As a bartender, many people often ask me “what is the best?” or “what is your favorite?” To answer these questions, I always ask the question, “what are you using it for?” Are you drinking it straight or making a cocktail? To address the latter I have decided to compile a list of some of my favorite (wallet friendly) spirits that I believe work well in many cocktail applications.
Let me say, as one of my esteemed colleagues has tattooed on his arm, that I am 'a whiskey man, with a particular fondness for gin.' I could talk all day about high-end rye whiskey, single malt scotch, or the subtle nuances and hints of different citrus notes a particular gin might have. It has also been rumored that I have had a few passionate love affairs with Kentucky bourbon, and Tennessee whiskey (not at the same time of course).
This list of base spirits should get you on the road to making many of the popular drinks out there today. A few of them work remarkably well for sippin’ too! I tried my best to keep everything below $25 with the majority under $20. As far as additional liqueurs, vermouths, juices, purees, spices, and syrups, the possibilities are endless. I cannot stress enough the importance of using fresh squeezed juices. A small hand held citrus-press is an affordable tool that will pay maximum dividends towards the end result. As far as sugar is concerned, I prefer unrefined demerara cubes. They add a silky richness you just can’t get from regular white sugar unless of course a recipe calls for superfine sugar (there is no sub for that).
Other tools that are a must: Boston shaker with mixing glass, Hawthorne strainer, mesh strainer, jiggers or oxo mini measuring cup, a solid barspoon, and muddler.
Ugly Dog $19.97
Broker's London Dry $17.98
St. Remy XO $14.98
Alto del Carmen $14.98
Blanco Cazadores $19.97
Reposado el Esponlon $19.52
White Flor De Cana Extra Dry $12.99
Dark / Black Cruzan Black Strap $13.95
Gold Don Q Anejo $17.98
Deau Artisan VS $19.97
Four Roses $18.97
Tebessee George Dickel #12 $21.97
American Rye Bulleit 95 $25.95
(sugar cane rum; popular in Brazil)
Ypioca Prata (1000ml) $27.94
Aromatic Angostura & Peychaud's $7-15
Orange Fee Bros. or Angostura $7-15
Dry Noilly Prat
Sweet Cinzano Rosso