Following the comments in one of yesterday’s posts, Young Reader Hank F. emails and asks:
“What would YOU consider a decently-stocked liquor cabinet?”
I’m not going to comment on quantities, because that depends on personal / family consumption levels (e.g. whenever Son&Heir comes over, all my beer magically disappears, while when Daughter and Fiance visit, my gin supply gets absolutely devastated).
Likewise, what you keep on hand depends on what you, and any likely visitors, may prefer.
I grew up during a time when not having a selection — whereby a visitor wouldn’t find at least a second- or third choice of liquor — would be regarded as poor hosting. So here are my thoughts:
- Blended Scotch a.k.a. “drinking in quantity / with a mixer” Scotch. Two bottles should suffice.
- Single-malt Scotch: I have quite a few, but one bottle each of two or three different brands should do likewise.
- Irish Whiskey: like blended Scotch, this can be mixed at will.
- Ordinary gin: not everyone likes gin (poor fools), but as long as you have one brand to be mixed with tonic or whatever, you’ll be okay.
- Sipping gin: like single malt Scotch, you only need one or two.
- Brandy: I only keep South African brandy on hand, but good luck finding it outside Seffrica. (I’ve found that Spanish brandy is actually quite drinkable with a mixer, especially when compared to Californian brandy, which is uniformly dreadful).
- Rum: I like the dark, spicy kind, which makes the best Cuba Libre (rum ‘n Coke) for serious drinking.
- Bourbon: I don’t drink this much (or at all), but it’s like blended Scotch — mix it with anything. or nothing.
- Vodka: get a cheap brand like Smirnoff for mixed drinks.
- Tequila: I’ll admit to not knowing diddly about this Mexican stuff, as I only ever drink it in margaritas.
- Vermouth: only if you plan on serving martinis .
- Liqueurs: you’ll need quite a few because of the taste range, but really only a bottle of each: Kahlua / Tia Maria (coffee), Amaretto (nut), Drambuie (whisky), Cointreau / Grand Marnier (orange), Godiva (chocolate), Midori (melon), Chambord (raspberry), and so on. I love the hard-to-find Mandarin Napoleon (mandarin orange, duh), but most people find it way too sweet.
- Port: here we have the dry / sweet / semi-sweet divide (ruby, tawny, muscat etc.), but anything by Taylor, Fonseca, Sandeman’s or Warre will impress. For an “everyday after-dinner” port, the Australian(!) Cockburn Fine Ruby is excellent.
- Sherry: As with port; but Harvey’s Bristol Cream is the J&B of sherries: just about everyone likes it. Dry Sack isn’t bad, either.
So, to summarize: if like Reader Hank I were starting from scratch to create an Everyman liquor cabinet (i.e. without the high-end sipping stuff, but with brands of decent quality which you wouldn’t be ashamed to serve), it would contain one or two brands from each of the following categories (and everything depends on how it tastes to you):
Scotch: J&B / Famous Grouse / Dewar’s
Irish: Bushmill’s / Jameson’s / Tullamore Dew
Gin: Tanqueray / Bombay Sapphire
Vodka: Ketel One / Grey Goose
Bourbon: Maker’s Mark / Knob Creek / Jack Daniel’s / Jim Beam
Tequila: Jose Cuervo Gold (dark) / Patron Silver (white)
Rum: Myer’s Dark / Captain Morgan Spiced / Wray & Nephew White
Sherry: Harvey’s Bristol Cream
Port: Sandeman’s Rich Ruby / Cockburn’s Fine Ruby
Liqueur: Kahlua, DiSaronna Amaretto, Grand Marnier and Bailey’s Irish Cream.
If you wanted to extend your cabinet by adding some sipping liquors (one or two brands only, and once again without nosebleed prices):
Scotch: Glenmorangie Original 10-year-old / Aberlour 12-year-old
Brandy: Courvoisier XO
Gin: Sipsmith / No. 3 London Dry
Rum: Pusser’s 15-year-old / Gosling’s Dark
Vodka: Belvedere / Grey Goose
Tequila: Patron Extra Anejo (I was told by the Son&Heir)
Bourbon: Barrell / Rabbit Hole Dareringer
There you have it. As everyone has their own opinions about booze — which is a Good Thing — feel free to add your suggestions in Comments. But I don’t think the above would be a selection that Reader Hank would be ashamed of.