Whether you love whiskey or wine, drinking doesn’t have to drain your wallet.
Drinking well shouldn’t run up a huge tab.
In fact, some recent award-winning wines and spirits have been coming in at a happy hour-worthy $20 or less. And considering the average American spends about $1 out of every $100 on alcohol, adding up to $454 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s too easy to pour money down the drain.
So Moneyish tapped the expert palates behind the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as well as Adam Levy, a.k.a. “The Alcohol Professor,” who founded the International Beverage Competitions, plus some recent headline-making quaffs, to pick the best liquors for less that still taste top shelf.
Gin: Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin, $13
This gin from Aldi’s discount grocery chain just clinched a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) – and beating a bottle that costs four times the price at $52.
Vodka: 8 Degrees Vodka, $14
A San Francisco Spirits Competition gold medal winner, this vodka handcrafted from select grains in Holland is distilled eight times, and features a peppery taste. Also try these multiple gold medalists, including the $20 Leaf Vodka, which is made with Alaskan glacial water, or the Ukraine’s Khortytsa Vodka Platinum for $15.
Wine: St. Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, $6
This Australian red available exclusively at Coles supermarkets in Melbourne earned a “double gold” medal at the Melbourne International Wine Competition earlier this month. Its black cherry, plum and cranberry aromas with notes of cinnamon and toasted oak pair well with creamy pasta dishes and barbecue. Also: A $6 bottle of Exquisite Collection Cotes de Provence Rose earned a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge in May, and can be found in Aldi.
Rum: The Naked Turtle White Rum, $13
This five times distilled rum made in the U.S. Virgin Islands with sugarcane molasses scored a silver medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and has partnered with the Sea Turtle Conservancy since 2012 to save baby sea turtles. Also try Jamaica’s Rum-Bar White Overproof Rum for $19, which blends three unaged rums and boasts notes of banana and other exotic fruits.
Brandy: Gallo XO, $15
America’s most award-winning brandy is aged in oak barrels for at least two years to deliver caramel, vanilla and soft brown sugar aromas, and the flavors of butterscotch and dried fruit.
Tequila: Cazadores Tequila Blanco, $20
This San Francisco silver medal winner is bottled immediately after distillation, resulting in a cleaner taste, and features notes of citrus and blue agave. Also try multiple silver and gold winners Exotico Reposado Tequila, $15, and Pueblo Viejo Silver/Gold (Unaged) Tequila, $19.
Bourbon: Benchmark Bourbon, $12
Kentucky’s Buffalo Trace distillery produces this rye recipe bourbon with a palate of palate featuring fine leather notes, dry tobacco and stone fruit, which clinched gold at this year’s Los Angeles International Spirits Competition and silver at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. Also try Ezra Brooks Bourbon, $15, a San Francisco World Spirits Competition silver medal winner.
Scotch: Jamie Stewart Blended Scotch, $16
The only tasty scotches you can get for under two $10 bills are gonna be blends, but this 2017 San Francisco Spirits Competition silver medalist is smooth enough to sip neat or on the rocks, with tastes of ginger and caramel. Or sip fellow SFWSC winner Carlyle Blended Scotch for $18, which won silver in San Francisco.
Whiskey: Speyburn Bradan Orach, $20-$25
Levy told Moneyish this is probably the best value for a whiskey that’s aged for less than 10 years, with scents of citrus, malt and vanilla, along with tastes of honeycomb, walnut and shortbread, which is matured in air-dried former bourbon caskets. Also try the Riverboat Rye Whiskey for $20, which took the bronze at San Francisco.
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