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Jul 19, 2010 09:09 AM

Best "cheap" gin?

I like Tanqueray just fine, but the last time I was in the liquor store, I was considering whether I really need to buy a "premium" brand if I'm just going to mix it with tonic (that's pretty much the only way I drink gin). (And, yes, I'm old enough to consider Tanq to be a "premium" brand.)

Any suggestions about whether any of the standard "bottom shelf" brands are worth checking out (e.g. Gordon's, Beefeater, etc.)?


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  1. LOL @ calling Beefeater bottom shelf! It's one of the better gins regardless of the price. True, there are more expensive gins that taste less like gin, but Beefeater is a solid spirit.

    Bombay Dry Gin (not Sapphire) is another solid one that like Beefeater is just under $30 for a 1.75L.

    6 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      Tanqueray definitely gets a premium price -- at least a few bucks -- due to the name. I don't think I've ever heard anyone order a "Beefeater & tonic" or a "Gordon's & tonic".

      1. re: scratchie

        Yes, marketing.

        I have definitely asked for cocktails made with Beefeater. Never Gordon's though (although in some drinks it works decently).

        Beefeater 24 and their Summer Edition are both in the premium price point (although both are just softer versions flavor- and proof-wise of regular Beefeater).

        1. re: yarm

          Agreed that marketing (and alliteration) have made "Tanqueray and tonic" more common, but I've heard many a "Beefeater and tonic" call be made. I find that Tanqueray has a sweeter, fruitier taste and hence pairs well with the sugary tonic and lime. Beefeater and Gordon's are drier and have more juniper flavor.

        2. re: scratchie

          I've worked in high-end restaurants for many years and people order Beefeater and tonic very regularly.

          1. re: scratchie

            Idk about a Gordons & tonic, but James Bond ordered the Vesper Cocktail with "Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet." :P

          2. re: yarm

            I agree with your assessment, and both Bombay Dry and Beefeater are really martini gins...Tanqueray goes better for me as a NYC, Bombay dry 1.75 L goes from $35-42 except on occasional discount...

          3. If Tanqueray is a premium brand, then that category would have to include Gordon's and Beefeater as well. The price points are nearly identical (at least in Central NJ). That being said, I actually much prefer the latter two to Tanqueray, but I do not, generally, dilute my gin with tonic. Nevertheless, unless you want to do the "expensive albeit fun" G&T - think Bulldog with Q - then I can't imagine any reason why any of the three discussed herein wouldn't provide a fine partner to some Schwepps and a nice wedge of lime.

            1. I drink Gin above all else.....but that can be an expensive habit if you have discerning tastes. In my cupboard i have my main "splurge" gins like Hendrick's, and a couple small distillery brands.

              But, my main day to day drinking gin is Seagrams. Its extremely easy in a G&T and never disappoints. So, if you want "bottom shelf" stay clear of Gordons, Burnetts, or whatever is out there and just get Seagrams (bumpy face as we call it).

              16 Replies
              1. re: wagoneer79

                Agreed. Is the topic about "cheap" gin, or "inexpensive imported" gin? Sure Beefeater is less expensive than Tanqueray, Bombay, or Plymouth, but it isn't what I would consider "bottom shelf" at all.

                For years, Seagram's Extra Dry Gin has been my recommendation for parties and the like where one doesn't have to "impress the guests" with a fancy label.


                1. re: zin1953

                  And it's actually an excellent gin. One of only two worldwide that is aged in a barrel.

                  1. re: JMF

                    Seagrams is good stuff, especially for gin & tonics with a slice of fresh lemon from your own tree.

                    1. re: JMF

                      Seagram's is sneaky, quietly putting out decent products.

                      Someone told me that Seagram's Brazilian Rum is actually a cachaca - and a pretty good one - that was intentionally bottled above the limit so it would have to be labeled a rum. Unfortunately it is becoming hard to find, they closed it out in PA at $5.99 a bottle a few weeks before I went up there for Christmas. I have never seen it here in NC.

                      1. re: ncyankee101

                        Seagram's is just a brand name owned by Pernod-Ricard nowadays, not a distillery.

                        It wasn't "bottled above the limit " it is distilled at a higher abv. than cachaça, and so isn't one, but both technically a rum, and without most of the flavor profile of a cachaça. Cachaça must be distilled to between 38 and 48% abv., the Seagrams is distilled at over 55% abv. this is a big difference both technically and to the structure and flavor profile. think of it more like partway between a cachaça, rum, and vodka.

                        1. re: JMF

                          The person who told me this said the limit for a cachaca was 54%, I guess he was mistaken. The wikipedia article on cachaca says 54%, perhaps that is where he got the figure.

                          1. re: JMF

                            This is incorrect, see below a couple posts under my name. Cachaca must be distilled to no more than 54%, Seagrams is distilled at 54% - no practical difference. At 54-55% you get lots of flavor typical of cachaca. Rum is distilled much higher, often closer to 90%, and tasteless vodka at 95%.

                            It is incorrect to position Seagram's as partway between them.

                          2. re: ncyankee101

                            Here's the deal: by Brazilian law cachaca must be distilled to between 38 - 54%, and then bottled at 38 - 48%. Capish? Seagram's distilled theirs to 55%, just one percent above the limit (then bottled it at 40%, 80 proof).

                            Thus, technically it is a rum, but practically it is most definitely a cachaca. If any of you can taste the 1% difference in distillation, you must be F. Paul Pacult in disguise.

                      2. re: wagoneer79

                        I must try Seagram's.......and, it's in an attractive bottle

                        1. re: wagoneer79

                          Sorry to say I find Seagrams disgusting. To each his own, I guess...

                          1. re: Ehnbom

                            Good. I do not find it disgusting but like you, maybe, am in a real minority about it, finding it too sherried and not at all the nicest of the cheaps. I was enjoying New Amsterdam until a gin-savvy friend asked if I really could stand that orange-candy thing, and I focused more on it and was suggestible perhaps, and thus am now buying Booth's. Which is good, albeit wan, a little, maybe. Guess I will return to Gordon's for a try, after all these many decades since adolescence. I used to consume a lot of Burnett's but its high citrusy sweetness gives way to a certain roughness and crudeness. For higher money I think Bombay regular is just the tastiest (blind-compare it with Sapphire sometime).

                            1. re: docmon

                              A gin near the price range of Seagram's I found in Minnesota is Greenall's, which is a London Dry variety:

                              I find it to be pretty straight forward with milder/traditional botanicals. Although, I find Seagram's to be perfectly acceptable, I cannot fully appreciate the saccharine orange taste of New Amsterdam Gin.

                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                Yeah, thanks; I have had that, and rightly or wrongly formed no strong opinion. Pinnacle too, which I think I should retry.
                                Had a custom negroni last night w Booth's and a bit of Punt e Mes (which is all you need) and it was perfectly fine. I also like Booth's for value since it has less water.
                                Most people do not share my take on Seagram's.

                                1. re: docmon

                                  My daily drinkers are Boodles and Bombay Original, whioh are both mid-range priced where I live. When I splurge, I enjoy Junipero.

                                2. re: hawkeyeui93

                                  I just bought some Seagram's on sale in NH and have modulated my opinions further, fwiw, finding it, as someone said, perfectly mild and smooth and low on pepper (not quoting accurately). I did a new blind comparison vs Booth's and now much prefer Seagram.
                                  I also have to modulate my takes on the two Bombays, having done a recent blind tasting, and find Sapph wonderful but conventionally balanced meaning peppery (this would be chiefly a juniper thing) but the regular Bombay just marvelous, like a martini all by itself, flavorful and smooth and low in pepper and bite. My pouring host finds it wan, but I am on board for regular Bombay for now, with Seagram's as the bargain high-value smooth gin. (No 'sherriness' complaints in other words.)

                              2. re: Ehnbom

                                Since this thread has been resurrected, I'll chime in, again. A couple of months ago I tried some "City of London Dry Gin". It wasn't bad. In fact it rivaled Beefeater, my favorite. It is imported from London, lots of juniper, typical London dry style.
                                I can't recall the exact price, but it was more than Gordon's and less than Tanq., Beefeater's, etc.

                            2. I buy "weekday" gin and "weekend" gin as I have a cocktail after work most nights and I can't afford weekend gin all the time :-) I buy Beefeater or Sapphire as my weekend gin almost always. Others I like- Tanquerey 10, Boodles, Plymouth, Hendricks... Will buy regular Tanquerey only if it's cheaper than Beefeater which is rare.

                              So on to your actual question: are there any cheap gins worth drinking? When I buy my "weekday" gins I mix them in a Gin and Tonic pretty happily but they are a bit too raw for a martini. I'll mix my weekday gin and my weekend gin 1/2 and 1/2 to make a palatable martini during the week. A waste of good gin is a logical response... but to each his own. Cheap gins that I've been able to live with:
                              * Gordon's is actually a respectable spirt IMO... not smooth, mind you, but pleasant flavors.
                              * Pinnacle Gin- I found this for $10 for a 1.75 once!! I should have purchased a case. Again.. a decent G&T spirit.. a bit raw for a martini.
                              * Seagram's- smoother than Gordon's but some unlikeable flavors... not horrible and I will buy if it's significantly cheaper.

                              There appears to me to be a big gap in the gin market.. Speaking in discount terms for 1.75L bottles.. (and this is Denver, CO pricing) you go from $12/14 for the weekday style gin and $27-30 for the weekend. Someone needs to market a nice gin in the $20 range!

                              In the Vodka market Svedka, Monopolowa and Sobieski fill these gaps pretty cleanly and nicely at $17-20. not sure why someone can't do the same with gin?

                              Things I've tried and rejected: New Amsterdam (god awful artifical-orange flavor), Gilbey's (same price point as Gordon's... but much more astingent), Fleishman's (hey- you have to try things to reject them... ), Monopolowa (this is a good cheap gin- but they don't sell it cheaply anymore! )

                              I haven't tried Booth's yet- may have to do so...


                              14 Replies
                              1. re: e_bone

                                The Trader Joe's near me has liter bottles of Monopolowa (gin and vodka) for <$10. Both products can hold their own against "premium" brands at 2-3 times the cost.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Yes, I have had the Monopolowa vodka (made from potatoes?) from TJ and it was quite good and a terrific bargain.

                                2. re: e_bone

                                  I have no qualms with inexpensive liquors, but will not touch anything made in a plastic bottle. Although I have consumed Gordon's in a 1.75L plastic bottle, it is better in the smaller containers (in glass).

                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                    perhaps, my Iowa soul cousin, you can elaborate on why plastic is objectionable to you. Landfill issues? (If so I agree that it bugs me to contribute) Leeching effect of toxic chemicals? (If so I am open minded and want to read the stuides that motivate you as I am similarily curious) Don't want to show a plastic bottle to your friends? (tell them to suck it and go drink at their own houses) or is it a taste thing? (which I have never explored and am presuming is not necessary as the highly stuctured containers *should* be neutral reactive.. but again- I'm open minded).

                                    1. re: e_bone

                                      e_bone: It is a litmus test of sorts (vanity-related). I tell the owner of my local liquor store that if I start buying the booze made in plastic bottles, I am on the brink of dying penniless (and thus cut me off). It is more about being in college over 20 years ago and having found any manufacturer using plastic bottles to make alcohol of questionable quality. I like gin (and Gordon's) enough to drink from a 1.75L plastic bottle, but that's about the only one! It may be in my head, but I think Gordon's tastes a little better in glass.

                                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                        Hah, too funny, cause I agree it makes me just a little sad that Gordon's cheaps out that rather respectable product by putting it in plastic...

                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                          just revisited this thread.
                                          On that topic, what i really don't get is why the liter comes in glass, but the 1.75 comes in plastic.

                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                            I don't know, cheaper to mold I guess. I don't really notice a taste difference, it's (glass) more aesthetic, I guess, and probably safer. I did just buy a 1.75 of what arguably is the "best cheap Scotch", Teacher's, and it was glass!

                                            1. re: tommymeboy

                                              Gentleman (and ladies), may I point out that when intoxicated, a big bottle of gin is rather difficult to hang onto. And would you rather have something that bounces (plastic) or something that shatters on hard surfaces (glass)? I'm not saying Tommy is wrong about the cost, but there are benefits to us as well. I will also say that the only handle of gin I've ever found that is really awesome that comes in plastic is pinnacle. Great gin for the price. And Gin should IMO be served freezing cold if it is to be drank straight. Plastic holds up to the freezer better than plastic.

                                              1. re: ginjunk

                                                "Plastic holds up to the freezer better than plastic." Ahh, ginjunk, when intoxicated, a keyboard is rather difficult to hang onto! ;)

                                                1. re: tommymeboy

                                                  Sad thing is I wasn't drunk when I wrote that....and it was meant to be Plastic holds up to the freezer better than glass....for the record.

                                                2. re: ginjunk

                                                  Fersonalllary I fink flastic is far suferior to flastic...

                                        2. re: e_bone

                                          e_bone: My current daily drinker is Boodles ...