I am so grateful for the rain and drop in temperature, aren’t you? Let’s talk about booze!
There are a few things you should know before we get into specific spirits:
- Pre-mixed cocktail products are awful, overpriced, and artificial. Stop it.
- You can naturally infuse your own spirits, avoid buying them already flavored with chemicals.
- Margarita mix is awful, artificial, and yields a drink that tastes nothing like a real margarita. Sacrilege!
- “Diet” or “Skinny” products are only “skinny” because they have less alcohol. Also they taste awful and are overpriced.
Listen, I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life…but the thing is most of these brands are doing just that! Marketing is a HUGE part of spirit sales and it saddens me to see people spending their hard earned cash on nonsense. I think you deserve the best, and the best is not always the most expensive. With all spirits, I tend to go for brands that are of good quality, reasonable price point, and even better if they are hand-crafted. These are my go-to’s for stocking a basic collection at home:
- Vodka – There was a time that I drank martinis. Those days are gone, as I can no longer put down that quantity of vodka in one sitting without it getting warm., or me getting toasted. But, I still think vodka is a great vessel for flavors since it is a clear, neutral spirit. It can be distilled from wheat, barley, grain, corn, and even potatoes. It is very low in calories on it’s own, and If you are a fan of flavored vodka, by all means get into infusions! It is really easy, really cheap, and you can control the strength of the flavor. Also, it is more rewarding to consume your own homemade infusion than a chemical bomb that tastes nothing how you want it to. Did you know that “vodka” translates literally to “dear little water” in Russian?
Imported, Budget: Stolichnaya, Svedka / Imported, Splurge: Chopin, Finlandia, Ketel One / Domestic, Budget: Titos / Domestic, Splurge: LiV Vodka, Hangar One
Great infusions: Citrus zest, green tea & cucumber, peppers (for bloody marys; bell/jalapeno/serrano), lavender, basil & blueberry, split cherries & lime zest
- Gin – I really didn’t care for gin until about a year ago when I had my first Hendrick’s and soda with lemon. Previously I had only tried gin with tonic, and I in retrospect I realize that it was the tonic I didn’t care for. Tonic is really, really sweet which is not really what I’m into. I can see the appeal of the g&t but it’s simply not for me. Anyway, gin is a spirit distilled from barley, corn and/or rye that get’s its signature flavor from the addition of juniper berries. Other botanicals can be found in certain brands but the flavor must be predominantly from juniper for it to be called gin. After all, gin is derived from the french “genievre”, meaning juniper.
Imported, Budget: Beefeater, Plymouth / Imported, Splurge: The Botanist, Hendricks / Domestic Budget: NewAmsterdam / Domestic, Splurge: Leopolds, Aviation
- Rum – …holds a special place in my heart because I can’t get enough of the refreshing MOJITO. Anyone that knows me personally is aware that I have embraced it’s fame in the US, even after someone declared the fad “over”. Well, I’m not over them because they are delicious, and refreshing, and incredibly easy to make. Rum is distilled from sugar cane juice, or from molasses. Light rums are great for use in summery cocktails while “viejo” (old) or “anejo” (aged) rums are for sipping and enjoying like a good scotch. Medium-colored rums are great for infusing with rich spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla beans, etc. Last winter I infused a bottle of cheap dark rum with black tea, cardamom, and cloves. I spiked my hot cider with it all winter, and it’s one of the only reasons I am anticipating the return of the chill in the air.
Imported, Budget: Coruba, 1 Barrel, Bacardi (best for mojitos) / Imported, Splurge: The Kraken, Pyrat/ Domestic, Splurge: Cane & Abe, Sammy’s Beach Bar
So, funny story. Yesterday I kind of got a little…mean…about Patron. Lo and behold this morning I awoke to an e-mail from their Director of Corporate Communications who apparently was pretty upset that I used the word “abysmal” to describe the tequila. Ok, Patron. Maybe that wasn’t fair. After all, anything we consume is a matter of taste.
Anyway- as much as I wanted to raise my inner pitchfork and scream FREEDOM OF PRESS!, I realize that I value fairness and common decency too much to make a huge deal about it. So I took down the word abysmal. With that being said…Patron is still really expensive. Instead of talking smack on the big guy, I will redirect my focus on products I personally support and believe in. Tequila is such a misunderstood wallflower, and you guys already know how much I tend to love those. I think that media has given tequila a bad rep- making it seem like a dirty party animal lurking around the corner…waiting to kidnap you and take you to spincity. That’s totally on us, guys. Tequila doesn’t mess you up, you mess you up. When consumed responsibly, tequila shouldn’t affect you any differently than other spirits. Tequila must be made from the blue agave plant grown in a specific, government-designated area of Mexico and contain at least 51% fermented agave juice. Aged (“anejo”) tequilas are aged in oak barrels and should be sipped on their own.
Imported, Budget: Milagro Silver, Dos Manos Blanco / Imported, Splurge: Don Julio Blanco, El Tesoro Platinum
- Whisky/Whiskey/Bourbon/Scotch/Rye/Jesus how many of these things are there?!? This one is going to be saved for tomorrow, because good god is there a lot to talk about!
Tomorrow will also include some noteworthy liqueurs, garnishes, and what the heck is bitters???
I am now off to my roommate’s restaurant where I will be playing bartender for the evening to further my research! I bartended back in college for about 4 years, but it’s been a while so we’ll see how quickly I can pick it up again. More tomorrow, wish me luck!
p.s. please drink responsibly…no one wants to clean up after that guy.