Need recs for spirits for mixing classic cocktails (brandy, cognac, rye, whiskey, bourbon, apricot brandy)
We currently have Maker's Mark bourbon (and a mini of Knob Creek).....stick with those or is there something better? Old Weller or Woodford maybe?? Prefer sweet & smooth
For the rye I was thinking of Old Overholt because its cheap and gotten good reviews ;)
No ideas on the brandy , cognac or whiskey (can I just use bourbon when a recipe calls for "whiskey")?
Apricot brandy....I have available Leroux, Hiram Walker and Jacquins OR I could use Rothman Winter Orchard Apricot instead. See another recipe calls for peach brandy.....same brands available
If you are going for historical accuracy, many cocktail recipes (like the Manhattan) should use rye instead of bourbon when they call for whiskey. Try both and see which you like better.
As to rye brands, Old Overholt can certainly work, but won't have the same level of punch as Wild Turkey or Rittenhouse Bonded. It depends on whether taste or cost is your primary concern. The second two can also be hard to find on shelves recently so you might be forced to go with one of the more expensive or newer bottlings if you want something a step up from Overholt.
For brandy, I like to use a VSOP cognac, as it just makes the drink taste a lot better. Pierre Ferrand Ambre has been my favorite so far.
For apricot liqueur the Rothman & Winter is what you want.
For bourbon, I would suggest using what you like for sipping. I like Woodford and have been using that recently, but I have also seen people suggest getting a cheap handle of something like Jim Beam as it will still make for a tasty Mint Julep or Whiskey Sour.
Makers Mark is a fine mixing bourbon. My go-to is Elijah Craig, which is great neat and also in cocktails, plus, in Montgomery County it's usually about $18. Of course your preference should be the first consideration, but just as a thought, I'd stay away from an overly sweet, wheated bourbon like Weller for general cocktail use. A lot of classic bourbon cocktails are built around offsetting the dry, woody notes of bourbon with a sweetener, such as simply syrup, Italian vermouth, etc... That said, Weller is a really nice little sipper for a great price. If you like a sweeter bourbon that is wonderfully smooth and a good value, I'd heartily recommend Buffalo Trace, which is one of my favorite bourbons.
For rye, I use Rittenhouse exclusively. It's cheap and is fairly widely available around here. It has more rye bite than Overholt, which I find sweeter and thinner in flavor. I have no idea about peach brandy. Perhaps the best idea there would just be too make your own. Summer is approaching and peaches should be in farmers' markets in a few months. I'm looking forward to trying my hand at fruit brandies for the firs time this year.
Basically, yeah...if it calls for whiskey, use bourbon. That said, most recipes in a good cocktail book will be a little more specific than that.
Brandy is used a lot in old cocktails. It's worth pointing out that brandy and cognac are essentially the same. The main difference is that cognac is produced in a particular region in France, and hence is allowed to use the appellation, Cognac. Landy VSOP is around $22 a bottle up here and seems to be on sale every few months at around $18, so I stick with that. It blends well and is quite tasty on its own. St. Remy VSOP has also proved acceptable.
I sucked it up and bought the bottle of R&W Apricot liqueur. Along with Marie Brizzard (which can be tricky to find) it seems to receive very favorable reviews. I'm happy with it. I don't find it overly sweet and it definitely tastes like apricot fruit, and not some artificially flavored simulacra.
re: The Big Crunch
I've never had the basic Weller (but I love the Old Weller Antique 107), so I can't compare it to Maker's - but I find Maker's to be about the sweetest and blandest of the not-cheap bourbons I have tried. It is more expensive here than either Old weller or Elijah craig 12 yr so I have never bought an entire bottle, just a couple nips. I would much rather mix either of them and get a more spicy Bourbon taste.
The basic Weller is fairly sweet. Not sure you'd care for it, though I haven't had the Antique, so I really can't compare. For around $17 a bottle, which is what it sells for around here, it's a very nice, smooth, easy sipping bourbon. Not terribly interesting, but also quite quaffable.
Just curious, have you tried the new Makers 46? It's a lot drier and woodier than the regular Makers, and IMO, a better bourbon.
re: The Big Crunch
No I haven't tried it yet, too expensive here at $39 - I am planning to pick up a bottle when I vacation in Orlando this summer, where Total wine has it for $26.
Old weller is a fairly spicy Bourbon, you wouldn't know it is wheated. I can get it on sale for around $19 here so I have never bothered to try the lower offering.
re: The Big Crunch
I'm new to this myself and interested to hear what others say, but I recommend against Old Overholt. For a few dollars more, get Wild Turkey 101- apparently OO used to be good but the formula was changed recently- it's pretty bland compared to the WT.
A lot of classics use gin- you'll need that also if you don't have it already.