Drinking is an expensive hobby, whether you're ordering cocktail after cocktail in a bar, or mixing them up at home. And while it's nice to receive a beautiful bottle of whiskey or carefully measure out prized barrel-aged gin at home, buying cheap booze is a good strategy to keep flush. But before you pick up that plastic handle of vodka you drank in college, Eater checked in with some of the finest folks in Seattle bars to get the scoop on which cheap boozes taste best.
Anna Wallace, Seattle Seltzer Co: Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino. It's not hard A, but I LOVE VERMOUTH! It's the tie that binds, and yet it's beautiful unadorned. Just add ice! And maybe a twist if you like. I personally prefer lemon.
Shane Cruz, Hattie's Hat: Espolon Reposado. It's good tequila and not too intense of a flavor to mix well in a cocktail — and you can mix it with anything. I like to mix it with Campari, lime, and cranberry bitters, shaken and served up.
Eric Waks, Kickin' Boot (Quinn's starting in August): Old Bardstown Estate (around $30 pre tax) is an exceptional value. It comes from the same family of distillers as Willet, without the huge price point. It is high proof and exceptionally smooth, with vanilla and toffee notes abound. I personally use a big cube of ice for it, but it makes a tremendous Old Fashioned.
Brady Sprouse, Rob Roy, Oliver's Twist, Etc: Old Forester is around $20 before tax. It's delicious high rye bourbon. Great in an Old Fashioned or with a cold beer after work.
Old Monk Indian rum ($28 If you can find it) is delicious 7-year aged rum. It's really good with an ice cube and a cold beer (I'm nothing if not predictable) and is also great as a 50/50 shot with Amaro di Angostura.
Gavin DeCantillon, Stoneburner: Popov is my jam, because if you run it through a Brita filter twice you've got Ketel One at a 1/3 of the cost. I'd use to get drunk with your Babushka.
But seriously, JW Dant Bourbon. It's as good or better than Four Roses Yellow Label and less expensive. Your grandpappy drank; So should you. Put a rock in it call it a day, or make a classic bourbon cocktail... It's delicious.
Shattuck Wildaner, Altura, Herb & Bitter: Meletti Sambuca is around $18-25 per bottle at your local liquor store. I like it because anise is one of my all time favorite flavors and this is packed with it. It's a good value because you're not going to find something this cheap and this easily that will be as well made and delicious.
I honestly love drinking this super super cold as a shot. It's pretty syrupy and thick and sweet and chilling it just makes it extra refreshing and delicious.
Joe Friderici, Quoin & Trove: Kang Jang Bek Se Ju. Technically it's not liquor, because it's not distilled, but rather is brewed from rice and corn. I use it in drinks at both my bars. It works great in cocktails the same way vermouth does. Its main herbal smell and taste comes from ginseng, which has an earthy bitterness. The flavor is something that has become a very prized flavor profile with the rise of amari and other aperitif/digestif liquors and fortified wines.
It does have a bit of honey sweetness to it, but is still great on its own, served ice cold. The drink I currently use it with at Quoin marries it with a fruity and herbal rye whiskey infusion we make with strawberries and Thai basil, along with lime juice, honey syrup, and Rhubarb bitters.
At Trove I use it in a take on a blond/white negroni where I mix it with gin, Salers (another interesting value buy), dandelion and burdock root bitters, and a couple drops of saline solution. I think it clocks in at around 15 dollars, though it might be 20 something at Uwajimaya, which would be one of the few places you might find it.