The money thrown around on both sides of Initiative 1183 illustrates that there’s a lot of profit to be made in the liquor business – but not for you, dear consumer. Sometimes a trip to the liquor store can leave your wallet as empty as a glass at closing time.
So what’s a host to do when it comes time to stock the Thanksgiving bar? It turns out being thrifty with the hooch doesn’t mean having to start your own speakeasy or water down the whiskey, say local alcohol aficionados.
Todd Buckley, who is opening a distillery in Tacoma next year, says there are several ways to save money on liquor at Thanksgiving.
“You just can’t shop on price alone. Price is not always an indicator of quality,” Buckley says. Be wary of mediocre liquor slickly marketed at a premium prices, he says. It’s about taste, he says, analogous to wine. “Sometime you can find a $10 wine that’s fantastic. You don’t have to spend $50 on a bottle.”
Buckley makes a distinction between alcohol drunk straight and that used in cocktails. “The more these things get mixed there’s more tolerance in the products you use. But I wouldn’t mix a cocktail with liquor that I wouldn’t drink straight.”
Lisa Owen, chef and owner of The Mark in Olympia, agrees. Her favorite vodka, Square One, isn’t necessarily cheap she says, but it gives the best value for quality. It has a smooth character and is certified organic. She uses it for martinis.
Owen (and Buckley) also recommends an inexpensive gluten-free potato vodka, Luksusowa. “Try infusing it with a little lemon and a touch of sugar the day before,” she says. It makes for a tasty lemon drop before dinner.
Buckley has a list (see below) of alcohol brands that provide the best bang for the buck – most around $20 or less.
But cocktails, wine, champagne and beer for the game aren’t the only ways to celebrate. Buckley has become a new fan of old-fashioned punch.
“Punch is a traditional way to use alcohol and it’s very cost effective per guest. Historically, punch was served prior to getting ready to feast.”
Buckley had always thought of punches as something you spiked with 90 proof rum in college. But after a recent visit to mixology convention Cocktails of the City in Vancouver this year he came back with a new appreciation for punch. He also likes the festive ritual of gathering around the punch bowl.
Buckley is also bullish on the South American brandy Pisco. It’s reasonably priced compared to rum, he says. “Not a lot of people know about it so it’s fun to bring out and share.”
Owen also looks beyond North America for ideas. She uses a favorite Italian aperitif, Aperol, to splash into a glass of inexpensive prosecco (an Italian sparking wine.) She says the drink, with a slice of fresh orange or lime as garnish, makes a fun before dinner cocktail. Owen, a frequent visitor to Italy, says the “Aperol Spritz” is a popular drink in Rome.
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Here is a list of alcohol for around $20 that Todd Buckley recommends will provide the best bang for the buck.
Luksusow potato vodka – $16.95
Monopolowa Vienna Dry Gin – $16.95
Appleton White Jamaica Rum – $16.95
Alto del Carmen Pisco Reservado – $20.90
Laird’s AppleJack Brandy – $20.95
Dubonnet Red Aperitif – $9.39
Yield: Serves 15-17
1 750-ml bottle of white rum (basically 3 cups)
3 cups pure cranberry juice (not cranberry cocktail)
3 cups apple juice (such as Mott’s)
1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about one small lemon)
Combine ingredients over ice cubes in a large glass pitcher. Stir. Decorate with fruit slices.
Source: Buckley has modified some recipes he found in a 1947 Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide.
Yield: Makes about 20 mild drinks
1 750-ml bottle of vodka (25.36 oz or basically 3 cups)
1 quart of orange juice
1 quart of club soda
1 quart of ginger ale
Combine ingredients in a punch bowl. Add a large piece of ice and stir.
1-1/2 ounces pisco – Alto Del Carmen Pisco Reservado
Pour pisco over ice cubes in a chimney glass. Add a lemon slice. Fill glass with Coca-Cola. Gently stir.
1/2 ounce applejack
1/2 ounce apple cider
1/4 ounce gin
1/4 ounce pisco
Combine ingredients and shake with ice cubes. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Dubonnet on the rocks
Pour Dubonnet in a 8 ounce glass with ice. Add lemon twist.
Dubonnet dry cocktail
1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce Dubonnet
Stir with cracked ice until cold. Strain into chilled small pilsner or cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon peel.