It’s hard to find a good bottle of booze under $25, but finding one under $15 can be nearly impossible. Luckily, we’ve tried just about every bottom-shelf spirit there is and can help you navigate through the category. From scotch to bourbon to vermouth, here are 10 bottles you can buy for under $15, because not all cheap bottles taste cheap.
If you’re a single malt snob, know this: White Horse whisky uses scotch from the Lagavulin distillery as one of the key components in their blend. Feel better about drinking something blended now? Don’t let the price tag fool you; this scotch is supple and honeyed, with lots of fruit, and notes of toffee, breakfast cereal and malt. It’s a staple in our liquor cabinet.
Few “bottom-shelf” brands can match this Kentucky bourbon’s quality or reliability. An entry-level whiskey from the famed George T. Stagg Distillery—which also happens to make bourbon favorite Buffalo Trace—Ancient Age is a working man’s whiskey. While it’s lack of age is apparent on the nose and the palate, the spirit is brash, spicy and floral, with that nice corn sweetness on the finish.
Aged between five and seven years in American oak casks, Evan Williams Black Label is bottled at a respectable 43 percent ABV. Syrupy, with notes of orange zest, vanilla and toffee, this whiskey makes for light and easy drinking. If you want your bourbon to pack a little more bite in the finish, try the equally inexpensive White Label, which is bottled-in-bond at a whopping 100 proof.
This “white” rum is deceptively big on flavor. Aged between one to four years in American oak casks, then charcoal filtered to remove impurities and most of the color (it retains a white wine-esque hue), it’s subtly sweet, with notes of vanilla, clove and new oak. It’s the perfect spirit for mixing tropical libations like Rum Runners.
Before charcoal filtering it to remove color and impurities, El Dorado ages this Guyanese rum for three years in oak casks. Bright and tangy, with an ultra-refined, clean taste, it is so affordable and delicious that it deserves to be in every bar’s well-liquor speed rail. Not only is the spirit enjoyable neat, it is the perfect rum for a classic, no-frills Daiquiri.
If James Bond drinks it, then it must be good right? Featured in the Vesper, the classic cocktail that first appeared in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, Gordon’s is a no-nonsense, London Dry gin that packs a juniper punch. It’s perfect for anything from G&Ts to Martinis to, of course, 007’s favorite Vesper.
This Polish potato vodka has everything that you want—and expect—from premium vodka, without the hefty price tag. Defined by its producer James Dale as “rough luxury,” Wódka Vodka retains a touch of earthiness while maintaining a smooth, neutral flavor. With its high quality and low price, more and more bars are adopting it as their go-to well vodka, and we couldn’t be happier. From Bay Breezes to Cosmopolitans to Vodka Sodas, this spirit is a cocktail workhorse.
Six times distilled from American grains, this premium vodka is infused with so much chocolate flavor that it tastes like a decadent dessert. Just opening the bottle releases whiffs of freshly baked chocolate cake and makes your mouth water. If you’re a fan of flavored vodkas, you need this bottle in your home bar. We’re not ashamed to admit that we drink it straight or with a fat ice cube.
This French vermouth is an absolute must for any at-home cocktail enthusiast. Without Dolin Dry there would be no Martinis or Perfect Manhattans. Crisp, floral and subtly bitter, this aromatized wine can even be sipped straight or over ice with seltzer for a low-ABV refresher. Do yourself a favor and double up when you stock up. That way, you’ll never be far from a Gibson either.
Besides orange liqueurs like curaçao or Combier, John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum liqueur is one of the most versatile ingredients to have behind a bar. This sweetened, boozy syrup, akin to orgeat, is infused with lime oil, almond, ginger and clove. While it is an absolute must for tiki cocktails like the Zombie and any Caribbean classic like the Corn ‘N’ Oil, the liqueur can be used as a replacement for simple syrup in any cocktail that would benefit from its nutty depth.