Top Five: Cheap Booze

Categories: Booze, Top Five

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After mastering a tartly correct margarita three years ago, I decided to keep going, and make every classic cocktail that doesn't involve weird liquor. Sixty-nine, so far.

As I searched bartending sites, mixology blogs, culinary forums, print stuff and liquor reviews, these bottles of gin, vodka, rum, whiskey and rye were most often cited by professionals as the best bottles for $20 or less.

5. Sobieski Vodka
All vodka does not taste alike, and for a smooth, cool burn while drinking it straight, look to pay big money for Grey Goose and Absolut advertising. But the subtleties get lost when mixing vodka, and Poland's favorite, Sobieski, with a faint taste of rye and no hint of rubbing alcohol, is an amazing bargain at $10 for 750ml at Spec's.

4. Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey, 100 Proof
If you order a Sazerac in New Orleans, you'll probably get Old Overholt, another low-priced rye. With the Great Cocktail Revival came the ascendancy of stronger and tastier Rittenhouse 100, and the demand for Manhattans so great that many cities ran out of Rittenhouse before a new batch could be properly aged. It is now back on the shelf at Tony K's Liquors (2720 Bissonnet) for $20 per 750ml.


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24 comments
Guest
Guest

I've been drinking bourbon since I was 7, and I've tried pretty much every distiller there is.  I believe I know what I'm talking about.  You cannot beat Jim Beam for price and quality.  A handle (1.75l) is $22.00 - and it beats almost all "boutique bourbons" by a long shot:  Maker's Mark, Knob Creek, etc...  In a blind taste test against other bourbons, Jim Beam ranks 1st over 80% of the time, regardless what brand it's tasted against.  Bourbon snobs may pooh-pooh that, but let them stand the challenge - they'll pick Jim Beam.  The one "boutique bourbon" that consistently ranks higher than plain ol' Jim Beam?  Booker's.  127.5 proof, and as smooth as the ass on a $1000 hooker - bottled by Booker Noe, the great-great-grandson of James Beam. 

Corkwriter
Corkwriter

When did $20 a fifth get to be "Cheap" booze?

Derrick Hewitt
Derrick Hewitt

Sobieski is a great Vodka, and for the price it became the "House" vodka at my bar. At only about $1-$2 more per bottle than our previous "House" vodka it was a no brainer and the customer satisfaction and compliments are great. Other bars in by area pour Sobieski as a call drink but I prefer to offer quality over just making an extra buck on a drink. On of the best deals on tequila, at the moment, is Espolon. Espolon is 100% pure agave tequila and gos for around $20 for 750ml. 

Putzarino
Putzarino

pssh. buffalo trace. for 6 dollars more you can get knob creek, a far superior Bourbon.

hollykate
hollykate

Flor de Caña and Ron Matusalem are my favorite rums. You should also try Tom Sims bourbon (aged 6 years). I think it's about $10 a Spec's, but worth at least twice as much.

That Email
That Email

If you order a sazerac in new orleans, you will get sazerac rye whiskey.  You will not get well whiskey for a drink that is 95% whiskey, you get the actual product.    http://www.sazerac.com/cocktai...

Kylejack
Kylejack

Bulleit 95% Rye has replaced Rittenhouse for me as a cheap awesome rye whiskey. 750 ml is $24 and it is far better than Rittenhouse, imo.

Mark W.
Mark W.

Bloomberg Business Week did an article regarding that sub-$20 vodka does not mean it's bad vodka, it's just brand names like Grey Goose may not mean much any longer especially if you're making screw driver or something else.

http://www.businessweek.com/ma...

Theo Shu
Theo Shu

These are all awesome recs. I'd swap out Beefeater for Citadelle, which is $20.34 at Specs. I also have seen Wild Turkey rye at Fiesta Liquor for under $20 (Rittenhouse bonded can be hard to find sometimes). I can't speak to the vodka, but I had a co-worker who told me he used to run the el cheapo crap through a Brita filter. Charcoal filtered!

Nishta
Nishta

I so love Flor de Cana.  it allowed me to make up with rum after many years of estrangement.

iowaap
iowaap

agree wholeheartedly on Beefeater and Flor da Cana.  Monopolova is an excellent vodka value

Kylejack
Kylejack

I have some Booker's and love it, but your sycophancy over Jim Beam products raises my eyebrow.  And what's with the hooker simile?

Kyle Nielsen
Kyle Nielsen

True, where are the writers who will weigh the virtues of Night Train vs. Cisco vs. MD 20/20? *dismissive wanking motion*

Al
Al

I guess you didn't read the title of the article

AlexanderF
AlexanderF

The rye used is very much a function of the bartender and the incentives the bar manager has to push a particular brand. The Roosevelt's Sazerac Bar used Wild Turkey Rye 101 -- their senior bartender suggested the higher proof provided a better balance.

It appears that in the remodel, Sazerac Rye is now prominently displayed. I'm curious what they default to now vs. what the bartenders would recommend. http://www.therooseveltneworle...

The Columns also used 101 last time I checked, but admittedly that was before the young Sazerac rye was widely distributed. Guess I need to go "research".

John Kiely
John Kiely

The reviews, including yours, look very strong coming out of the gate...could be the new regime in rye.  Thanks, Kylejack!

John Kiely
John Kiely

Grey Goose and Absolut were cited most often as "smooth".  Less frequently used terms were "bitter", "over-priced", and "sexy".

Curseofleisure
Curseofleisure

I agree about Citadelle. The impression I get is that it's actually priced quite a bit higher in other parts of the country. We are lucky it's such an amazing value here. Lovely stuff. Not the absolute best fit in all gin-based drinks, but I have tried it in many drinks where I felt it was the best example of that particular cocktail I had ever had.

Corkwriter
Corkwriter

Where are those writers? At saloons drinking top shelf hootch with auto mag scriveners who believe non-AMG Mercedes are a poor man's ride. Don't get me wrong, I got nothing against paying good money for the good sauce, but when a bourbon that costs $5-$6 a "fifth" more than Jack Daniels is called "cheap," I think it's the writer who needs an attitude adjustment.

As for Jim Beam. I did a taste test in Northern Ireland at the Bushmill's distillery where their product was compared with various whiskys and scotches. The Bourbon they chose to compete against them was Beam. (It lost, badly) And FYI, the least expensive Bushmill's was the winner in our taste-off. No, wait, we were.

iowapp
iowapp

Grey Goose is overpriced piss. It's ALSO been ranked among the WORST-tasting vodkas. It's all marketing.

Kyle Nielsen
Kyle Nielsen

All vodka is terrible and should be fired into the sun.

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