Mining for Gold on the Bottom Shelf
While you can endlessly parse out the subtle flavor nuances in liquor, in a general sense, it’s pretty easy to pick a tasty one: pay a lot for a well-aged hooch.
It’s not quite as easy when you’re picking from the bottom shelf instead of the top. It’s a minefield of pending hangovers, drinks that could double as nail-polish remover and flavors that are your cue for a spit-take. However, working in the news “business,” The Messenger is well-acquainted with poverty, as well as drinking away its many shortcomings. Here’s some tips to keep costs and your lunch down.
Cheap vodka is a mistake. Not a mistake like moving to Alabama to marry your cousin, but definitely a mistake on par with going out on a date with that same cousin. Its flavor is best described as being punished for swearing in an episode of Leave It to Beaver, but with the cameras off so there won’t be an evidence.
But, there is hope: Burnett’s. It’s $7.95 and comes in a wide variety of flavors. Everything from Candy Cane to Mano to Maple Syrup. Altogether, there are 29 ways to hide your shame from your tongue.
Unlike vodka, when considering a flavored rum, think of a sharply dressed secret service agent throwing themselves in front of you like they’re stopping a bullet and screaming “DON’T DO IT!” It’s that bad, and that likely to end with you face down in the bathroom of a sorority. But, since cheap rum is pretty lousy in its own rite, the trick is spiced rum. The one flavor that manages to both disguise the taste of the rum and enhance it. Go for Barbarossa. It’s $8.95 and tastes like it’s worth $10.95, which in the world of cheap spiced rum, is saying something.
FACT: Whiskey should be drunk straight like our lord and savior Col. Sanders intended. No mixers. No ice. Just you, a shot glass, and destiny.
However, this is a problem when you realize that most cheap whiskey tastes like a hobo-beard tea.
There is one shining light: Beam’s 8-Star. Why is it the best? Because it’s twice as good as 4 stars. Duh.
Beam’s will cost you $8.45 in the pm, and only a slightly blaring headache at 8:45 in the am. But that’s a fair sight better than other cheap whiskeys which might cost you the friendship of whomever you offer a sip off your flask to.
Tequila is a tricky one, as a big part of its charm is that even its high-end varieties taste like spit-roasted “haaaaaggggh,” making it a drink one primarily shoots to prove their mettle or definitively announce, “I’M IN COLLEGE!.” And while there are bottles of Tortilla and Pancho Villa for under a Hamilton, as Admiral Ackbar would say: “it’s a TRAP!” Your best bet is El Jimador, a handmade silver anejo that will only run you $16.95 for a fifth.
When going the cheap gin route, it’s best to paraphrase John Belushi in Animal House: “my advice to you is to start mixing heavily.” Tonic water. Juice. Soda. Anything to disguise the feeling of a British war bond being sold to your tonsils. But the best thing to mix that juice with is Gilbey’s Dry British Gin. At $9.95, it’s not the cheapest bottle, but gin is like special effects on early seasons of Dr. Who: you get what you pay for.