A proper holiday season should be filled with boozy cheer—but after forking out a bunch of cash for a feast (prime rib is never cheap) and buying your family and friends presents, the last thing you want to spend money on is alcohol. To solve the problem, we dug deep into the bottom shelves of our local liquor stores to find the best and cheapest bottles of liquor for the holidays. From rum to whiskey to a French herbal liqueur, here are our six favorite budget-friendly bottles to stock your bar this holiday season.
Whether you plan on making a giant bowl of punch for guests or family, or a batch of soul-warming Hot Buttered Rum this holiday season, you’re going to need a good bottle of aged rum. Look no further than Bacardi’s 8-year-old bottling. The spirit has that molasses-heavy richness you need for wintery cocktails, a dose of allspice, clove and vanilla from its time in oak, and a lingering sweetness that sits heavy and spicy on your palate. You won’t find a better tasting or more mixable rum that’s comparable in price or age.
Come December, when that icy chill finally sets in, it officially becomes whiskey season. And Rittenhouse, a bonded rye bottled at a whopping 100 proof, is one of our favorite whiskeys to stock our bar with during the holiday season. With its piquant pepperiness and lingering sting from its high proof, this rye makes the perfect base for a Manhattan (use a bold sweet vermouth like Antica) or a Hot Toddy. Regardless of whether you drink it straight or mix it into a cocktail, there’s simply no better dram to warm your bones.
Beam Suntory’s newest bourbon, the Distiller’s Cut, is destined to become a holiday whiskey tradition. This is the kind of bourbon that you can drink everyday, in every type of whiskey cocktail. And, thankfully, its price allows us to do so. Aged for five to six years, this bourbon is non-chill filtered and bottled at 100 proof. On the palate it is big and bright with an abundance of caramel popcorn, roasted peanut, vanilla and clove. If you like whiskey—especially bourbon—do yourself a favor and buy this bottle.
We’ve raved about this bottle of brandy before, and we’ll do it again. Aged for three years in Lustau’s ex-Amontillado sherry casks, this brandy is tart, nutty and delightfully complex. It’s our go to for any punch recipe that calls for brandy or Cognac, and it’s absolutely delightful as a substitute for dark rum in Eggnog (it also works wonders in our first president’s variation on the classic holiday recipe). A total steal, this Spanish brandy is one of those rare bottles that you don’t feel guilty about buying two of.
Dolin Véritable Génépi Des Alpes Liqueur ($30)
This is our dark horse pick for the holidays. While this herbaceous French liqueur seems like it may be hard to find, it is actually available at almost any liquor store (you just have to know it exists to find it). Almost like a lower ABV (and less expensive) version of green Chartreuse, Génépi Des Alpes Liqueur is a legendary alpine liqueur made in the Savoy region of France (which borders the Swiss Alps) from wild, mountain-grown artemesia—which is related to wormwood. Génépi is an amazing addition to a hot chocolate, and it also works wonders as a refreshing pre-dinner Highball, served on the rocks with a topper of tonic.
White Horse Blended Scotch Whisky ($15)
This blended scotch is one of the most underrated, bottom shelf bottles in existence. The juice inside the bottle is actually made by one of the most famous and sought after scotch producers, Lagavulin. Malty on the palate with notes of Corn Flakes and Cinnamon Life cereal, it finishes with undertones of peatiness and a big, mouth-coating creaminess. Thanks to its price and availability, this is scotch that you don’t mind passing around during the holidays—or stirring into a big batch of Rob Roys.