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Frugal Foodie Recipe Redux – Cocktails

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Written by Heather Jones   
Sunday, 12 July 2009

ImageI know a cocktail redo seems a little strange, but I’m going to be frank here.  Booze, especially good booze is expensive.  The warmer months put me in the mood for a refreshing cocktail, but when I go to my local liquor store and see how much a good quality Rum or Tequila will cost me, I really have to think twice.  The bottom line is top shelf products are great and at times there really is no comparison in certain drinks, but I have found that a good 75% of the time you can get away with a more inexpensive brand.

In these penny pinching times a well stocked liquor cabinet isn’t a necessity right now (although I know a few people who would probably disagree) so if you’re going to do some summer entertaining think about having a signature cocktail instead of an open bar, you won’t believe the savings and depending on just how creative you are with your concoction you’ll inspire others to do the same at their next get together.

Before I list a few of my favorite summer cocktails that can be just as delicious made with a lower priced spirit, here are a couple of suggestions for swapping lower cost items:

   * Champagne cocktails are the ultimate in decadent drinking but instead of that $50 bottle of your favorite try replacing it with an Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava, or a California Sparkling Wine. The price will be more than half the cost of real champagne.

    * If you’re going to use a less expensive spirit, try cocktails where the alcohol doesn’t play the staring role.  For example gin & tonic is a drink where obviously the quality of the spirit really matters and gin & tonic drinkers usually always have a preferred brand.  But something like a Spicy Bloody Mary where you have the flavors of tomato, celery, Tabasco, and Worcestershire in place, the brand of vodka really won’t matter.  Drinks that are heavy in fruit flavors are ideal for spirit swaps.

    * Now for those of you that need a brand suggestion here are just a few.  For Vodka no one sings the praises of Grey Goose more than I, but as a working class mother of two I can’t remember the last time I was able to indulge. Give Smirnoff, Luksusowa, and my new favorite Svedka a try.
   
    * For drinks requiring Gin, Bombay and Hendricks can set you back a few.  Try Beefeater or Seagrams.    

    * Tequila is a tough one, there are so many different brands and I’ve only had the opportunity to taste maybe 5 or 6 different ones. Unfortunately, with Tequila, price and quality do go in hand in hand, but for under $20 try 1800, Chimayo, or Puetro Vallarto. Remember the better tasting Tequlia’s are one’s labeled 100% Agave.
   
    * And last but not least, Rum.  Like Tequila, price and quality also go hand in hand so if you can’t afford Tommy Bahama White Sand, then by all means stick to Barcardi. I’m a fan of Gold Rum and for that I usually go with Goslings Bermuda Gold which runs you around $20.
     
I know many of you out there probably have some strong opinions on quality and brand so please fire away in the comments section, but in the mean time here are a couple of summer cocktails where a less expensive spirit will not make it a lesser quality drink…in my humble opinion.

Watermelon Bloody Marys - Simply swap out the vodka, the flavor combination of tomato and watermelon are really the stars in this drink.

Sour Cherry – Yuzu Bellinis – Prosecco is perfect in this in lieu of Champagne and I’ve even used regular summer cherries instead of sour. 

Strawberry-Lemon Mojitos – A perfect end to strawberry season and a great use of my over abundance of mint. Goslings Bermuda Gold is a perfect fit for this drink. 

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