Best Liquor Handles Under 30 Bucks
By Bruce Harris
Binge drinking isn’t just for college any more. No, as a functioning American adult it is just as important now to not only imbibe, but know your options. And to that end, FirstAndMonday has compiled a handy list of wallet friendly spirits to help you get your drunk on. Please note that prices are subject to change, but all the liquors listed should be in the $30 range for a 1.75 liter bottle, no matter when or where you choose to purchase.
Bourbon: OLD FITZGERALD PRIME BOURBON WHISKEY
Bourbon drinkers these days tend to be on the snobbish side, as their buzz of choice has suddenly and without warning supplanted both the scotch and mirco-brew beer markets as the “Hey, look at what an obscure libation I am sipping on” drink du jour. Options abound for top shelf bourbon choices, but what about when it comes to getting housed on a budget minded yet quality whiskey? Not so much.
Luckily, Old Fitz exists to fill this niche. This 80 proof whiskey, which is distilled in Louisville and is rather wheat strong (think of Maker’s Mark), may not stand up to use in mixed drinks, but as a straight sipper, it simply cannot be beat for the price. Honey, almond and citrus notes all join the party. Also, even though any priced Bourbon gives you some burn, if you send it down straight Old Fitz’s heat can still be described as smooth.
If you are heading to a party where you know you’ll find some bourbon drinkers, bring this along for the ride and set it down on the table with pride. Then laugh to yourself as the bourbon Hipsters try to figure out where you found such a rare treasure.
Rum: BACARDI GOLD PUERTO RICAN RUM
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. Sure, most rum connoisseurs would prefer Pusser’s any day of the week, but for the price range, Bacardi knows what the hell they are doing and they execute their game plan flawlessly. It should go without saying that you skip all the flavored and spiced varieties, unless you have some sort of sick hangover fetish. That leaves you two choices: White or Gold rum. If you are going to drink it over ice, with no mixer like a real man, then Gold is for you. Gold also pairs much better with Egg Nog than does the White variety, so do yourself a “flavor” and Go for the Gold!
This particular Bacardi offering features hints of vanilla, spices and oak. They claim it is a blend of 14 different rums and aged 3 to 5 years. But don’t you wait that long to try it. You have an office party coming up, so snag a handle of this rum and go see how wasted you can get Sally the Receptionist. From there, let the night be your guide.
Scotch: THE FAMOUS GROUSE
As an avid scotch drinker myself, I hesitate to ever recommend going cheap. Scotch is to be savored by the sip, not pounded by the shot. Scotch should give you a nice, warm buzz, not get you fucked up, if you drink it properly. In most cases this means “neat” (no ice or mixer, just poured into a nice glass) or perhaps neat with a drop or two of water.
But lets envision the following scenario: Your mother has invited you over to her house for a Holiday party and her new boyfriend Bob is going to be there. You know you are going to need a few drinks to get thru the night and fearing that Bob might also enjoy a fine bottle of scotch, the last thing you want to do is show up with anything of quality. That would just encourage Old Grey Balls to keep hanging around your oldest old lady. You also know that it would be in poor form to take home an already open bottle.
Well have no fear, friend. Simply pick up a handle of The Grouse and rest assured that you will be drinking a fine blended scotch and, with any luck at all, there will still be some left the next time you head over to Mum’s.
The Grouse bills itself as “the highest selling Whisky in Scotland since 1980.” So one would assume that the Scottish should know a thing or two about their own distilled gift to mankind. And if this stuff has been the best selling thing over there since Clemson last won a football game that mattered, then it cannot be too bad. Right? Well in this case, yes. Even though that logic would also tell us that Budweiser is America’s favorite beer and Americans sure know their beers so Bud has to be World Class. Right? In that case, fuck no.
But back to The Grouse. This blend of fine malt whiskeys, such as Macallan and Highland Park, is then paired with grain whiskeys for a very smooth taste. I would recommend this one be poured over some ice, but try it out and see which way you prefer to drink it.
Vodka: TITO’S HANDMADE VODKA
And then I went and saved the best for last…
I was first turned on to Tito’s a few years back by Vick, the Pop of the Mom and Pop Liquor shop that I used to frequent. They recently sold the business to some young dude and then retired. I haven’t been back there since. No youngin’ is going to have the battle-scarred liver or the gleaming capillary nose for good drink that Vick possessed. I always took his recommendations and was never once disappointed. And so it was the day that he saw me reach for a handle of Stoli’s and shook his head “no”. He then walked me a bit further down the Vodka aisle and showed me the Tito’s. My first thought was “Tito’s? That sounds like some rot gut store brand. Vick must be drunk, again.” My second thought, after reading the label and discovering that it was made in Austin, Texas was “Yeah, I only drink Russian Vodka, but thanks anyway.”
Vick must have read my thoughts because he soon turned my doubt in to a sale, and that sale then became an allegiance once I got it home and tried it for myself. Vick explained that this vodka, in his opinion, was as good as anything on the market no matter the price. “Bruce, you can go spend a hell of a lot more if you want to impress people with a label, but I shit you not,this is the best vodka I’ve ever had.”
Turns out Tito’s is micro-distilled in a pot-still, the same way French cognacs and single malt Scotches are made. It is handcrafted, and filtered through carbon, to rid it of any nasty artifacts that come with the territory when making hooch.
A bottle of Tito’s can always be found in my freezer. It is also the preferred booze of FirstAndMonday’s crunken, stumbling staff, and great in mixed drinks (try a FAM.com’s own Keep Moscow Mule) or as an ice cold shot. So embrace this American-made beauty and show up at your next family function with a handle of Tito’s, bellowing out, “USA! USA! USA!”
Disclaimer: We at FirstAndMonday promote responsible imbibing and recommend, nay, DEMAND that you also have a Designated Driver on hand if you are going to go out. Worst case, just call a taxi. Totally worth it, Bro.