From Old Tom to Plymouth, although there are many different varieties of gin. But most textbook gin cocktails call for London Dry, so that’s what I keep at home. I do have a soft spot for Corsair — especially after visiting the distillery — but it’s not easy to find in Atlanta.
- Berkshire Mountain Distillery Greylock
- St. George Botanivore
Why buy Barcardi and Captain Morgan like everybody else when there are more interesting alternatives that cost about the same? Flor de Cana is my personal favorite and it’s not a hard brand to find.
- Flor de Cana
- Gosling’s Black Seal
- Mount Gay
Cuervo’s OK. Patron? You’re paying for a brand. The tequila shelf’s deeper and wider than it was even a few years ago, and you can find some really nice spirits between the vanity labels and the old guard. Among my favorites:
- Gran Centenario
Most brands offer tequilas that have been aged for different periods of time: blanco for days, reposed for months and anejo for years. Generally, the older the tequila, the better it is for sipping straight. The “younger” tequilas are great for margaritas.
I love whiskey. I sip it straight as often as I use it for mixed drinks. But it’s such a broad, overwhelming category that I only have a few that were aged and bottled outside of the United States. That’s why I’m focusing on bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye.
Bourbon whiskey is (mostly, but contrary to popular belief, not legally required to be) from Kentucky. Tennessee whiskeys is basically bourbon that is charcoal-filtered. Rye whiskey tends to be a little more complex and “spicy” — and it’s enjoying a renaissance in hearts, minds and drinks across the country.
- Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage
- Four Roses
- Four Roses Single Barrel
- Marker’s Mark
- Rowan’s Creek
- Woodford Reserve
- Old Overholt
- Belle Meade
- Jack Daniel’s
Most people think of it as a mixer, but you can drink a really good vermouth straight. You’ll need two bottles for your home bar — one sweet (for Manhattans) and one dry (for Martinis).
- Carpano Antica (sweet)
- Dolin (sweet and dry)
- Punt e Mes (sweet)
By definition, vodka is a neutral spirit — devoid of any distinctive flavor or color. So technically, it’s the least interesting thing you could ever mix or drink. It has its place, though — the venerable and refreshing Moscow Mule, for example.