Let's Talk Booze

So many bottles, so little time!

“I’m here to kick ass and drink whiskey. And Pilgrim, I’m out of whiskey.”

– John Wayne

Let’s Talk Booze...

Five different bottles of Rum on kitchen counter
Five different bottles of Rum on kitchen counter

When purchasing alcohol, you don't have to buy the most expensive brands or bottles, but I do avoid the cheap ones, especially when it comes to the base spirits - Tequila, Gin, Rum, Bourbon, Whiskey, and Brandy. More on this later. Vodka - not so much since it is practically tasteless. I refuse to pay up for vodka, especially because I never drink it straight.

Assorted liquor bottles and liqueurs in a liquor cabinet
Assorted liquor bottles and liqueurs in a liquor cabinet

What's In Your Liquor Cabinet?

Some of my favorite bottles. I need a bigger cabinet, and more shelves!

Booze You Can Use...

Tequila… There are, for the most part, three distinct types to choose from: Blanco, Repasado, and Anejo. Think of them as “Basic”, such as a frozen margarita, “Very good”, served in a fine cocktail or just on the rocks, and “Extremely good” – think “sipping neat by the fireplace!” Get yourself a bottle of each, along with a bottle of Mezcal, which if you’ve never had it, is like Tequila if it was in a house fire - very smoky! It is an acquired taste. I would suggest starting with lesser amounts, mixed with Tequila.

Pro Tip… Look for tequilas that don't use fillers and additives and try to avoid celebrity brands. Some quality names include Cazcanes, El Tequileño, Espolon, Fortaleza, Herradura, Siete Leguas, Tequila Ocho…

Gin… Your purchases here will depend on how much you enjoy the taste of gin. If you are a gin lover, you can go crazy. Personally, I like to just keep two or three brands on hand - whatever is on sale at the time, along with Empress 1908 Indigo Gin for the quality and beautiful blue to purple color. Some quality names include Hendrick's, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Plymouth, The Botanist, Roku...

Rum… You have so many distinct types to choose from. I like to keep a bottle of light rum, dark rum, spiced rum, an over-proof rum, an aged Jamaican and Barbados rum, and a Demerara rum from Guyana on hand at all times! Coconut rum is also a must, but it is really more of a liqueur than it is an actual rum. This may seem like overkill, and it probably is, but once you start making cocktails, you will want to try all of these!

Bourbon and Whiskey… I always keep my three favorite bourbons on hand: Michters, Woodford Reserve, and a much-underrated Wild Turkey 101 - it is incredibly smooth! You will need a bottle of Rye, Irish whiskey, and if you want one for sipping, get Redbreast 12 or 15. A bottle of blended scotch whiskey comes in handy, along with Drambuie. And I like to keep one bottle of American whiskey on hand - Jack Daniels fits the spot. But believe it or not, after making almost 200 different cocktails, I have only used it once!

Pro Tip… When making a cocktail that contains sweet or fruity ingredients try to use your higher proof bourbons and whiskeys – 100 proof and higher. Save your lower proof bottles, in the 80-proof range, for simpler cocktails. Doing the opposite will deliver either an over-powered, alcohol-forward drink, or an underwhelming, weak drink!

Back to Vodka… As stated earlier, since I don’t sip vodka, I only keep one bottle of a basic vodka on hand. When mixed in cocktails you really can't tell the difference. Now there are dozens of flavored vodkas, which were extremely popular in the 80s, and they can come in handy. But for the most part, I only use three of them: Citron, Vanilla, and Whipped.

Brandy and Cognac… I always thought this was the stuff only rich, old snobs drank sitting on leather chairs in dark rooms while smoking cigars and discussing the market. But my God, this stuff is delicious! And there are a bunch of great cocktails that call for the two.

Did You Know… Brandy and Cognac are basically the same thing, except cognac must come from the Cognac region of France and adhere to stricter distillation standards. So, cognac is to brandy what champagne is to sparkling wine. Popular brands include Hennessy, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, and Martell.

Cognac Continued… I like to keep a bottle of VS and VSOP cognac on hand. VS = Very Special. VSOP = Very Superior Old Pale. I wait for the good names to go on sale. There is another category: XO = Extra Old. This is the top of the line, aged cognac, meant for sipping, and it is expensive! I've never had it!

Brandy Adjacent… I also suggest getting a bottle of Laird’s Applejack brandy, Apricot brandy, and DOM Benedictine. They are all delicious and used in a bunch of great cocktails! The DOM Benedictine has a silky-smooth honey and spice flavor.

Did You Know… The secret recipe of Benedictine supposedly dates back to 1510 and was based on local medicinal plants enhanced by oriental spices. Drinking Dom Benedictine before meals will supposedly regulate gastrointestinal activities and strengthen them.

Champagne/Prosecco/Red Wine… I like to keep at least one bottle of Champagne, Prosecco, and Red Wine on hand at all times. They come in handy for impromptu celebrations, holiday parties, and are also used in quite a few cocktails, including the Aperol Spritz, the French 75, the New York Sour, and the Devil's Margarita, just to name a few.

Liqueurs, Mixers, & Sweeteners…