Recommended Brands

That’s a nice list, Dan — Robert Hess,
author of  The Essential Bartender’s Guide

We've accumulated recommendations from many sources, including first hand. Taste and personal preferences sway choices heavily, particularly above the economy level. Feel free to add comments with suggestions.

Product Economy Everyday Premium
Absinthe Herbsaint (not true absinthe) Lucid  
Amari Luxardo Bitter (Campari knock-off) Campari, Cynar, Fernet Branca (strong menthol), Averna or Ramazzotti. Other amari recommendations Sibilia (superb, strongly bitter), dell'Erborista
Aquavit   Linie  
Bitters Angostura, Peychaud's, Regans' Orange #6   Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bokers, Bittermens Xocaltl Mole
Bourbon Old Grand Dad 114, Evan Williams Black, Elijah Craig, Jim Beam, Ezra Brooks Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, Knob Creek, Bulleit (heavy rye), Maker's Mark George T. Stagg
Cachaça Cachaca 51, Mae de Ouro   Leblon
Calvados Le Compte, Morin Selection, Laird's Bonded (apple brandy) Daron Groult, Domaine L. Dupont
Cognac Paul Masson VSOP (brandy), Foret VSOP (French brandy) Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva (Spanish brandy), Camus VS, Landy VS, Marie Duffau Bas (Armagnac) Pierre Ferrand Ambre (10), Landy VSOP Martell XO and Cordon Blue, Germain Robin Craft Method (not cognac)
Gin, London Dry Gordons Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay, Bombay Sapphire (soft), Martin Miller's Hendrick's (cucumber, low juniper)
Gin, other   Plymouth, Bols Genever (gin precursor) Ransom Old Tom (heavy spice)
Irish Whiskey   Clontarf black label Redbreast
Liqueurs Marie Brizzard Apry (apricot), Marie Brizzard Crème de Cacao (chocolate) Benedictine (herbal), Green Chartreuse (herbal), Cointreau (orange), Luxardo Maraschino (funky), Rothman & Winter or Bitter Truth Crème de Violette. Many Giffard liqueurs are excellent, as desired. Leopold Maraschino (cherry, funky)
Mezcal   Del Maguey Vida, Sombra Del Maguey (other), Illegal Mezcal
Ouzo   Sans Rival  
Pisco Barsol   Campo de Encanto
Rum, light Cruzan 2 year (Virgin Islands), Brugal white (Dominican Republic) Appleton white (Jamaica) Wray & Nephew Overproof (Jamaica, 63% ABV)
Rum, amber Ron del Barralito 3 star (Puerto Rico), Curzan Dark (Virgin Islands), Brugal Añejo (Dominican Republic) Appleton V/X (Jamaica), Barbancourt 5 star (Haini), Cruzan Single Barrel (Virgin Islands) Flor de Cana (Nicaragua), 10 Cane (Trinidad, agricole)
Rum, dark El Dorado 5 (English style), Flor de Cana 7 (Spanish style), Gosling's Black Seal (Bermuda, not so dark), Meyers (Jamaica)   Ron Zacapa Centenario (Guatemala, sweet)
Rum, special Cruzan Blackstrap (Virgin Islands, heavy molasses), Old Monk (India, dark, funky) La Favorite Blanc (rhum agricole) Smith & Cross (Jamaica, 57% ABV, complex), Batavia Arrack van Oosten (Indonesia, funky, not true rum, 50% ABV)
Rye Old Overholt Rittenhouse 100, Sazerac 6 year, Bulleit, Redemption, Wild Turkey Whistle Pig, Thomas Handy
Scotch, blended White Horse, William, Grant's, Teacher's, Famous Grouse, Ballentine's    
Scotch, Islay   Bowmore Legend Lagavulin 16, Talisker (Isle of Skye)
Scotch, other single malt   Aberlour 10 (Speyside), Glenfarclas 10 (Speyside), Auchentoshan Select (Lowland), Balvenie Doublewood Oban 14 (West Highland), Highland Park 12 (Islands, Orkney)
Syrups Simple (homemade), dark simple (homemade using raw sugar or molasses) B. G. Reynolds Orgeat, Small Hands Orgeat  
Tequila El Jimador, Lunazul, Milagro, El Grito, Puebo Viejo Suaza Hornitos, Cazadores, Partida, Siempre Azul, Siete Leguas El Tesoro, Cinaco, Don Roberto, Ocho
Vermouth & friends   Dolin dry, Dolin blanc, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Punt e Mes (bitter), Bonal Gentiane Quina Carpano Antica
Vodka Smirnoff, Sobieski, Svedka, Pinnacle Tito's, Russian Standard Platinum (We don't recommend high-priced vodkas.)

Other brand resources:

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Comments

Absinthe (Everyday and Premium)

It appears that no changes have been made to the absinthe recommendations on this list, so here's my suggestions.

Add to "Everyday", Duplais Verte, imported by Tempus Fugit. It's a really solidly made, balanced and accurate profile that works very predictably in cocktails, as well as in a traditional drip.

My call for "Premium" would be Vilya (Ridge) Extrait d’Absinthe Verte, and Pacific Distillery Pacifique Absinthe Verte Supérieure for vertes. For blanches, I would recommend Artemisia-Bugnon Distillery "La Clandestine" Absinthe Superieure for a classically styled Swiss blanche, and Vilya (Ridge) Extrait d’ Absinthe Blanche for a more French/Internationally styled offering.

The Duplias is a little questionable in the "Everyday" category, since it is typically a little more money than most of my "Premium" suggestions. I included it there because it performs at the upper end of that level from a quality standpoint.

I made my "Premium" suggestions based on absolutely superior performance and quality, correct typicity, and reasonable availability. They all enjoy as wide a distribution as any top quality offering currently available in the US. While I would have agreed with the former comment on the Delaware Phoenix absinthes at the time, they enjoy no widespread availability (they are available only in New York, or through New York retailers that will ship), and the last time I looked at them it seemed to me that the quality has slipped a bit. They are still very good but, in my opinion, not at the current level of the Vilya (Ridge) and the Pacifique.

General Thoughts

sjdiaz21's picture

For light rums i think Flor de Cana Extra Dry is a nice touch, especially in daiquiris. A nice premium dark Zaya Gran Reserva 12 Year (Guatemala). As for Rye premium (Ri)1 Rye is particularly a favorite. Premium Tequila I would have to go with Don Julio Anejo. This is a really nice list Kindred Cocktails has set up. It's nice you also have some outside resources listed as well. Ever think about having a section for general liqueurs? Understandable if not since their are so many different ones out there, but the most popular like orange, peach, specialty (creme de violette/yvette, kummel, etc.) would be nice to some looking for quality low end to high end like Cointreau, etc. Thanks for listening!

Russian Standard Vodka

Dan's picture

I received an e-mail from a Latvian aficionado of vodka who strongly recommends the moderately-priced Russian Standard (Standart) Platinum vodka. I added it as an everyday choice as it is not premium priced.

Absinthe (Premium) Suggestion

rwilde's picture

I would definitely recommend Delaware Phoenix (http://www.delawarephoenix.com/) Walton Waters or Meadow of Love. Personally I am partial to the Meadow of Love, but both are awesome.

Walton Waters 68% Alc./Vol. (136 proof) — 750 ml
Many consider this the most traditional of my absinthes. The core six herbs are grand wormwood, anise, fennel, roman wormwood, hyssp, and lemon balm. The seventh herb is lemon thyme. You can find reviews at the Wormwood Society. F. Paul Pacult in the September 2009 issue of Spirits Journal rated Walton Waters "Recommended".

Meadow of Love 68% Alc./Vol. (136 proof) — 750 ml
The Meadow of Love is referred to as a more floral, feminine, and drier absinthe. The core six herbs are grand wormwood, anise, fennel, roman wormwood, hyssp, and lemon balm in different proportions than the Walton Waters. The seventh herb is violet. You can find reviews at the Wormwood Society. F. Paul Pacult in the September 2009 issue of Spirits Journal rated MoL "Highly Recommended".

A nice list to start with.

tanstaafl2's picture

A nice list to start with. Might be worthwhile to add some additional subcategories such as you have done with whisky. Depends on if you are a "lumper" or a "splitter" I suppose. Could add Rhum Agricole as a category and perhaps split tequila (maybe not as much for mezcal) into blanco, reposado and anejo/extra anejo. Some brands of tequila tend to be stronger in one category than another for example. I think Espolon, especially the reposado, would be a good addition but it is hard to categorize because it has the quality to be an everday option at least for mixing but at the very least it definitely is a good economy choice.

vodka & scotch

svedka and pinnacle are both handy budget brands to have on hand. i think tito's is more everyday--you won't be hurting yourself by only adding a squeeze of lime and a splash of tonic. can't say i really go in for the premium vodkas, but grey goose is by far our best seller. hangar one if you want something more unique.

budget single malt can be hard to come by, but glenfarclas if fairly affordable. auchentoshen if you want something just a touch sweeter--their select is $30-$35.

vodka

jatryme's picture

I've really come to enjoy Reyka Vodka; it has a wonderful smoothness that's surprising at its price point, and l enjoy the subtle sweetness you get from a wheat spirit

Everyday Single Malts

DrunkLab's picture

Glenmorangie 10 and Old Pulteney 12 are also good values in that price range.

Blended Scotch

DrunkLab's picture

Bank Note is a great workhorse blend that's 40% malt and a fantastic value at $20 or under a liter (!).

vodka

I'm not a vodka guy either, but the Hangar One (Buddha's Hand) is quite interesting, and I like Ketel One also, actually think that is a worth a minor splurge for a vodka martini. The really expensive ones seem pretty tasteless to me.

First cut

Dan's picture

Here is a first-cut at some recommended brands. They may or not be the best, or the most suited to your taste, but they should all be solid choices that are unlikely to disappoint. Feedback welcomed.