, Carpano isn't easy to find either.

                                                                                                            Aaahhh... Pappy. There was actually an article in the Washington Post about six months ago talking about how hard it is to find the stuff. They still make it, but the increased popularity of bourbon is making it tough to find. The bottlings are quite limited and the demand is at an all-time high right now, which is squeezing everyone in the supply chain. According to the WaPo piece, a lot of liquor store owners don't even put it on the shelves since they have a waiting list that exceeds how much they get at any given time!

                                                                                                            1. re: The Big Crunch

                                                                                                              If i get heartburn from liquor it happens within seconds of it going down. Not sure what that means. But usually, I assume the sugar content (natural bi-product of distillation) is higher than my body can tolerate. This is why I tend to stick to Basil Hayden: dry and spicy.

                                                                                                              Look for Bonal, even ask for it. I was even able to serve it tonite with equal parts Dolin DRY... plus club and tonic. Several of my customers seem to like this combination after their dinner.

                                                                                                              re: Pappy van Winkle... =/

                                                                                                        3. re: scQue814

                                                                                                          I find that George Dickel No, 12 Whiskey is pretty solid for around $20 a fifth ....Also, if you have a Sam's Club membership, there is an Anejo Tequila there called Calle Azul that I just purchased today for $10.91 a fifth that is excellent for the money.

                                                                                                        4. Has anyone had an experience with Gilby's Gin? Been around forever and very inexpensive.

                                                                                                          1. If you're willing to consider a larger bottle, we can include Bombay Sapphire gin. I see it pretty consistently around here at $31 for a fifth, but $38 for 1.75 liters. The unit-price discrepancy always amazes me.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                                                                              if you want to break it down like that, then your best bet is Tanquray 10 nips. a 750ml is 30+ but you can find nips for $0.99

                                                                                                              1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles

                                                                                                                Nips can be funny that way. I'm quite fond of Martell Cordon Bleu cognac, which generally runs about $100 a bottle. A local liquor store once had a carton of 50 ml nips for $5 each, making that the equivalent of "only" $75 a bottle.

                                                                                                                After getting over my surprise that they would produce nip bottles of such a high-end potation (and trying one to ascertain that it was in fact the real deal), I went back and bought the entire carton!

                                                                                                            2. I picked up a bottle of Old Weller Antique bourbon last night for $19.99. Wow, this is really fine bourbon and an absolute steal at this price.

                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: tomjb27

                                                                                                                I agree. Old Weller Antique is a nice wheated bourbon--very smooth. I like the Weller Special Reserve, too, which I think is even cheaper. And Buffalo Trace is a very decent, well-balanced bourbon at unreal-cheap prices.

                                                                                                                What do posters think of New Amsterdam gin? I've seen only one mention of it. It's very inexpensive here in Washington, D.C. BTW, I've also noticed that a premium cocktail bar in the area uses Seagramm's gin on their "rail".

                                                                                                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                                  I like New Amsterdam Gin, not only because it's cheap down here in Florida, but because it packs a far lighter spruce wallop than my other two favorite low-priced spruce bombs, Gordons and Beefeater. That said, the lighter flavor of New Amsterdam is easily overwhelmed by the ingredients in most gin based drinks.

                                                                                                                  Personally, I like to mix up a pitcher full of New Amsterdam G&T's with cucumbers sliced into it. The tonic water and cucumbers brings out the lighter floral notes in it. My wife loves it when I mix up a batch of these.

                                                                                                                  lso, making Gimlets with New Amsterdam isn't too bad, provided you don't overwhelm the gin with the lime juice. I just use half the amount of lime juice that I would typically use for a gimlet with Gordons or Beefeater gin.

                                                                                                                  In fact, I just nicked a bottle of New Amsterdam a couple of hours ago, and my cousin and I plan on putting a significant dent in it tomorrow evening, after we get back from our fishing outing.

                                                                                                                  1. re: deet13

                                                                                                                    Totally agree with you re: Amsterdam gin. It's too sickly sweet and citrusy/floral for anything like a martini, but it's pretty serviceable in G&Ts. In fact, I created the cocktail menu for a charity fundraiser at work, and cucumber gin and tonics w/ New Amsterdam were a surprise hit.

                                                                                                                    1. re: deet13

                                                                                                                      On our last menu change at the restaurant, we swapped out Ketel vodka to use New Amsterdam gin in our Pama-tinis (so I no longer need to balk at the name). The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the folks who've tried them. Though, I will admit a bit of tomfoolery in menu layout to include the Pama-tini at the bottom of the gin section... but directly above the vodka section. (So glad I took psych classes before I took my marketing class!)

                                                                                                                      Anyway, it was all in an effort to get folks to give gin a chance. Since the reprint--which includes quite a few new gin-based drinks, our gin sales have exceeded vodka sales during most of that time--though it did swing back toward vodka since Christmas.

                                                                                                                      Oh, and our recipe...

                                                                                                                      ~ 2.25-oz New Amsterdam gin (instead of Ketel One vodka)
                                                                                                                      ~ 1.00-oz Pama pomegranate liqueur
                                                                                                                      ~ 2 dashes Regan's Orange bitters (opt.)
                                                                                                                      ~ 0.50-oz Ocean-spray Cranberry juice cocktail (use more if using vodka)
                                                                                                                      SHAKE. STRAIN.
                                                                                                                      GARNISH w/ Orange twist.

                                                                                                                2. Gin: Total Wine sells Swordsman, a Beefeater style gin, for $24.99/1.5 liter, which is quite good. I gave Seagram's a shot, but do not care for its bland character and sweet finish. I have also tried New Amsterdam, which I have found on sale for 20.99, but after a mixing a few martinis with it, got tired of its very one-dimensional flavor range.

                                                                                                                  Has anyone tried Maxim's-- it's a French gin which seems to be sold only in Total Wine. It's only $11.99/750 ml--cheaper than Gilbey's, but I've yet to try it.

                                                                                                                  BTW, I agree with all the fans of Teacher's Scotch, which is not easy to find, and certainly not cheap, but far better than the widely distributed and advertised labels.

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: albinoni

                                                                                                                    Teacher's is readily available here in NC, and at around $16 a fifth it is pretty cheap.

                                                                                                                    I also like White Horse, it has some Lagavulin in it and is quite flavorful for an inexpensive blend.

                                                                                                                    Not a fan of Ballantine's Finest, Dewars white label and J+B, all are very sweet up front and seem to have a cheap grain whiskey taste IMO. .

                                                                                                                    I've had a couple decent low priced single malts - Glen Garioch 8 (very similar to Abefeldy 12), Lismore (rumored to be 5 yr old Glenrothes). Tamdhu is not bad though a little on the bland side, and the same goes for the inexpensive malt blend Glen Salen - nothing bad but nothing memorable.

                                                                                                                    1. re: albinoni

                                                                                                                      Definitely agree on the New Amsterdam - might as well substitute vodka for gin. I prefer Tangueray, but now at $32/1.75l I'm looking for less expensive alternatives. I was talked into trying New Amsterdam at the liquor store. Very bad advice - nowhere near my Tangueray. Gordons is a fair substitute, but, not quite. It has the flavor - but it gives me a headache whether I overindulge or not! I've never tried Beefeaters - might go there next. Or maybe Burnetts - this showed up in one of our local retailers the other day. Looks interesting and I like their pre-mixed Margaritas - very interesting flavor.

                                                                                                                      1. re: albinoni

                                                                                                                        Very late on this but Maxim's is horrible. I threw it out.

                                                                                                                      2. has anyone heard of "ashby" gin? it is the house brand used at old ebbitt grill in d.c.

                                                                                                                        1. My Favorite Cheap Liquors, and how I drink 'em.

                                                                                                                          Vodka - Sobieski, Luksusowa. Very dry Vodka Martini, or Bloody Mary, or Vodka & Tonic, or Vodka & Soda

                                                                                                                          Canadian - Rich & Rare, or step up to Canadian Club or Seagram VO. Highball w/ Canada Dry or 7-UP

                                                                                                                          Rum - Goslings Black Seal, or Myers's Dark Rum. Dark & Stormy

                                                                                                                          Bourbon - Makers Mark or Evan Williams Single Barrel. Manhattan

                                                                                                                          Vermouth, dry & red - Martini & Rossi.

                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: Ken H

                                                                                                                            Sadly, I think Makers Mark passed beyond the realm of "cheap" several years ago.

                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                Really? Isn't it ~$25 for a 750? I consider that to be at least inexpensive, and quite possibly cheap, for booze of that quality...

                                                                                                                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                                                                  i'll look at the local abc store. (i can't wait till the governor privatizes the booze market here in virginia).

                                                                                                                                  very good quality, no doubt about that!

                                                                                                                                  ps, davis, i can't recall if you were in on the swedish chef thread a while back. we had some fun with it! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642669

                                                                                                                          2. Tequila: Milagro Blanco 100% agave at 20/750ml at TJs. Hard to beat for a Margarita.
                                                                                                                            Rye: No contest. Rittenhouse. 20/750ml. 100 proof. Nothing better for a Manhattan, just keep in mind that it's 25% more alcohol than standard 80proof. Old Overholt is the old standby but it really isn't enough cheaper to justify buying because, let's face it, the stuff is a bit, oh what shall I say?, harsh? yeah, that's it, harsh; we didn't used to call it Old Overshoes for nothing.
                                                                                                                            Scotch: Famous Grouse under $20/1000ml at TJs. Also at TJs, Finlaggen, a helluvadeal for an Islay single.
                                                                                                                            Gin (London dry): Bombay, of course, but at the high end.
                                                                                                                            Gin (Citrusy): New Amsterdam continues to amaze at the price (under 20 for 1.75 at RiteAid) for G&Ts and the like. Doesn't work for a martini for me, but a nice gin.
                                                                                                                            Vodka: I like the potato stuff from Austria (Monowhatever) at 10/1000ml (again at TJs).
                                                                                                                            Brandy is harder. I haven't found a brandy worth drinking for the price point we're targeting here.
                                                                                                                            Rum: I don't think I've seen anyone above mention Flor de Cana. The 4 yr old (light or dark) is regularly under 15/750ml at BevMo and hard to beat.
                                                                                                                            Bourbon: Elijah Craig. Again, no contest at the price point.

                                                                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie


                                                                                                                              I don't know if I would say "no contest" for rye, I have had both Rittenhouse and Wild Turkey, which is $22 here in NC - and though I haven't tried them side by side, I liked them both quite a bit. I bought a bottle of WT since Rittenhouse isn't available in NC, I would probably have bought both if it were.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                Near as I can tell, Rittenhouse isn't available anywhere. At least that's the case in the SF Bay Area where the current batch is sold out and won't be available again until January '11. I bought the last three bottles at K&L in SF but haven't seen it anywhere else where it is normally stocked since early this year. Seems rye-based cocktails are the current rage and Rittenhouse is the go-to rye. If I run out before those three bottles are gone, I'll give the WT a try.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                  Yah, I'm not at all a Rittenhouse fan. I find it a nouveau, overblown, very unsubtle beast of a rye.

                                                                                                                                  Manhattan, it is so over-flavored I could not bear to add anything sweet (like vermouth) to it. I don't even like it on the rocks. Maybe with a good splash of soda it might be palatable to me.

                                                                                                                                  In general, particularly with American Whiskey, I tend to like them on the lean side. To me, the Rittenhouse is just a flabby, overdone beast for the current market where all spirits have to super woody, and generally pretty sweet.

                                                                                                                                  I have recently tried the Wild Turkey product. I really like it, though it is a bit lacking in rye spice and pungency. Old Overcoat (holt) though it does have some rough bite, is also up there.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                    Agreed...to some degree. I think Rittenhouse is terribly over-rated, though I won't say it's downright bad. I've found it can throw off the balance of a cocktail because it's such an aggressive spirit. Actually, my favorite way to drink it is neat, with a hefty spoonful of water and fifteen minutes or so to mellow in the glencairn glass. It's sort've one-dimensional, but I find the focused expression of the rye grain to be sort've enchanting. I just finished a bottle and doubt I'll buy another anytime soon. I really prefer the Bulleit Rye, which I think is a more well-rounded and balanced rye, however, it's also more expensive at around $22 here in the DC/MD burbs. Also, in terms of Old Overholt...I'm surprised people find it so harsh. I agree, Rittenhouse is much harsher to my palate. If anything, my problem with Old Overholt is that it's a bit bland. Other than Beam rye (which I don't care for that much) most other good ryes are over $30 :(

                                                                                                                                2. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                                                                                                  I personally find Old Overholt a lot less rough than Rittenhouse -- but I keep both around. Rittenhouse for cocktails that I want the blasting 100 proof heat, Old Overholt for an old fashioned here and there.

                                                                                                                                  Water the Rittenhouse down to 80 proof and I find it kind of unbalancedly big. Great in things like the Boulevardier to cut the candy-sweet of the Campari and vermouth.

                                                                                                                                  I always end buying Bulleit bourbon which really means I'm just a rye gal at heart, I think, but it's not quite the cheap end. I've never found a bourbon at Old Overholt prices that I find drinkable neat.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: antimony

                                                                                                                                    I like Bulleit, and Trader Joe's carries it for under $20. Have you had an opportunity to try the Kirkland "small batch" bourbon from Costco? It seems to be re-labeled Baker's, and IMO is the best $15 (adjusted for size - it's sold in liter bottles for $20) bourbon you can find.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: antimony

                                                                                                                                      How bout either Jim Beam, or Wild turkey Rye. Both pretty good and smooth.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Gustavo Glenmorangie

                                                                                                                                      I know you wrote this two years ago, but I tried the 4-year-old light (I think maybe because I saw it in this thread, and also because it was the cheapest 750 in the rum section) last night and though I only spent $10 including tax, I thought it was awful. Strong rubbing alcohol scent, and something really off about the taste. I've never had light rum before, only dark and spiced, but I would hope at least that it's not supposed to smell like rubbing alcohol. I'm using most of it to make coffee liqueur, though, so I'm not too worried about that overall. Just wanted to mention it in case someone is thinking of buying this for conventional use.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: tinnywatty

                                                                                                                                        It could be you don't like white rum. Many darker rums are sweetened and colored, plus the aging mellows them. Some white rums are also quite sweet, but some are not. Sugar softens the alcohol heat.

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                                                                                                                                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                          I'll have to try a better quality one, maybe one of the ones suggested in this thread, and see if that's the case. Any suggestions off the top of your head (preferably in the <$20/ 750 ml range)?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: tinnywatty

                                                                                                                                            Well, I like Flor de Cana in part because it is dry. You might enjoy El Dorado 3. It can be a little hard to find. Or maybe Cruzan?

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                                                                                                                                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                              I would say if you didn't like Flor de Cana, you probably won't like Cruzan either. Cruzan is milder in flavor but may come off even more vodka-like (i.e. rubbing alcohol).

                                                                                                                                              Oronoco is considerably sweeter, but also pricier, cheapest I've seen is $20 on sale for a 750. Oronoco doesn't have the burn though, so you might like it better, as it can actually be sipped straight quite pleasantly.

                                                                                                                                              I would second the El Dorado 3 which I also like, but I also think it tastes quite similar to the Flor de Cana. I also liked Barbancourt white, which is a little different as well, but I only got to try it once.

                                                                                                                                              I really like the Flor de Cana 4 year white, and at such low prices think it's a great deal as well. Did you just try it straight? Most light rums are best as mixers and will taste much better in say a Daiquiri than they do straight.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: nickls

                                                                                                                                                Another on the sweeter end of the spectrum is Banks 5 Island, which I think is amazing. Maybe not the -best- choice for a mojito (a bit too rich) but very smooth and drinkable. A very nice choice for El Presidente, in my opinion.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                                                                                                                                  Is the Banks 5 Island hard to find? I don't recall seeing it at any of my local stores.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: nickls

                                                                                                                                                  I tried it straight, tried it mixed with ginger beer (didn't like it), and used most of the bottle to make coffee liqueur (which turned out well despite the fact that I can still detect the rubbing alcohol; no one else can smell it). I also made a Daiquiri for a friend using the Flor de Cana last night and thought it was all right- she really liked it. I'll have to try it in a mojito, too, since I love them.

                                                                                                                                                  I'll have to see if I can find a 50ml sampler of Oronoco. Unfortunately, in my area (LA) it looks like the 750ml is $40!

                                                                                                                                                  I suppose it's entirely possible that I just don't like white rum- the only clear spirit I've enjoyed so far is gin; the others all remind me too much of vodka.

                                                                                                                                      2. Vodka: Sobieski, $12 per 750ml. Get it before they raise the price again.
                                                                                                                                        Bourbon: Cabin Still, about $12 per 750ml. An old favorite, known as "Stab n Kill" to its friends. Heaven Hill Distillery's entry-level product.
                                                                                                                                        Gin: Booths, about $17 per 1.75L. Subtle, pleasant and gloriously cheap.
                                                                                                                                        Tequila: Tonayan Anejo Mezcal, (OK, it's not *exactly* a tequila) $7.99 per 1 liter at BevMo (on special - get it while you can). Only a tiny bit rougher than some $40/bottle mezcals I've tried. And in a classy plastic bottle with carrying loop, too. "100% Pure Mezcal" for under $10.
                                                                                                                                        Scotch: Glenlivet's entry-level single malt, $23 per 750ml on sale.
                                                                                                                                        Rum: Anything by Appleton within your price range.
                                                                                                                                        Brandy: maybe something for cooking in this price range...
                                                                                                                                        Rye: Pikesville Rye, $13 per 750ml. Oddly, it seems to be considered a bit of a premium liquor in parts of Europe despite its reputation in Maryland where it originated. A bit rough, but I like it better than the other relatively inexpensive ryes.

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Pzz

                                                                                                                                          Expect the Sobieski to double in price over the next few years. Last year Bruce Willis bought in to the brand and is now a part owner. He is doing a lot of PR and marketing for the brand. They are probably going to reposition it at a premium level. Right now it is severely under priced for the quality.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                                            Well, if all the PR is as bad as this excruciating interview with Willis http://www.chow.com/food-news/52763/b..., he's not doing the brand any favors.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                                                              Wow they were given 6 mins to interview him, only used 4 and it still seemed like the longest 4 mins of my life.

                                                                                                                                        2. I just scored a 1.75L handle of McLelland Islay single malt on sale here in Boston at Marty's (Newton) for $29 on sale. Quite a nice bottle. LOTS of nice Islay smoke and nice smooth finish.

                                                                                                                                          Single best deal I have ever had on Scotch. I bot the last bottle, but I hope they stock more. I would buy another...

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                            I've heard a few people say it was not good - actually one said "ghastly" - but I think it is pretty decent, it's reputed to be 5 yr old Bowmore which makes sense given the parent company and it reminds me a lot of Bowmore Legend.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                              I thought it was pretty decent. Like it better than the Bowmore Legend.

                                                                                                                                              No Lagavullin for sure, but really pretty decent. Better that say famous grouse or JW Red...

                                                                                                                                              Have your friends taste it blind out of a fancier bottle then comment ;-)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                Old Forester bourbon, especially the 100pf, is great for mixing or rocks at $20-25/1.75

                                                                                                                                          2. Ancient Age bourbon

                                                                                                                                            $10-12 for full quart....not a fifth.

                                                                                                                                            Best of the cheaper bourbons,not too sweet like Jim Beam.

                                                                                                                                            1. Old Crow bourbon. $15 for a half gallon and decent enough in Manhattans. Indistinguishable from the good stuff in soda.

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. re: melbedewy

                                                                                                                                                Until recently, I worked in a bourbon bar, and we only use old crow in the kitchen. My understanding is that it used to be decent, but that the recipe or something has changed and now it's really not suitable for much. We had Henry McKenna (from Heaven Hill, I think) and Maker's Mark on our "rail," if that's any indication.

                                                                                                                                              2. The bargain liquor brands sitting behind my bar...

                                                                                                                                                Vodka - Luksusowa Vodka - $11.00 per liter. Cheap Polish goodness...
                                                                                                                                                Gin - Gordons Extra Dry - $9 per fifth, $17 per half gallon. You can't beat the price...
                                                                                                                                                Rum - Cruzan Gold and Blackstrap - $15 to $18 per fifth.
                                                                                                                                                Bourbon - Ancient Age - around $17.00 per half gallon. Rebel Yell -$12 per fifth and Bulleit Bourbon - $16 per fifth
                                                                                                                                                Scotch - Teacher's - $21.00 per fifth.
                                                                                                                                                Brandy - St Remy or Christian Brothers VSOP - around $10 per fifth. IMO, not great but they serve their purpose (mixed drinks).
                                                                                                                                                Tequila- Corazon Reposada - $20 to $25 per fifth

                                                                                                                                                Others- Dr. McGillicuddy's Cherry, Plum, Vanilla, and Licorice Schnapps - $12 to $15 per bottle (my wife loves this particular brand, and they work well mixed).
                                                                                                                                                Martini and Rossi Extra-Dry Vermouth - $7 per bottle, and Noily Prat Sweet Vermouth - $12 per bottle

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: deet13

                                                                                                                                                  I wish we had some of those prices here in NC - Bulleit is $26, Corazon Repo around $35. Teacher's is a lot cheaper here though, $15 for a fifth - and I am still working on the bottle I got in FL for $11.

                                                                                                                                                2. rum category; kraken black spiced rum

                                                                                                                                                  43 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jta1234

                                                                                                                                                    I don't know if Kracken qualifies as "low-end" liquor, it is $20 here (reg price) which is the second highest among the spiced rums, other than Capt Morgan Private Stock at $22.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                      Just because a store only carries Coor's Light or cheaper does not mean there aren't better, inexpensive (though slightly higher-priced) beers out there. And rum was probably the least represented category in PA liquor stores until within the past year. Kraken is low-tomid-range. Zaya 12-yr is top-shelf, as is Zacapa 23-yr.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                        I'm not sure what your point is, I was just trying to compare Kraken to other *spiced" rums such as Capt Morgan, Sailor Jerry, Gosling's Black seal, among which it is rather pricey.

                                                                                                                                                        Comparing kraken to Zaya or Zacapa is apples to oranges, they are premium aged rums (and yes I am aware there is some debate over flavoring being added to Zaya.)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                          Okay, sorry. I took your post to mean that there all your stores are stocking are "Sailor"-level rums--which, for a few years is what was happening in Pennsylvania.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                            Well, NC is a bit of a wasteland as far as rum selection - and prices are not good at all on the good ones, we do have Zaya but it is $40 here, I got it in FL for $26. We do have Pussers (in a few areas) Mt Gay XO and Appleton 12 yo but not a single thing from Flor de Cana, Zacapa, El Dorado, Barbancourt, Seales, Rhum JM or any of the other respected names. After the ones mentioned above the next best is probably Bacardi 8 yr old - which is not a bad rum, but not on par with El dorado 12 yr, Seales 10 yr or Barbancourt 5 star which I can get for about the same price in FL. (Oh yeah and Oronoco which is an excellent white rum but very pricey at $35 - but well worth the sale price of $25).

                                                                                                                                                            I was happy to see we got Seagram's Brazilian Rum in recentl;y, it is a pretty decent mild cachaca-like rum for $12 a bottle.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                              Personally, I'd rather stick to Pitu at $15 per litre and have real Brazilian rum... than go with the "bandwagon" sort of operation that is Seagrams. (In a pinch, though, it would suffice.)

                                                                                                                                                              As far as pricing... I'm told NC and PA have a lot in common.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                Here is what Cap'n Jimbo (who knows a lot more about the subject than I do) told me in regards to Seagram's Brazilian Rum - when I emailed him my impression of it compared to Leblon:

                                                                                                                                                                " The deal with Seagrams is this

                                                                                                                                                                Realizing that Amercans simply don't buy cachaca, or very little, they purposefully distilled it at 55% (one percent over the legal limit to call it "cachaca") so that they could legally call it "rum", "Brazilian Rum" - a term that is much better understood in the US and easier to sell. Still, it is for all practical purposes a cane juice based cachaca, and not a molasses rum.

                                                                                                                                                                Part two is that Seagrams - a very successfull marketer - decided to produce a very smooth, easy to drink product. They took the horns off the bull. I believe their objective was to give the American market a subtle, smooth taste of their cachaca labeled "rum". If it took off, probably with the Brazilian Olympics (upcoming), no doubt they would come out with more aggressive and traditional products labeled cachaca.

                                                                                                                                                                So, in sum, Seagrams is a smooth, subtle, well made light cachaca (for all practical purposes). Comparing Seagrams to Leblon is problematical: Seagrams is younger, column distilled, while the Leblon is pot stilled and has a bit of good aging in used French oak cognac barrels (molasses rums usually use used Amercan bourbon barrels. It would be like comparing say a Flor de Cana white mixing rum with Appleton V/X. Not a fair comparison. And not least the price difference: for $12 the Seagrams is a very nice cachaca - nothing else even close anywhere near its price. A perfect party mixer for serving lots of people new to cachaca, that won't break the bank. "

                                                                                                                                                                As far as my impression - the Seagram's is a lot easier to drink straight but just doesn't have enough flavor to hold up to the lime in a capairinha - but it is good for what it is, esp at that price point.\

                                                                                                                                                                what the heck is up with this edit

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                  "...Seagram's is a lot easier to drink straight but just doesn't have enough flavor to hold up to lime in a Caiparinha...."

                                                                                                                                                                  Which is exactly why--in addition to brand recognition by our diverse university communtity--my co-bartender and I decided NOT to stock Seagram's. That said, there's still very little brand recognition, even in a university town the size of ours. Yet, just like the university, we are here to help educate the public.

                                                                                                                                                                  "Drinkability" is the sort of concept-terminology that mass-produced beer and liquor companies throw around to combat the implication (argument) that their products don't have very much flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                  But, like I said, I would buy it in a pinch.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                    Well if it is a first step to open the floodgates to better cachacas in the US then I am all for it.

                                                                                                                                                                    The craft beer movement started with Anchor, which is not that much hoppier than the pale lagers which were "American beer" before then, and tastes like water compared to many beers I have had - but it was a step in the right direction.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                      Anchor is considerably more hoppy (and much more full bodied) than the the "American Beers" that preceeded it!.

                                                                                                                                                                      But beyond that observation, if you honestly consider Anchor Steam Beer (or ANY of their products) to be 'watery', I would say that your palate has become quite jaded...which isn't too difficult in these days of overdone, over the top so called "craft" beers. The 'new brewers' are beginning to skew more towards gimmickry than "art" in their brews.
                                                                                                                                                                      But hey...I guess there's an audience for it, so what do I know... :-)

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                                                        I didn't say Anchor steam tasted watery, I said it tastes like water compared to some beers I have had such as Hopping Frog Mean Manalishi (162 IBUs) or anything from Stone.

                                                                                                                                                                        I have only had Anchor steam once, don't remember finding it very interesting - I was surprised to find it rated at 35 IBUs, higher than Sierra Nevada pale ale (which I do like) at 30. I do like Anchor Liberty Ale which has 54 IBUs, that is where I consider beers to start becoming hoppy.

                                                                                                                                                                        I don't know what you mean by "jaded", people like what they like, just because someone has different preferences than you doesn't make them "jaded". I happen to prefer malty beers to overly hoppy ones, my favorites are Begian quads, Imperial stouts and and good barleywines.

                                                                                                                                                                        As an aside - "triple hopped Miller lite" is rated at 7, the threshold for the human palate is 10-12 IBUs.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry, I agree with the Professor. It's only with the advent of the ludicrously overhopped, over malted, extreme, nouveau micro brews that Anchor Steam, one of the all time classic American beers, could taste like water.

                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry, but the new micros would be foreign to a traditionalist in any of the great beer brewing nations: Belgium, Germany, Great Britain (or pre-phobition US). Belgian Quads are an exotic oddity even in Belgium. Barleywines for a very particular set of British extreme beerists as well.

                                                                                                                                                                          You like extreme beer, fine, but your tastes are certainly not main stream, even amongst fairly discriminating beer drinkers.

                                                                                                                                                                          I like em just fine. I LOVE hops. But n

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                            I never said I ONLY like extreme beer, please don't decide for me what I like or what my taste is. I like Sam Adams Boston lager just fine, Sierra Nevada pale ale, among others. I just said I found Anchor Steam boring, geez I don't have to like it just because you do, do I????

                                                                                                                                                                            I also never said I LIKED the extreme beers all that much, I just said Anchor tasted like water next to them. I find extreme beers interesting on occasion, but would much rather drink Sam Adams on a daily basis than Mean manalishi (even if I could afford it at $12 per 22 oz bottle.) I am actually not a fan of overly hopped beers, I much prefer a nice malty imperial stout like Old Rasputin to a hop bomb like Stone Double bastard, and I would take a good Belgian like St Bernardus 12 over them any day.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ncyankee101


                                                                                                                                                                              Personally I love Anchor Steam.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                After I thought about it, I thought of a better way to put it. I was never really much if a beer drinker up until the beginning of 2006 shortly after they raised the NC ABV limit on beer to 15% from 6% (moved here in 1995) - before that I would have a Guinness or Newcastle when out, but almost never bought beer to drink at home, it just didn't interest me enough. In jan 2006 I saw Dogfish head 90 min on sale in a bar where I was shooting pool, and decided to try it - and I was instantly hooked. This was my gateway into a sort of obsession with beer which led to my cellar being full of assorted beers, some of them bought specifically to age (Rochefort 10, Thomas Hardy, JW Lees among others.)

                                                                                                                                                                                I guess if Anchor Steam had been the most flavorful pale beer/ale available, I probably would never have started down that road. It took one as different as 90 minute to really get my attention.

                                                                                                                                                                                I never said it was a bad beer, just that I personally did not find it interesting, but would definitely choose it over anything from Bud - Miller - Coor

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                                  Wow, weird post because I don't drink that much beer, but had an Anchor Steam yesterday and a DFH 90 min IPA the day before.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I enjoyed both. I would call Anchor Steam pretty hoppy on its own merits. I probably hadn't had one in the 5 years prior.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                  I love Anchor Steam as well, but I have boycotted it since Fritz Maytag trademarked the phrase "Steam Beer". Now nobody else in the country can call their product Steam Beer because that rich, greedy SOB essentially bought the name. My replacement has been Firestone Double Barrel Ale (tap is much better than bottle in this case).

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                          >>> The craft beer movement started with Anchor . . . <<<
                                                                                                                                                                          And you would date that from when?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                                                                                                                                            Does it really matter? Don't feel like reviving a dead debate that was boring to begin with.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                              You're right.
                                                                                                                                                                              And the debate will become even more meaningless in the years to come as the term "craft beer' finally becomes pretty much obsolete. It has already become little more than a marketing term... and many lovers of artisan beer are already recognizing that.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: zin1953

                                                                                                                                                                              Sorry not sure if you were being confrontational with that question or just wanted a real discussion on the matter, but I got tired of having people misread my posts in this branch of the thread and tell me what I did and didn't like, so I didn't really want to get back into it.

                                                                                                                                                                              I was too young in the late 70s / early 80's to drink beer so I didn't keep up with the beginning of the craft beer movement as it happened. and don't really have time or inclination to spend much time researching and debating it at this time.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                                For the record, I am very rarely (if ever) "confrontational" online, *despite* having distinct and definite opinions on a variety of topics. I also believe in stating facts as facts, and opinion as opinions.

                                                                                                                                                                                My point was simply this:

                                                                                                                                                                                While it's true that Fritz Maytag acquired Anchor Brewing Co. in 1969, it was far from a craft brewery. New Albion Brewing Co. was founded in 1976, and although it folded in 1982, New Albion is widely credited with being the first micro-brewery that launched the craft-brewing movement in the US.

                                                                                                                                                                                For more, check out the following:

                                                                                                                                                                                -- http://www.mercurynews.com/libations/...
                                                                                                                                                                                -- http://www.winecountrybeer.com/wineco...
                                                                                                                                                                                -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Albi...
                                                                                                                                                                                -- http://www.beerhistory.com/library/ho...

                                                                                                                                                                                . . . and more.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                                                                                                                                  I have heard of New Albion but was 16 yrs old when they failed and still drinking 40s of Schlitz malt liquor when I wanted a buzz.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I guess I meant that with its Steam beer Anchor was probably the first such brewery that is still in operation today, and along with Sierra nevada and Sam Adams were the ones that brought more flavorful beer to the masses.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                      What part of NC are you in?. In the Triad and Charlotte most stores have Flor de Cana Gold and one of the Barbancourts. If your willing to buy a case you can get virtually anything you want via special orders. On the special order list they have I just ordered as case of Velho Barrerio Cachaca. It is twice as good as Leblon at almost half the price for a liter.

                                                                                                                                                                      this is the current price list. I don't see the Barbancourt but I have seen it in several stores. It may have been discontinued as an item that is regularly stocked.


                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: quazi

                                                                                                                                                                        I'm in Durham, come to think of it I have seen the FdC 4 yr here but had bought a bottle in FL. I have never seen a Barbancourt in this area.

                                                                                                                                                                        Not quite sold enough on cachaca to want to order a whole case of anything yet, esp 12 bottles - even at $13 each $160 is a lot to invest in a single liquor. If it was a 6 bottle case it mihgt be tempting.

                                                                                                                                                                        Did find Mae de ouro online and going to give it a try, for the same price as Leblon he

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                          Check with your liquor store or distro. Just because a distro requires a minimum order requirement does not necessarily mean that all of those bottles must be the same product. Here in PA (where finding more obscure products is quite challenging) I can easiliy buy just 3 bottles of Kilo-Kai rum.... provided I'm willing to buy X number of other products (usually 6-12 total) from the same distributor.

                                                                                                                                                                          The problem occurs when the individual doesn't know what specialty products are vended by said distributor. Luckily, WE have websites like PLCBUsersgroup.org to help us round out our order!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                            We have a sort of rebel cocktail enthusiast here in PA who does a great service for those of us living in a control state. His site is PLCBUsersGroup.org --where he lists every liquor available in the state (whether in-store or special-order), along with who distributes it and their minimum purchasing requirement. You might want to check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                            Of course, the information there may not apply to where you live, but it might give you a better idea on how to navigate the situation.

                                                                                                                                                                            Most company's SLO requirement is only 6 or 12 bottles of their product: it doesn't usually have to be the SAME product.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks but I've already checked into that and in NC they require a full case of the same item - and since we have a state-run system that might be privatized soon, I don't think there is much interest on their end in trying to be creative. It doesn't really matter because I have managed to find out-of-state sources with better prices on nearly everything that interests me - other that PA closeout items which can have great prices, such as the two bottles of Cuervo Platino Tequila ($32 each) I have waiting for me when I go up to PA for Thanksgiving.

                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                      Is the Gosling's Black Seal generally considered a "spiced" rum? I would consider it a "spicy" rum at most but I haven't knowingly had any "spiced" rum since a bad experience with the Capt. in college so I'm no expert. The back of the bottle says that it is a unique blend with the recipe being a closely guarded family secret. Not one word on the label about spice but they aren't telling what's in it so that isn't really surprising. Please enlighten me.

                                                                                                                                                                      However, it is a damn good rum for $8.99/750 ml. at my local discount store.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: bbq babe

                                                                                                                                                                        Hmmm I had always assumed it was spiced because the flavor is very similar to Kraken but I guess it is just a dark molasses rum, my mistake.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                          No worries, they call it a "black rum" on the label which is not a term I've seen elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                          At least now I know that I won't hate the Kraken which I have been curious about but gun shy about trying.

                                                                                                                                                                          Any other thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bbq babe

                                                                                                                                                                            If you like Gosling's black seal you might like Pusser's Navy Rum, it is a very potent rum with a lot of wood flavor from being distilled in wooden pot stills. One of my favorites, and despite the strong flavor is very smooth and drinkable neat. A little more expensive at around $24 here in NC but I get it when it is on sale for $21.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                              Great suggestion, it was already the next on my list to try.

                                                                                                                                                                              Need to finish some open bottles before I can justify $26 (w/tax).

                                                                                                                                                                              Anyone else? I'm all ears.

                                                                                                                                                                              Rum, the epic story of the drink that conquered the world by Charles A. Coulombe was a great read and taught me quite a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: bbq babe

                                                                                                                                                                                How long does a $26 bottle last you, BBQBabe...? =)

                                                                                                                                                                                Try these:
                                                                                                                                                                                > Chairman's Reserve (bourbon-barrel rum)... both Original and Spiced
                                                                                                                                                                                > Kilo-Kai Spiced (from Curacao Island)... has a sassafrassy finish
                                                                                                                                                                                > Scarlet Ibis (3- to 5-yr Trinidad rum)... complex profile, not spiced
                                                                                                                                                                                > The Lash (Spiced dark rum, blended and bottled in Connecticut)... totally baking spices!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm no expert in spiced rum, but would it not be more flexible to pick a base rum (or rums) that you like and add the spice with bitters (Angostura, Fee WBA, Jerry Thomas, etc) or with liqueurs (St. Elisabeth Allspice Dram, Nux Alpina walnut liqueur, Taylor's Velvet Falernum) or with spices syrups (although that adds sugar, too)?

                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not saying that spiced rums are bad, but rather that maybe you can get more flexibility in making recipes with fewer bottles. My home bar is bottle-space-limited. You also get to pick a base rum that you really like, rather than having it picked for you.

                                                                                                                                                                                  www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                                                                    E-Dan, I'm usually behind you on comments like this. But most artisan spiced rums have a very specific flavor profile that would be very difficult to duplicate. Kilo-Kai, for instance, has a very "sassafras" finish, which no bitters I've ever tasted could possibly duplicate. Chairmans Reserve Spiced is probably the closest to Fee's Old-fashioned bitters I can think of... but still very far off.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Sure, if you're looking to be creative, then go for it! But if you're showcasing rum, then showcase the rum...!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                                      I would expect, before tasting, a bottle of Pusser's Navy Rum to last me about 6 months since it seems intense enough that an ounce a week would suffice.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not seeking spiced rums in particular, just relieved that there are some out there that I would enjoy rather than be horrified by.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for the suggestions for creating my own spiced rum but all I'm after is affordable, enjoyable rum. No need for me to reinvent the wheel here as well as with my various herbal, granola, curry, soup, cake and other kitchen projects and their constant tweaks. The rum is for the "aah" , relaxing moment at the end of the day and so should be simple to get into the glass if not simple once there.

                                                                                                                                                                                      The Kilo-Kai sounds very interesting-anything with sassafras or birch flavors is a winner in my book! Thanks for the suggestion.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                                        I have a bottle of Root that needs a use. Maybe it could used to imitate Kilo-Kai. Not that I've heard of it before, seen it, or tasted it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                                                                          E-Dan, I've got a great recipe for you:

                                                                                                                                                                                          SPRING TONIC
                                                                                                                                                                                          (Old-fashioned glass)
                                                                                                                                                                                          ~ 0.50 Lemon
                                                                                                                                                                                          ~ 1.00 Maple syrup (I prefer dark, for its bitter qualities)
                                                                                                                                                                                          MUDDLE, no sugar. Then...
                                                                                                                                                                                          ~ 1.50 New Amsterdam gin (or your rail selection)
                                                                                                                                                                                          ~ 0.75 Root liqueur
                                                                                                                                                                                          ~ 0.50 Kilo-Kai spiced rum (or your favorite)
                                                                                                                                                                                          ~ 1.00 Egg-white (optional--if powdered, reconstitute before adding liquor!)

                                                                                                                                                                                          SHAKE w/ ice. Strain w/ Hawthorn strainer.
                                                                                                                                                                                          TOP w/ Fever Tree Tonic and a few drops of Peychaud's bitters.
                                                                                                                                                                                          (If you omit the egg-whites, serve on-the-rocks.)

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                                            Thank you very much for taking the time to post this. Tried it. I liked the shocking interplay of gin and Root. It seems like a good recipe for someone that likes Root. Alas, I need Root recipes for someone that hates Root. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, sir. It's just kinda what I do. T'was my pleasure! Heck, I just finished having one myself... only this time pouring from a sample-bottle of Blackmaker that someone gave me tonite. (Blackmaker is a tad more sweet, so you could cut down on the maple--but then, what's spring without maple, eh?)

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: scQue814

                                                                                                                                                                                                e-Dan: Sorry, I mis-read your last post. I think that if you don't like a bottle of liquor, then try to find someone to trade with. No sense choking down something you don't like. And you're just wasting it for those people who do.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                                                                                                                                                            I just saw a riff on the manhattan using rye, root, and dolin blanc or martini bianco. Will see if I can dig up the link.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Edit: found it! http://projects.washingtonpost.com/re...

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Glad to see this thread revived. Maybe I'm over-excited about this find, but IMO every bourbon fan needs to try the Kirkland Select small-batch bourbon from Costco. It comes from the Beam distillery, and as far as I can tell it's Baker's 7-year bottled at a very slightly lower proof. It costs a third of what you pay for the name-brand stuff; what's not to like?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. inexpensive Vodka-Skye, or Stockholm is not bad (especially mixed) and its smooth not harsh
                                                                                                                                                                      Scotch--Chivas Regal
                                                                                                                                                                      Rum-Appleton Estate

                                                                                                                                                                      1. Lately I have been buying my key booze by the 1.75L bottle, often on sale. These are the 1.75L bottles I have been pleased with:

                                                                                                                                                                        1800 Tequila in the cool bottle $29
                                                                                                                                                                        Meyers Platinum Rum $19.99 with $10 rebate
                                                                                                                                                                        Cruzan Rums $19.99
                                                                                                                                                                        Don Q $23 Silver
                                                                                                                                                                        Fleischman's Gin around $20
                                                                                                                                                                        Gordon's Gin around $20
                                                                                                                                                                        Jim Beam around $23 (mostly for manhattan's)
                                                                                                                                                                        Jim Beam Black around $29 (mixing and sipping)
                                                                                                                                                                        Goslings $26
                                                                                                                                                                        Tanqueray $29
                                                                                                                                                                        El Jimador $28 (passable for margaritas)
                                                                                                                                                                        Brugal Anejo Rum an all time favorite $27 or so wish I could find it in the 1.75L again that is almost gone.

                                                                                                                                                                        I have MANY other bottles, but they are more for sipping, then my usual after work cocktail.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. I've found that Burnetts is a very good substitute for Tangueray, Absolut and Capt. Morgan. Not exact replacements but good and no hangover like the type you get from cheap booze.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. All I can say is it's always hard to find a good low-end licker.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I was extremely pleased to discover Agavales tequila a few months ago; it's 100% agave, and IMO the gold is nearly as good as other brands I would buy for more than twice as much--I can get a 750mL bottle for about $13 in Virginia. Even if you don't consider it sipping quality (and you might), it still makes an excellent "high-end" margarita (yes I like gold tequila in my margaritas; don't judge).

                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: guilty

                                                                                                                                                                                Agavales has the same NOM as Don Sergio, which is (as far as I know) exclusive to Total Wine & Spirits. I have the whole DS lineup, and though I found the Blanco pretty decent and interesting when I first opened it, it started to taste a little off after being open for a while ( a month or so). The Repo and anejo held up better to being open.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: guilty

                                                                                                                                                                                  I just started buying Agavales for home. Here in MA it is $24.99 for a 1.75L, which is a serious bargain. I have yet to try the gold, but the blanco is quite excellent, certainly for the price for 100% agave.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                                                                                    I got of a bottle of the agavales gold while in FL, IMO it is way too sweet, I think they maxed out the allowable added glycerin on this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                    For the money it is not terrible, definitely better than mixtos. With much better brands such as El Ultimo, Camarena and Espolon available in some areas for the same ~$15 price, I would not recommend Agavales gold. El ultimo is also a little on the sweet side but has much better agave flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Hitime's $18 price on Herencia Mexicana blanco is an unbelieveable bargain, that is one of my favorite blancos and would still be a buy at $30.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. I have found that for tequila it doesn't matter, buy whatever is cheapest because short of buying reposado to sip, it matters not once you are two shots into it. For rum, look for intensity that will come through some fruit in a mixed drink. I like Metusalem for that, but I drink so little it is not a worthy opinion. For Scotch, I like Bowmore for the times when a little peat is in order and Dalmore Cigar malt when I want Macallans for less $. For Scotch blends, I am partial to Dewars, but the Famous Grouse has a little richer flavor. If you want Scotch to mix you need to rethink the whole premise. As regards Bourbon, I have not found a reason to pay for better than Evan Williams Black most of the time, but when I am sipping and savoring and can't afford ( or find) anything Van Winkle, I like EW Single barrel. If you want to sip a decent but not OMG bourbon for a hefty but still manageable tab, try Corner Creek. As regards brandy, I like El Presidente pretty well and can't see spending more unless I can afford Vesper or the like. Gin-wise, I like martinis and have been pretty happy with regular Bombay. If you are mixing it, Gordons is great. I don't know why people drink vodka. As regards beer, Shiner Bock is solid. I think a well stoked abinet requires (at least) Sherry and vermouth. for vermouth I adore Vya. For Sherry, I think the cheap stuff is good for cooking, period. I miss Shooting Sherry.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tim irvine

                                                                                                                                                                                    The new version of the Dalmore cigar malt runs over $100.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: tim irvine

                                                                                                                                                                                      Wow. I mean, each to his own, and tastes are subjective and all, but I just don't agree with much of any of that. Yeah, if all you want to do is throw back some tequila shots with salt and lime, then no, I suppose it doesn't matter, However, for drinks, a more full flavored 100% agave blanco can really make a difference in a margarita. At least around here, Milagro is usually right around $24, which is probably not exactly low-end, but both their Silver and Reposado are quite good, especially at that price. Truth is, like single-malts, good tequilas aren't cheap. As far as rum...well...what if you're not making a fruit heavy cocktail? My basic rum drinks aren't tiki drinks at all but daiquiri variants like a trad daquiri or a floridita. Other than lime juice, there isn't much fruit through which the rum needs to "come" in a lot of non-tiki, traditional cocktails that feature rum. I vacillate between Cruzan and FDC 5, but both are consistently around $15 a bottle in Montgomery Maryland. I do actually agree with your Scotch picks. Famous Grouse is excellent for making Scotch cocktails, which, are a terribly overlooked family of cocktails. A Bobby Burns is a terrific drink. In terms of bourbon, Christ man, there is a world of terrific and varied bourbons out there in between Van Winkle and EW Black. I mean...good grief. Hell, at least around here, EW Single Barrel is $21 a bottle and noticeable step up from EW Black, which, last time I saw, didn't even carry an age statement anymore. My typical shelf bourbon is Elijah Craig 12, which goes for around $16-$18 a bottle around here, depending on whether it's on sale. I think it's a really nice blend of sweet corn, oaky dryness, and rye spice; just a very well-balanced bourbon. Buffalo Trace is also just below $20 a bottle around her and offers a wonderfully smooth, vanilla-forward experience. Weller 12 is also right under $20 a bottle around here and is quite good stuff. My choice of rye is Rittenhouse, which is under $20 a bottle around here, though sometimes hard to find. Pikesville is all over the place around here, but I don't find it as good for mixing in a lot of cocktails. It's sweeter, softer, and has less of a rye profile. Landy VS is usually right at $20 around here, so it's become my go-to for brandy/cognac. It's an excellent cocktail cognac. St. Remy is also an excellent value for a cocktail mixing brandy/cognac. For gin, I go for Beefeaters for a London dry ($15 a bottle), but my standard is Plymouth ($26 a bottle), which is admittedly not low-end. I like Shiner if it's dirt cheap and on draft, but I would never buy a sixer. My preference, but in general, I find it overly malty sweet and thin in all other areas. I like hops.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I'm a whiskey drinker and there are a number of very good budget whiskeys out there.

                                                                                                                                                                                      For Bourbon, Evan Williams, Old Ezra 101, Old Grand-Dad 114, Wild Turkey 101 and Very Old Barton, and Buffalo Trace are all good choices and well within your price range.

                                                                                                                                                                                      For rye, Pikesville Rye and Wild Turkey Rye.

                                                                                                                                                                                      George Dickel #12 Tennessee Whiskey is also a great budget whiskey.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I would add Famous Grouse to your Scotch list. For smoky Scotch, Finlaggan and Black Bottle.

                                                                                                                                                                                      For Irish Whiskey: Tullamore Dew.

                                                                                                                                                                                      For Canadian Whisky: Forty Creek Barrel Select

                                                                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sku

                                                                                                                                                                                        Sku - have you tried the new Knob Creek Rye?

                                                                                                                                                                                        I saw it in a store here in NC, not cheap at $40.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                                          Hearing great things... but waiting for it to appear in PA. =/

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                                            Not yet. It isn't in California yet. I don't have high expectations though as I haven't liked any of Beam's ryes.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sku

                                                                                                                                                                                              Beam must have very high expectations with the price point significantly higher than the Russell's reserve from Wild Turkey.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                                                                                                                                                Higher price point equated with higher quality to the causal buyer. And not just in whiskey