(Results of samples tested directly from a room terperature bottle)
- Spirits Overview (*.pdf)
- Flavored Spirits (*.pdf)
- Fortified and Unusual Wines (*.pdf)
The Low Budget Mixing Bar
Prices for alcoholic beverages seem to be increasing on a quarterly basis. Still, if you can budget up to $40 for a 750ml bottle, you can assemble a very nice home bar. But what can you do though if you are on a tight budget, and can only afford to spend half that amount (a maximum of $20 for a 750ml bottle)? Well, you may not be able to acquire a few of the top-drawer sipping spirits; but with thoughtful selection, you can assemble a very respectable home mixing bar.
Don't ever forget that your goal is to please yourself. Is there only one beverage you like to consume? If that is the case, then don't scrimp. Buy exactly the label you want, regardless if it costs more than $20. A one bottle bar of a beverage you enjoy is far better than a multi-bottle bar of beverages you merely tolerate.
Once you have your personal bottle, you can now focus on beverages for entertaining. Think about the total cost of a drink. A Neat drink may cost more for the alcohol, but a mixed drink using a lower cost alcohol for the base may come to almost the total cost of the Neat drink when you factor in the cost of all the additives (vermouth, olive, etc.). For this reason, it may be more cost effective, and far easier for the amateur bartender to serve-up as well, if you stock Liqueurs, or even quality Flavored Spirits, rather than traditional Spirits with all their innumerable mixed drink fixings.
If you do go the traditional Spirits route, consider also when choosing that some labels which rate highly as a Neat drink may in fact be poor candidates for mixed drinks. Their flavor may be too subtle to compete with the additives. Conversely, their flavor may be so distinct that they overpower, or taste incompatible, with many additives. Also bear in mind that Vodka, unike most of the other common Spirits, functions in a manner more like a mixing additive than a base component. While the other Spirits have a distinct flavor, to which additives are mixed-in to change the taste; Vodka is essentially added to a flavorful beverage, in order to give the beverage an alcoholic "kick".
See the "Spirits Overview" document above for a listing of several tasty budget mixing spirits (with their cost at testing time). Enjoy.