This week, I'll be taking a break from going out to the bars and, instead, will share some of my favorite spirits from my home bar. Let's assume that you've got your gear, have learned how to shake and stir properly, and are starting to build up that liquor collection. This takes time and money, but the three spirits I've highlighted below are worth the initial investment.
The gin, rye, and rum I love, after the jump.
First, Plymouth Gin. This is a smooth and somewhat neutral gin, and while the essential juniper element is present, it is not at all overwhelming. This makes Plymouth ideal for cocktails—try it in a classic Aviation (as a side note, Crème Yvette, which was an ingredient in the original Aviation recipe, has been recreated from its original recipe and is now available at Astor Wines for $41.99). Plymouth sells for about $26.
Next, Rittenhouse Rye. Generally found under $20, this 100-proof spirit is a bargain. It's a solid workhorse of a Rye from Kentucky with spicy notes that make for a perfect Manhattan, or even on its own straight or over ice.
Ron Zacapa 23 is also a fantastic spirit to sip straight. It's smooth, with the lush sweetness of caramel and vanilla. Try substituting it in a drink that calls for Bourbon, like this variation on an Old Fashioned, adapted from Julie Reiner's Clover Club. $40 at New York's Astor Wines.
Rum Old Fashioned
1 1/2 ounces Zacapa 23 Rum 1 bar spoon simple syrup 2 dashes Angostura bitters 2 dashes orange bitters (I used Bitter Truth's Orange Bitters)
Stir over ice and strain into a double rocks glass over one large cube of ice, then garnish with an orange twist.