Sure, there are plenty of drink recipes requiring premium or even super-premium spirits, but many professional bartenders stock a selection of tried-and-true (and very affordable) brands that they use more often than not. We asked a trio of top mixologists for some of their favorites. You might be surprised at what they keep in their well.
While you could spend $100 on a bottle of rye whiskey, Angel Negrin at Veranda on Highland in Birmingham, Ala., prefers the spicy and reasonable Jim Beam Rye ($20) for making cocktails like the Whiskey Sour. And for Scotch-based beverages, including the Blood & Sand, Negrin pours blended whiskies that are a relative bargain: Dewar’s White Label ($22) and Famous Grouse ($22).
When it comes to gin, Jason Littrell, consultant at Manhattan’s JBird Cocktails, has two default brands that are both pretty inexpensive: Beefeater ($18) for spirit-forward concoctions like Martinis and Tanqueray ($20) for citrusy tipples like the Gimlet.
Trying to find a 100-percent-blue-agave tequila for under $30 used to be rather difficult, but not anymore. H. Joseph Ehrmann likes Espolón Blanco ($25). It’s “one of the best values out there right now,” says the Liquor.com advisory board member and owner of San Francisco saloon Elixir.
“With rum,” Littrell says, “price has nothing to do with quality.” He’s a fan of Denizen ($16) for Daiquiris, while both Negrin and Ehrmann reach for Mount Gay Eclipse ($18) when they need an aged bottling.
For vodka creations, Ehrmann often goes with old standby Smirnoff ($15) or up-and-comer Tito’s Handmade ($20).
So on your next trip to the liquor store, shop like the pros. Great drinks don’t have to leave you penniless.