The Home Bar: Where to Splurge, When to Save


The recession may have taken a little steam out of the club scene, but happy hour is still a must for many.

A well-stocked home bar is one way to save money. The question is: Do you always have to spend big bucks in order to get good tasting hooch?

You don't, but some liquor is worth the splurge.

Here is a list of wines and spirits that you can save on without sacrificing your taste buds, and a few that are worth a big spend:

Vodka? Save!

That $30 bottle of Armadale is not worth it. That’s because vodka is a tasteless alcohol, says sommelier and Cipriani Wall Street General Manager Patrick Cormier. No two vodkas are exactly alike, but there’s a good chance an untrained palette wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Besides, you’re probably going to mix it with something to give it a little boost.

Vodka Budget Buy: Seagram's Vodka, (750mL) $10.99
Vodka Super Splurge: Jean-Marc XO, (750mL) $57.99

Scotch? Splurge!

Skimp on food and clothing if you have to, but if you’re thinking about drinking cheap scotch, think again.  Unlike vodka, you generally take scotch straight up or on the rocks. So, if you’ve got a glass of rotgut, you’re going to taste every last drop as it goes down.

Scotch Budget Buy: Johnnie Walker Red Scotch Whiskey (750mL) $18.99 (Stock Quote: DEO)
Scotch Super Splurge: Kings Crest 25 Year Old Blended Scotch (750mL) $299.99

Gin? Save!

A low-end gin will take the bloom off your pure martini. However, if you’re just looking for something to mix into your Tom Collins, it’s better to avoid the top-shelf gin, says Joe Kraft, director of food and beverage operations at the Point Hilton Resort in Phoenix.

Gin Budget Buy: Beefeater Gin (750mL) $16.99
Gin Super Splurge: Old Raj Gin (750mL) $65.99

Tequila? Save!

You’ll have to pay for mistreating your liver but there’s really no excuse for plunking down a lot of money for something you won’t even remember in the morning (if you’re lucky). Tequila, pricey or otherwise, doesn’t linger in a shot glass. So, keep away from the Patron if you’re looking for a buzz. You’ll do just fine with Jose Cuervo or one of his associates.

Tequila Budget Buy: 1800 Reposado Tequila (750mL) $21.99
Tequila Super Splurge: Don Fernando Tequila Anejo Artesano (750mL) $169.99

Rum? Save!
Rum isn’t the costliest liquor on the market but that doesn’t mean that you should throw money away on the high-end stuff. A 23-year-old Ron Zacapa may be as sweet as honey on your tongue but Bacardi will do just as well in a homemade mojito.

Rum Budget Buy: Admiral Nelson Coco (750mL) $9.99
Rum Super Splurge: Goslings Family Reserve Old Rum Bermuda (750mL) $89.95

Champagne? Save!

You can’t lowball the French, especially when you’re trying to snag a vintage that comes from a region about the size of Vermont. The good news is that Albuquerque, N.M.-based Gruet Winery produces a champagne that is delicious and relatively inexpensive at $13.99 a bottle, according to Eric Spragett, cellar master at the Point Hilton Resort.


Champagne Big Budget Buy: Andre Champagne Brut (750mL) $3.49
Champagne Super Splurge: Normandin-Mercier, Grande Champagne Venerable (750mL) $399.98

White Wine? Save!

A choice California chardonnay is going to cost you, but there are a lot of inexpensive options for people in search of a good summer wine, says Spragett.  If you’re looking to impress your friends with a delicious white, try a Spanish Godello or a Portuguese Vino Verde, which you can pick up for as little as $10 a bottle.

White Wine Budget Buy: Bodega Lurton, Chenin/Chardonay, Land of Fire (750mL) $6.95
White Wine Super Splurge: Marcassin, Chardonnay (750mL) $249.00

Red Wine? Save!

Price is no indicator of taste. So, instead of reading a wine list from right to left, ask about a reasonably-priced Argentinean Malbec or Australian red before you commit yourself to a hefty price tag.

Red Wine Budget Buy: Alianca Bairrada Reserva ’00 (750mL) $6.99
Red Wine Super Splurge: Armand Rousseau, red Gevrey Chambertin, Clos St. Jacques 1er Cru (750mL) $599.00

Vermouth? Save!

Paying top-dollar for vermouth is like paying $50 for a tablespoon of salt. It doesn’t take more than an eyedropper of vermouth to add a little zing to your martini, according to Cormier. So do yourself a favor and leave the expensive stuff on the shelf.

Vermouth Budget Buy: Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth (750mL) $6.99
Vermouth Super Splurge: Quady Vermouth (750mL) $21.99

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