There’s a lot of alcohol out there. So much that it can be overwhelming to even figure out where to start. We could spend a day just talking about, say, tequila, and probably never get to the end of it all. So let’s take a step back and look at some bottles that everyone should know and maybe even have on their shelves at home.
Below are the best bottles of booze that hit right in the middle of the shelf. They aren’t the plastic bottle jet fuel of your bottom shelf college days and they aren’t the top shelf bottles that cost more than a mortgage payment. They’re just damn good bottles that’ll impress your friends and your palate.
And each will set you back less than 50 bucks. So get them.
ALTOS TEQUILA PLATA
View this post on Instagram
Ringing in the Spring Equinox today with the promise of Altos palomas, margaritas, and sunshine ahead! 🐣🌼🌞 Fun Fact: On the spring equinox, both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. #altostequila #vivatequilaatx #springhassprung #austintexas #tequilaenthusiast #tequilaeducation #vivatequilaatx #altoseveryday
Altos Tequila is the premier line from Olmeca. It’s handcrafted from ecologically sustainable agave fields high up in the Jalisco highlands of Mexico, processed with a classic stone tahona (mill), and distilled to damn near perfection.
As far as white tequilas go, this one is gorgeous. Each sip imparts a true sense of roasted agave first and foremost. There’s a pure smoothness here that a lot of other tequilas lack. Overall, this is a great sipping, shooting, or mixing tequila that’ll always coax a smile from the drinker.
HAVANA CLUB AÑEJO 7 AÑOS
Havana Club 7 is sugar cane-forward with a clear sense of a firey sugar cane field set ablaze. The alcohol burn is almost non-existent as the oaky softness, vanilla, and El Carib spice blends into a perfect sip of rum. You can easily enjoy this one neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a perfect El Presidente. It’s that good.
A great gin is a revelation. The essence of juniper, coriander, and cardamom that shines through in Plymouth elevates the distillate beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary.
There’s an almost shocking smoothness to Plymouth that makes it perfect to drink straight. Yes, you read that right. This gin is so tasty, you can drink it like a fine sipping whiskey. There’s a light sweetness behind the botanicals that let it shine. Chill some with ice and drop in a few dashes of Angostura Bitters and you’re set. Though, it also makes a killer GnT or Martini too.
CARPANO ANTICA FORMULA
Every bar needs a great sweet vermouth. Otherwise, how are you gonna whip up some Manhattans, El Presidentes, or Negronis?
Carpano Antica Formula is one of the best sweet vermouths you can buy on the open market. There are some mindblowers behind bars in Barcelona and Milan, but those ones are never leaving those bars. Antica wonderfully blends mild botanicals and spices with the smoothness of a well-oaked wine and masterfully crafted brandy. There’s a lovely sweetness that accents the spiciness and the alcohol in the background adds more of a creaminess than a bite.
It’s a ray of sunshine in a glass on a dark and rainy day.
Rounding out our Negroni recipe, Campari is another must for any bar. One, you can make Negronis. Two, you can also master your spritz game with a little bitter Campari in place of the sweet Aperol.
Campari is probably the most famous bitters on the market. Its red hue is famous the world over for bringing a bitter, botanical bite that transports the drinker to the northern hills of Italy with every sip. There’s a very mild sweetness in the background, but, overall, this one is all about the spice barks and floral bursts bringing the warmth of the Italian sun.
Sometimes the best vodka is the classic vodka. This pure grain distillate is one of the cleanest spirits you’ll ever drink. It’s filtered again and again until there’s nothing left but a spirit — and the most versatile one, at that.
Stoli is all about the warmth, even when it’s drunk straight from the freezer. That aforementioned cleanness is what’s most memorable here — making this the perfect base for everything from shots to cocktails. It adds alcohol and foundation without overwhelming. It’s the smoothest of the smooth. Who doesn’t want that?
TEMPLETON RYE WHISKEY
The Good Stuff or Templeton Rye started out as a rye operation during America’s experiment in Prohibition. The Iowan rye skyrocketed to popularity and became the go-to for flappers, boozehounds, and even Al Capone.
Today, Templeton Rye is a legit operation that runs out of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, based on the old school recipe. The rye has a distinct peppery bite that mellows thanks to barrel aging into a delicious sipping whiskey that also makes one hell of a Sazerac base.
You can almost taste those Iowan rye fields in every glass.
MAKER’S 46 BOURBON WHISKEY
Maker’s Mark makes damn good bourbon. So, when they finally started making a new line, the world took note and was not disappointed.
Maker’s 46 is produced by using charred French oak staves in the barreling process while the whiskey is in the last nine weeks of aging. The charred staves lock in the woods bitterness and let the sugars shine. You’re left with a bourbon that’s amped up on vanilla, spices, and sweetness without anyone component overwhelming the other.
It’s a bigger, brighter bourbon that you can sip all day long.
REMY MARTIN COGNAC VSOP
If you don’t have a bottle of Yack on your shelf, you might not be an adult yet. Cognac is a distilled wine that’s probably one of the smoothest spirits out there.
Remy Martin’s Cognac VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) is a blend of champagne wines that have been masterfully distilled and then aged for at least four years in barrels. There’s a ray of sunshine in each bottle that takes you back to a sunny day in those far off wine fields of France.
The taste is decidedly sharp, earthy, and sweet with just the slightest echo of champagne dryness.
You can’t make a Sazerac without some absinthe to wash out your glass. All the myth-making aside, absinthe is an essential bottle to have around for several cocktail recipes that you’ll want to put in your regular rotation — especially once you taste them with real absinthe.
Absinthe Ordinaire is a wormwood and star anise forward distillate that feels like a Hulked-out gin. It’s got a big ABV that’ll get you super duper drunk, but will not make get you high. It’s got a distinctly sweet burn that’s like licking Christmas spice barks. That’s why it might be best to save this one for the cocktails and not taking shots.