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May 11, 2013 06:46 PM

Inherited a well-stocked liquor cabinet; now what?

First, let me say, I am more of a wine and gin gal. At home, I mostly drink gin martinis, gin and tonics, and wine. I also love margaritas when I go out, but I've never been able to make a good one at home.

I have two cocktail books (The Bartender's Bible by Gary Regan and The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale Degroff) but am a little overwhelmed by all the choices.

I'm hoping you can suggest some great cocktails I can make with any of the following bottles. Additionally, any insight you can give me regarding the quality of the liquors is appreciated, as I'm not sure which ones if any are really great and should be for sipping, and which are better used in mixed cocktails. I especially need help with whiskeys/whiskys, as I know next-to-nothing about them.

Finally, I have no idea how long most of these bottles have been in the cabinet. Some, particularly the whiskeys, could possibly have been in there from the 1960s, and some may have been purchased within the last 7-10 years. What is the shelf life of these bottles, particularly the misc. liqueurs on my list?

Here is what I have:

Jose Cuervo Especial
Patron Reposado
Sauza Blanco
Herradura Blanco
Corralejo Reposado

MEZCAL: Monte Alban (1/2 full, bought in Mexico mid-late 1970s)

Bushmills Irish Whiskey
Chivas Regal Blended Scotch
White Horse Blended Scotch
The Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch
Makers Mark Bourbon
Jack Daniels
J&B Blended Scotch
Johnnie Walker Black Label

Bacardi Light
Mount Gay Eclipse
Sailor Jerry Spiced Naval Rum
Myers Original Dark Rum
Cruzan Aged Rum


BRANDY: Raynal and E&J, both VSOP

Ketel One
Blavod Black Vodka

Tanqueray Ten

Luxardo Maraschino
Creme de Violette
Creme de Cacao
Triple Sec
Patron Citronage
St. Germaine (I add a splash to Champagne)
Peach Schnapps
Dry Vermouth

Fee Bros. Old Fashioned

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  1. Buy a bunch of limes and make caipirinhas with the cachaca.

    1. That's quite the haul to inherit.

      Unopened bottles of liquor have an extremely long shelf-life and should still be good 40 years later if they were stored in reasonable conditions. Opened bottles should last a few years, but can lose some flavor. Opened liqueurs should probably be dumped if they're more than 5-7 years old or so (except for 80 proof ones like Cointreau and Drambuie), as they can lose their quality. If unsure, try a small sip and if it tastes off then you can dump the bottle. If the vermouth is opened, that is one thing you should discard.

      Some classic cocktails that you may want to try as a starting point:
      Old Fashioned
      Rusty Nail
      Whiskey Sour
      Tom Collins
      Gin Rickey

        1. Thanks for your responses. I made Caipirinhas last night and drank a couple of Aviation Cocktails earlier this evening. Both were big hits. The link to the old spirits discussion was interesting and useful. Thank you.

          1 Reply
          1. re: brandygirl

            Invited to a party Saturday afternoon, the hosts and guests being Brasilian. What to bring ?

            Cachaca ? A nice aged Ypioca, perhaps. No, that might be insulting, like bringing sand to the beach. I settled on two good wines from Chile.

            What followed was an all day BBQ of Picanha (sirloin cap) and Linguca, plus salad, fruit, manjioca (Garca-style) and more fruit.

            The wine ? Straight into the collection, unopened.I wasn't crushed, but a bit sad.

            The drinks ? Caiprinihas, of course, and being known for my bar skills, would I mind making them ? Here is the wooden cylinder, and muddler. So get going.

            I made 5 pitchers full in 5 hours, using cane sugar, Tahiti limes, ice, and ................................ the huge bottle of cheap Cachaca 51 on hand. The one that used to sell for R$ 5.00 on the bottom shelf at the market.

            Making it sweet, all was well. And to compliments, I might add.

            Pinga: You never know at a party.