Buying six bottles at once- what would you get?
At my local grocery store, I can get 30% off if I buy six 750ml bottles at once. They told me they can try to order anything, so I'm going to give it a try and see what their suppliers can get them.
I'm into classic cocktails and balanced drinks, not really the creamy dessert ones. I'm looking for ingredients that are versatile and can be used in a number of different drinks. Not currently interested in bottles that are best for sipping rather than mixing, although those that do both well are certainly a plus.
What do you think is missing from my current supply? Which six would you buy? Under $25 a 750ml bottle, please- there are ingredients like Chartreuse that I'm interested in but will buy in a 375 ml somewhere else.
Currently, I have:
Rye whiskey: Wild Turkey 101
Scotch- single malt: Glenlivet 12
Brandy: Fundador Solera Reserva (hate this stuff)
White rum: Flor de Cana 4 year
Tequila: El Jimador reposado
Homemade Coffee liqueur
Homemade gingered brandy
Aguardiente Cristal- sort of useless so far
Regan's, Angostura, and Peychaud's bitters
MR Sweet and NP Dry vermouth
1. Campari, which I've never had but am dying to try
2. St Germain since it's a crowd pleaser and fairly versatile- I've even seen it subbed for Creme de Violette in an aviation for a slightly different effect.
3. Landy VS (heard this is discontinued) or Paul Masson VSOP to replace the Spanish brandy
4. A dark rum, perhaps Old Monk or Zaya (both hard to find around here), or Gosling's?
Recommendations please, and thank you!
There are far too many posts to read them all, so this may be a repetitious. But, at age 74 and over half a century of highly varied booze experience, here we go.
1. No flavored vodka, rum. They are abominations.
2. Most so called "dark rums" are almost identical to that brand's white rum, with caramel coloring added. I know of two truly dark rums (there may be others): Meyer's from molasses in Jamaica (and not Coke as the mix; Jamaican style, ginger ale . . not cheap stuff, rather Canada Dry or Schweppes) and Lamb's Navy Rum, the original British Empire navy grog (with a little water but only for the officers, never ice). BTW: Lamb's comes in 151 proof as well, just don't light up while you're pouring. Rarely have a use for it, just to show off. White rum for mojitos, dark has too intense a flavor. Captain Morgan should be stuffed into that barrel.
Run connoisseurs pointed me to Rhum St. Jacques from Martinique, but I've not bought it in over 30 years, don't know if it still exists.
3. Just happened on a site that said old Campari goes to vinegar, won't keep. Since I have a bottle one third full, opened about 15 years ago, I tried it literally an hour ago, both straight and with soda. Just fine. Humph!
4. Scotch: Single malts ONLY!!. Good stuff: Whatever age of Macallan's you can afford. I've tasted the 25 year old, at $20/shot a bargain, own the 18 yo (no ice, drops of water), 12 yo. The 50 yo is up around $7,000 a bottle. If you can find it, Edradour is from the last farm distillery left, using 200+ year old methods -- and, for certain pieces, original equipment. They produce 7 casks a week, with three employees. Daily drink: Glenlivet 12 (in hand literally now), hate Glenfiddich (has a sour finish, like a blend).
5. For true margaritas: Never a mix! 1:2:4 parts fresh lime juice:TripleSec:tequila. Do not dip the rim; wet the outside only, sprinkle salt over the sink, frost the outside edge, never in the drink! For the tequila, at a fine taste that is reasonably priced: Souza Hernandos green label, 100% agave. If you like frozen margaritas, disregard this post and buy the cheapest stuff of all liquors and add cranberry juice. (I'm a purist -- and a snob.) Margarita is a cocktail, like a martini. (And a flavored "martini" should be illegal. But I digress.)
6. Vodka: If you mix it with anything, buy the 2nd cheapest, Smirnoff is fine. If you drink it from the freezer neat (careful, it can freeze your esophagus), get better stuff. No recommendation, I don't go there.
7. Canadian whisky: Don't bother. I grew up with it, moved Stateside in my 20s, always thought it was so smooth. That's because it has almost no taste at all. Borrring! My Crown Royal bottle, half full, has a Canadian tax stamp (when it went into the barrel) of 1947. Honest.
8. Liqueur: Chartreuse is the ultimate, but you may have to work your way up to it. At the age of 24, I hated it. By 40 . . . it is the prince of liqueurs. (BTW: It comes in both green -- the color comes from the name -- and a milder yellow version. Never tried the latter.)
9. Beware of fine berry liqueurs. Fraise des Boise is absolutely lovely, but it won't keep, the natural fruit flavenoids will oxidize, then it's garbage. Personal experience there. Maybe a year or two in the fridge. Others, such as Cointreau, Benedictine, etc., will keep forever.
10. Vermouth is wine based, also goes bad. But probably a year or two in the fridge.
Pause while I go through my cabinet . . .
11. Gin: No advice, don't like it. Keep it for guests. Never had one that wanted it. Canadian tax stamp is 1960.
12: Irish whiskey (note the spelling): Bushmill's, of course. Jamesons is fine for making a homemade version of Bailey's, which will curdle (I know) if left around, even refrigerated. Jameson's, good vanilla ersatz coffee creamer, a dash of Hershey's Dark Chocolate syrup. Yum!
Not for the cabinet, but for the cellar: The Aussies are making some fine affordable 90+ point wines, shiraz of course, also blends. And for a white less boring than the usual: Viognier, a grape that almost went extinct, making a comeback. My favorite is V Spot Viognier, from Fetish Winery in Australia. (yeah, yeah . . . but it is that good.)
13. Sipping quality tequila: I'm holding bottle #21,881 of El Tesoro de Don Felipe "Paradiso" Anejo. Aged in used cognac barrels 5 years -- most tequilas are aged 11 months. $120/bottle. Snifter, no ice, no water.
re: tim irvine
Like I said in the original post, I'm currently more interested in mixing drinks rather than sipping neat- haven't yet gotten used to the burning of my oral membranes every time I take a sip of straight liquor. I am interested in trying an Islay but hopefully on someone else's dime.
Why do you recommend Hendricks specifically? And what do you use the Mandarine Napoleon for?
I placed my order yesterday- Campari, Appleton V/X, St Germain, Landy VSOP, Marie Brizard Creme de Cacao and then refills on Beefeater, Cointreau and a few others if I'm feeling rich when my order is ready.
I just got a bottle of St. Germain this week. Definitely can make some crowd pleasing drinks. The Voux Mot from the PDT Cocktail book went over well with my girlfriend last night. True, it may be a bit sweet, but that's not always a bad thing, and I thought it had the makings of a really light and refreshing summer cocktail for when the weather gets warmer.
1.5 ounces Plymouth gin
0.5 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
0.25 ounce simple syrup (1-to-1 ratio sugar to water)
0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
Add all of the ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. No garnish.
Hendrick's is an interesting gin, but I wouldn't really call it essential. I like Beefeater for a dry gin and Plymouth for smoother, sweeter, less junier heavy gin. Plymouth is honestly my de facto most of the time.
Something you may want to consider when it comes to enjoying scotch and bourbon straight is that adding a bit of water can tame the burn a bit, so that you can better enjoy the flavor. Noted Scotch vlogger Ralfy has an episode devoted entirely to adding water to your whiskey. Go to youtube and check out Ralfy's page; look for whiskey review #12.
It's funny because when I add water to a glass of whiskey I've often received scorn from folks who don't know what they're talking about. I've heard lines like, a true man drinks it straight, and the burn is what's so great about whiskey. Rubbish. Obviously elements of alcohol heat (and in the case of some whiskeys, rye spicy heat) are simply part of the charm of the spirit for some, and are no enjoyed by others. But if all you can taste in, say, a 92 proof bourbon is heat, then go ahead and add a tsp of water. If you've watered it down too much...add some more whiskey to your glass. You might find that watering down your whiskey a bit really opens up the flavor profile of the spirit and makes it a far more enjoyable and sophisticated experience.
re: The Big Crunch
Interesting. I'll try water and see if that helps. So far, yes, I taste burn and maybe a little sweetness/ spice depending what it is. I'll definitely check out Ralfy's videos, thanks for the tip.
I'm pretty excited about the St. Germain. We tried a sample bottle and really enjoyed it in a sidecar variation. I'll be interested to try that PDT recipe- I really enjoy gin but didn't have any handy when I tried the St. Germain. I'm trying Seagrams for the lower-juniper alternative to Beefeater this time around- even though I hear great things about it everywhere, I didn't want to buy Plymouth because of their recent price hike, so I'm hoping Seagrams will suffice for now.
re: The Big Crunch
I find that some spirits need water, some benefit from it, some just become different, and some drown, it varies on a case by case basis.
High proof rums such as Smith and Cross (114) tend to be very hot when neat, but oddly enough Old Grand dad 114 is quite drinkable - and it is one that completely changes character with some water, though it is still quite good.
Glenlivet 12 and other mild Scotches tend to lose whatever flavor they have when neat, so I don't add any water to them.
Wild Turkey rare breed (108 pf) is one that I feel improves with water, or even an ice cube. It is also good neat but becomes amazing when tamed a little, and the same goes for Old Weller 107 - whereas I actually prefer the OGD 114 neat.
Thomas Handy Sazerac is 129 proof but honestly doesn't seem much hotter than the OGD 114. I always take a couple small sips neat before I add water, just to get the full-on impact of all that rye spice.
re: The Big Crunch
And by good stuff, I suggest the Laird 100 proof Bottled In Bond Apple Brandy, rather than the more expensive 7.5 or other age-statement bottles. They are more like cognac in flavor, and while delicious neat, don't have the apple punch of the 100 proof BIB.
It can be hard to find.
As for Captain and V8, that's an awful thing to do to innocent vegetables.
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I'll second the grand marnier recommendation, mainly because it doesn't look like you could make a good margarita with what you have and you might as well get grand marnier rather than contreau. If your goal is to be able to make more classic cocktails you might also consider:
Velvet Falernum (used in many rum based drinks)
I don't find a lot of use for my Amaro though and I only the others for one drink each: Corn n' oil (Velvet Falernum) and Sazeracs (Absinthe). These are all nice to have but unless you know that you really like a drink that uses them, they might not be the best use of your money. Personally, I'd rather have a variety of whiskeys, tequilas and rums on hand. I keep 4-5 of each at all times. I also note that other than the scotch, you really don't have anything that you'd want to drink neat. I always like to keep a sipping quality tequila and a pot-stilled irish whiskey around for that purpose.
What grocery store is this?
I already have Cointreau, as I said above (and forgot to mention that I have a mini of absinthe in my original post, which I purchased expressly for sazeracs). I wouldn't have gotten far without the Cointreau. But why do you recommend GM over Cointreau? I've never had GM but have been very happy with Cointreau- I assume it's more versatile.
The grocery store is Ralphs- they have a 6 bottle deal almost all the time, but I recently asked an employee if they could special order and he thought they could. My guess is that they won't be able to get anything relatively obscure, but I'm giving it a try.
At the moment I'm more into mixed drinks than sipping neat- I like the experimentation and personalization. The scotch was a gift that we've been enjoying now and then, though, so that could change in the near future.
I agree. GM is tasty and has its place, but in terms of cocktails (especially classic) you'll get a lot more mileage out of triple sec/cointreau. Just as an example, Cointreau is fine in a margarita. More than fine really.
Man, I love Pegu Club cocktails!
Also, I get your issues with rum. I'm only recently coming around to its charms myself. The nose has always been too sweet and it has that funky quality I've only recently come to appreciate. Too much Bacardi and Captain Morgan way back in my undergrad days also did a lot to destroy rum's charms for me. Luckily, time better rum, and good rum cocktails can do a lot to change one's mind about that particular spirit.
I somehow missed that you had Cointreau. I apparently didn't read your post well as I also missed where you said you are more interested in mixing than sipping and missed the $25 per bottle limit which would eliminate most sippers. I don't think GM should be a priority for you given that you have Cointreau. I do prefer GM to Cointreau though. It's a personal preference though and I also like GM occasionally neat where I wouldn't drink Cointreau that way (not that others don't). Cointreau is probably in more drinks but GM is in more drinks that I like and they are often interchangeable. I note for example that Esquire's recipe for a Pegu Club says you can sub GM for orange curacao. Again, personal preference I guess.
My general advice would be not to buy anything that you don't know how you'll use. If you're thinking you want to try Campari, Chartreuse, Amaro, etc order a drink with it in a good bar first. If you like it, then buy it for your home bar. I have lots of things bought out of curiousity that sit unused. A wider variety in your staple spirits though (rum, whiskey, tequila, gin) will never be a waste.
Yep- the dollar limit is mostly a guideline as I'm getting a couple things that are over it (cognac, cointreau)- just didn't want people suggesting that I buy $60 bottles. Right now I don't think my tastes are developed enough to really appreciate sippers, so I'm saving that for later, when I hopefully have more money to toss around.
I've been curious to try GM but the price tag is a little scary. Maybe someone will give me some as a gift :)
The problem with trying stuff in a bar or even buying a mini in a few cases is that it costs me half the price of just buying the full bottle. Also, as far as Campari goes I'm pretty sure I'll dislike it the first few times, and having it once in a bar might keep me from trying it again. I'm hoping that I'll just learn to like things once I've purchased them, but that is one of the reasons why I haven't jumped on the Campari deal yet (they stock it regularly).
If you like classic cocktails...
1. Campari - Get it. You may hate it, you may learn to love it, but it's part of a lot of classic cocktails.
2. If you hate the brandy you've got, get the Landy. I have some and love it. Brandy/Cognac is the basis for many, many, many classic cocktails.
3. Grand Marnier - When a recipe calls for curacao, might as well have the best.
4. Benedictine - Use in a ton of old cocktails.
5. Again, if you like classic cocktails, at some point you're going to have to pony up the cash and buy a bottle of green chartreuse. It's flavor is completely unique and it's in a lot of old cocktails...and new classics.
6. Pernod. I don't like the way it tastes alone, but it's surprising what a little bit will do in a cocktail. Absinthe figures heavily in old cocktails and for as little as is called for, you may as well just use Pernod, unless you really love absinthe by itself.
7. Apple Brandy: either Calvados or Lairds Bonded (the real stuff, not the cheap Lairds)
8. Fernet Branca is awful by itself (IMO) but can add some wonderful flavors when used very sparingly in many cocktaisl. My favorite is The Toronto.
re: The Big Crunch
Thanks for the vote in favor of Landy! My local store told me that it was discontinued, but hopefully they got it wrong. I'll I cheaped out and tried the spanish brandy, and it just has a smell that repulses me.
I know Grand Marnier is different from Cointreau because of the cognac base, but is standard curacao (Bols, Marie Brizard etc) actually cognac based anymore? Would you use the Grand Marnier in a Pegu Club, Mai Tai etc or would Cointreau do just as well? I'm trying to diversify as much as possible.
Landy discontinuing their VS? I hadn't heard that..or is it just that the store is no longer going to carry Landy cognac?. Also, I realized that I have the VSOP, so I don't know if the VS is at the same level. I'm not an expert on cognac/brandy by any means, but I've basically settled on the Landy VSOP becuase it's below $25 around here (often on sale below $20) and it works both in cocktails and as a sipper on its own.
I can't speak for the Marie Brizzard, which is nearly impossible to find around the DC region, though people on Chowhound who have had it tend to think very highly of Marie Brizzard products. I have a bottle of Dekuyper triple sec at home that got left at my place years ago after a party. To me, it's a very candy-sweet, sugary, shallow tasting liqueur. I've done some random comparisons here and there between it and Cointreau, in drinks and neat, and IMO the Cointreau really does make the drink better. The thing I like about Grand Marnier is that in a recipe that already has some souring/bittering citrus, it provides an orange sweetness without any bitterness and with an underlying round sort of nuttiness from the brandy. Tastes certainly vary, but I prefer it in a Pegu Club, however, there are many, many folks who would swear by Cointreau. I use cointreau in my mai tais because I think there is already a sort've richness and depth to the sweeter side of the drink coming from the rums and orgeat, and as such, the brandy aspects of the Grand Marnier are redundant. FWIW, there are a lot of folks who would say a bottle of cointreau and a bottle of Grand Marnier in a home bar is a case of unnecessary redundancy, and practically speaking, you could easily just sub cointreau in most recipes calling for either triple sec or curacao and not notice much of a difference.
re: The Big Crunch
Gran Gala and Harlequin are very decent subs for Grand Marnier, at least in NC where they are half the price.
Clement Creole Shrubb is THE one for tiki drinks, though it can be hard to find - I just saw it at Hitime wine in Cali for $24, going to grab one maybe even two. I also love to sip it neat or on the rocks (depending on mood), just an amazing liqueur.
re: The Big Crunch
Landy VS here is around 20 - 22, and I haven't seen VSOP at the main store, which is why I picked the VS. I guess I should consider the VSOP; I'm sure it's nicer. Someone recommended the VS on one of the "Cheap Brandy" threads here.
Interesting about the GM and Cointreau. We go through a lot of Cointreau and I'd just as soon not have another orange liqueur to keep in stock, but I'll have to try a mini sometime to see how it tastes. I was completely unimpressed by the Pegu Club when I made it at home, so that could help. Clement Creole Shrubb is currently going for $33 at my local store, so I'll probably skip that one as well for the moment.
I would definitely beef up on the quality of rums - try the El Dorado 12, good sipper and great mixer, or the Plantation Rum
Add a cachaca El Barriero if you can - Leblon is a good back up.
I think the Aperol is much more accessible than the Campari and I am a bitter fan. I can see someone more readily sipping the Aperol, Plymouth Gin.
Does your store sell mini's? I have gotten good deals on mini's of absinthe, would skip the paul masson and get the martel or anything but the masson.
If you want an overproof rum get the J wray or the smith and cross
Campari is great, I would heartily recommend it, but keep in mind it is very bitter and may be an acquired taste.
St Germain, if you can get this for $25 I would definitely pick it up, fun to play around with and usually much more expensive at least around here.
I haven't tried any cheap brandies except some E&J that was left over from making sangria, which was not good in cocktails at all. If it were me, I would pony up the $35 and get a cognac like Pierre Ferrand Ambre.
I love rum. Coruba is my favorite inexpensive dark rum, although their US distribution is not the best. Appleton V/X is also Jamaican but lighter, great all-around rum. Barbancourt 8 yr is another great value. Zaya can be sipped and also used in some cocktails, so if you can get it for $25, I would say it's worth a try.
Applejack or Calvados might be worth a try as well. I just had some Laird's Bonded for the first time this past weekend and really enjoyed it.
Apricot liqueur shows up in a number of classic cocktails. Marie Brizard or R&W Orchard Apricot.
Absinthe (substitute) is also very handy for some true classics like the Sazerac. For $25 you will be limited to something like Herbsaint or Pernod, but I think these will work.
barbancourt 8 year is a staple for me as well just wanted to add that on - great stuff
Dont get the Bols apricot brandy if your thinking MB and RW arent at the grocer - i did and wasnt impressed
Pernod goes in alot of tiki drinks is small dropper sized amounts...although if you cook it goes in alot of fish stews etc so not that bad of an investment in those respects
and just one more note the v/x would be considered a gold rum not a dark rum the extra would be appletons dark rum I believe
if somehow you had the ultimate grocery store and they had LH 151 i would pick that up as well
one and two get a ton of us at my home bar so those are great picks
3) yeah i have to pick up some brandy going to go with the Paul Masson
4) Dark Rum: Smith and Cross / Coruba / Appleton Extra - really you could make that 4 5 and 6 and be in tiki dark rum heaven :)
I would throw a good Pisco in there if avaliable
Cherry Herring and Benedictine are on my list of things to grab that i havent yet so those would be good and canton ginger liquor
punt y mas sweet vermouth or capano antica (unlikly a grocery store has either) but if they do i would grab both also since your getting campari
Also getting Aperol with Campari to compare and contrast the differences with a couple different sweet vermouths is pretty fun (and delicious)
Okay, so since rum has been mentioned a number of times- It seems like there is a crazy amount of variety in the rum category and I have no idea where to start. I prefer to just do my research (or have others recommend :) ) and buy a full bottle and decide to like it, rather than spending $4 on nips to "try".
So let's say I wanted to be able to make a few drinks: mai tai, a dark and stormy variation not necessarily using Gosling's, maybe Robert Hess's "Canton" which uses Jamaican rum, maraschino, curacao and grenadine, a Captain's Blood or a rum sidecar- nothing with 30 ingredients like some tiki drinks- what kind of rums do I need to start out? Any online resources to recommend?
So far I don't love the Flor de Cana 4 (reminds me a bit of rubbing alcohol although I'm getting used to it) but I'm determined to learn to like rum as a category.
This question directed at everyone, not just Dapuma.
I don't always agree on their rating but they have exposed me to different rums. Once you see how your tastes are relative to theirs then you can use their reviews as an effective guide.
For a rum sidecar, try it with Kraken. I am not generally a fan of spiced rums but a Kraken sidecar is wonderful
I much prefer this site for rum reviews,
and I find entertaining his "reviews of reviewers" - especially eye opening is his review of Arctic Wolf and the rum howler site.
I haven't really spent much time on the crushed ice site because the way the site is laid out seems very confusing and random.
In terms of cheaper white rums, maybe you could try Cuzan Aged White (same price as FDC 4) if you don't like the Flor de Cana. My roommate has a bottle of the Cruzan and I have a bottle of the FDC 4 and I've compared them both, alone and in a Daiquiri. The Cruzan is sweeter and smoother, IMO, while the FDC is drier. I think they both work fine in a regular and Hemingway Daiquiri.
One thing to point out is that in general, white rums aren't meant to be appreciated neat. Like gin, they're best appreciated in cocktails. It may be that alone, you won't find a white rum to be pleasant and the aroma may be a bit overpowering, but when it's mixed into a drink, you may feel it's quite tasty.
re: The Big Crunch
For some reason, I took to pretty much everything better than white rum- my first taste made me gag. I don't think it's the brand- there's just something about rum that I don't take to. I've had Mt Gay Eclipse and it has that same quality, just slightly milder. I'm getting used to it, though- I'm determined not to have a taste handicap in such a simple area. I had no such problems with dark rum neat as well as mixed although unfortunately I didn't get the brand when I had it.
So does anyone have any other quick and dirty rum recommendations for the kinds of drinks I mentioned above?
Ok for the Mai Tai you will want:
Orgeat - I recommend Small Hand Foods - no chemicals all natural and tastes great, Cask Spirits sells her entire line of mixers and they are all top notch makes a huge difference in your drinks (the gum syrups and grenadine as well) if you like or ever wanted to like pina colada's her recipe on her website is nothing short of amazing IMO and that will be a great place to put your Flor de Cana 4 year - the pineapple gum syrup gets a lot of use for me along with the Orgeat
VSOP Clement Rum - your grocery store probably doesn't have this but you can order it online pretty easily - its not cheap though fyi
Senior Curacao of Curacao - Triple Sec does not go in a Mai Tai so you need this - it goes in quite a few other cocktail of the tiki nature
Appleton v/x - this is a gold not dark rum - grocery store probably has this
Cruzan makes a blackstrap rum - however there isnt much use for that style of rum in many drinks so i would pass on that - I have 10+ different rums and none are blackstrap - however I dont make Dark and Stormy's much
So if you wanted to do the Mai Tai and the Canton you should be pretty good with either:
Appleton Extra / Coruba and Appleton V/X
I would add Lemon Hart 151 later on and then you can "water it down" to make it 80 proof as well just make sure to follow the directions - and that is very budget effective and gives you 80 proof and 151 proof demerara which is the "secret" of a lot of tiki drinks
that would give you a pretty good base to start from
so i would recomend
1) appleton extra
2) appleton v/x
4) pernod / brandy
5) St Germain
6) Hendricks - since you want a less juniper forward drink for collin's drinks etc
those are all things most grocery stores would have
Like bitter: Consider Campari, Aperol, Cynar, Ramazzotti, Averna, or CioCiaro. Try Fernet in a bar before buying a bottle. Good sloe gin is somewhat bitter and quite good (Plymouth or Bitter Truth (which I haven't had)) Also consider Punt e Mes as a bitter style of sweet vermouth.
Like herbal? Consider Green Chartreuse, Benedictine
Like licorice/anise? Consider an absinthe, or maybe a pastis
Like smoke? Consider a mezcal or Islay single malt
Like fruit? Consider Apricot (Apry or Apricot Orchard), Pear (Pear Orchard), Cherry (Cherry Heering), Cassis
Like earthy/grassy/vegetal? Consider a cachaca, an agricole, or even Batavia Arrack.
Like molasses rum? Its a vast area, with different styles, aged, white, overproof etc. Smith & Cross is wonderful. JWray overproof is excellent. Sweet lovers will like El Dorado.
Replace the brandy with a cognac you like.
Is your grocery store's regular prices inflated? Because 30% off on only 6 bottles is an astonishing deal if the prices are market-rate to begin with.
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It's definitely a great deal, although it's hard to say what "market-rate" prices are. I usually judge prices against those at BevMo, a big box store that has pretty high prices. The grocery store's prices, prior to the 30% off, are a dollar or two cheaper than BevMo's non Club card prices, so everything I've priced is cheaper there. Last time, with the 30% off, I paid 26.60 for a 750ml of Cointreau, 19.59 for Maker's Mark, 9.80 for Beefeater, etc. The catch of course is that they only stock the popular brands, especially in the rum category (they sell Bacardi and 10 Cane and that's it), don't sell some of the more niche liqueurs and spirit categories (rye) and I have yet to see what kind of variety they can get in special orders. They do regularly stock some surprising things like Campari and a number of gins, however, and of course it's a good place for keeping the basic basics in stock.
You should definitely get Campari, it's worth having around just to make Negronis and Americanos. St. Germain is a nice choice too, though if you're looking for a specialty liqueur that's not quite so sweet Domaine de Canton would be nice too. So, that's #1 and #2.
Don't know a thing about cognac or dark rum, so I'll leave #3 and #4 alone :)
For #5, I would definitely get a gin - at $25 a bottle you're a little limited but Bombay Sapphire or Hayman's Old Tom would be a nice contrast to the Beefeater. At a higher price point, consider Hendrick's, Ransom Small's, or Old Raj.
And for #6, I'd consider another non-fruit liqueur - if not Chartreuse, then either absinthe, an anise liqueur like Pernod, or an herbal liqueur like Benedictine or Becherovka. Or Fernet Branca if you're feeling masochistic. :)
I had a mini of Canton and thought it was pretty tasty but somehow wasn't a big fan of it mixed (tried it with bourbon and lemon and with vodka and lemon). It's something to consider for the future if my gingered brandy continues to be disappointingly mild.
How would you compare the flavor profile and juniper level of Hayman's to that of a London Dry like Beefeater? (I'm partial to Hayman's because that's my last name.) The only thing I know about Old Tom is that it's sweeter- how and in what do you use it? Also thinking of trying Seagrams as a cheaper option similar to Plymouth.
I have to admit I've never tried the Hayman's Old Tom - I have Ransom at home. But the Ransom is $35+ a bottle. Old Tom as a general style is indeed sweeter and less juniper-y than London Dry. It was the most popular type of gin before Prohibition, so it works really well in classic cocktails - especially the sweet ones (Martinez, Tom Collins, etc.) If you're willing to spring a little more money, though, the Ransom Old Tom is great - it's barrel aged, so it has a really complex flavor.
Seagram's is my rail gin of choice. I like it better than both Gordon's and New Amsterdam. I've never tried Plymouth, simply because I haven't gotten around to it - at that price point I'd rather buy Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray.
So far I've settled on Campari and St. Germain (my boyfriend LOVES it) for sure, along with likely Seagram's. It's just hard to decide what to get for the best versatility right now with a limited budget- my impression is that an Old Tom wouldn't be nearly as versatile as a London Dry, but I was looking for a lower-juniper gin to go in Pegu Clubs and Aviations (hence trying Seagram's after thinking Beefeater was too strong), so I don't know. The Martinez is a huge favorite among my friends, but I make them sweet using Robert Hess's 2 oz sweet vermouth to 1 oz gin recipe, so I'm sure I'd have to adjust the sweetness downward if using an Old Tom.