Home Bar On a Budget - The Ravens Club
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Home Bar On a Budget

People often ask: “what’s the best?” or “what’s your favorite?” I always counter: “how are you using it? Drinking straight or making cocktails?”

Addressing the latter, I‘ve compiled a list of my favorite wallet-friendly and versatile spirits for cocktails. Let me say, quoting a colleague’s tattoo, that I’m “a whiskey man, with a particular fondness for gin”. I could wax poetic about high-end rye whiskey, single malt scotch, or a particular gin’s subtle nuances and different citrus notes. It’s been rumored that I’ve had passionate love affairs with Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey (not simultaneously of course).

I want to make it clear that these are merely my opinions, and I encourage imbibers to develop their own. Variety is the spice of life.

Below are products available through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC). This is, unfortunately, a reality for Michiganders. As a control state, we’re behind times in availability, but things are improving with the developing interest in all things cocktail. Hopefully, Lansing will soon rethink a system that leaves consumers at a loss. Until then, the silver lining is: a product available to one vendor through MLCC should be available to all. Provided it’s in stock, you can special order at your favorite store. State minimum shelf prices are quoted, prices vary by retailer.

Unless noted everything is 750ml:

VODKA
UGLY DOG (Chelsea,MI) $19.97
GIN
BROKER’S LONDON DRY$17.98
WHITE RUM
FLOR DE CANA EXTRA DRY $12.99
GOLD RUM
DON Q ANEJO $17.98
DARK/BLACK RUM
CRUZAN BLACK STRAP $13.95
TEQUILA (blanco)
CAZADORES $19.97
TEQUILA (reposado)
EL ESPOLON $19.52
BRANDY
ST.REMY XO $14.98
COGNAC
DEAU ARTISAN VS $19.97
BOURBON
FOUR ROSES $18.97
TENNESEE WHISKEY
GEORGE DICKEL #12 $21.97
AMERICAN RYE
BULLEIT 95 $25.95
SCOTCH
BLACK BOTTLE ORIGINAL $19.17
PISCO
ALTO DEL CARMEN $14.98
CACHACA
YPIOCA PRATA (1000ml) $27.94
BITTERS (aromatic)
ANGOSTURA & PEYCHAUD’S $7-15
BITTERS (orange)
FEE BROS. or ANGOSTURA $7-15
SWEET VERMOUTH
CINZANO ROSSO $7-15
DRY VERMOUTH
NOILLY PRAT $7-15

This list of base spirits should get you started making many popular drinks. A few work well for sippin’ too! I’ve attempted to keep everything under $20-25.

As far as additional liqueurs, vermouths, juices, purees, spices, and syrups: possibilities are endless. I can’t stress enough the importance of using fresh squeezed juices. A hand held citrus-press is an affordable tool that pays maximum dividends. For sugar, I prefer unrefined demerara cubes. They add a silky richness you can’t get from white sugar. If a recipe calls for superfine sugar, however, there’s no sub for that. Other must-have tools: Boston shaker with mixing glass, Hawthorne strainer, mesh strainer, jiggers or oxo mini measuring cup, a solid barspoon, and muddler. Check out www.cocktailkingdom.com or www.kegworks.com. Until next time, visit us at The Raven’s Club.

Written by Robyn Cleveland, TRC Barman
(Originally published in June issue of Current Magazine)