Gin isn’t usually the liquor of choice when I think about wanting to have a drink. At least, not by itself. When I’m itching for a drink, my go-to choice is usually whiskey. Irish whiskey to be exact like Jameson, Bushmills, 2 Gingers, Powers, and Tullamore Dew. But sometimes, you have those days where you just want to have a drink but don’t exactly want to break the bank. What do you do then? Do you still default to your favorite brand? Or should you try out something different, dare I say, a lower priced version of the thing that you desire? This question came to mind when I was about done trying out all the under $20 Irish whiskeys at my local CVS pharmacy drugstore in Lincoln Heights. I was deciding on whether the bottom shelf liquors, the truly bottom liquors (you know, the one’s that are in plastic bottles as opposed to glass bottles?), are a good alternative to the name brand liquors. And anybody who has had truly tasty liquor (*GASP* Tasty liquor? What is that??) will know the difference between the cheapo bottom shelf stuff from the name brand stuff. But every once in a while, the no name brand stuff may just be superior to the name brand stuff.
Take Evan Williams for instance. Anybody who knows their Bourbon has heard about Evan Williams. It’s no Jack Daniels but it’s the closest thing to a decent bottle of Bourbon for under $15. I personally haven’t tried Evan Williams yet (it’s on my bucket list), but I have heard from numerous drinkers, the newbies and veterans alike, that Evan Williams is pretty decent for a bottom shelf liquor, and Bourbon at that. This gave me the idea of trying out those no name brands like the CVS store exclusive brands that no one has heard about (Gran Legacy, Jethro T Boots, Honey B Boots, Jolly G Boots, etc) and buying a bottle every week to see how well they actually compare to the higher priced name brands. In short, I’m “taking one for the team” but I also want to contribute a bit of something to the “drinking community” (if one can call it that) for those drinkers who are looking to save every dollar they can because hey, we’re still in a recession in the US and the job market, though improving, is still tough.
This bottle of Gran Legacy Gin is priced at $5.99 regular price at the local CVS in Lincoln Heights (a small ghetto ass town located in East Los Angeles, home of the taco stands). Prices may vary in your state but I suspect that it’ll be cheaper. (In fact, I think any state outside of California would be cheaper, but I digress). It’s at 750 ml, which is basically the standard sized bottle of just about any liquor.
And just to throw this out there, I don’t know what’s considered a good bottle of gin but I have heard that Tanqueray 10 Gin is a good starting point for a quality gin at under $40. And I’ve never had gin by itself. Ever. I’ve had a gin and tonic with a slice of lime wedge but never gin all by itself. You know, as in neat. I don’t even know if gin is meant to be drunk neat but this Chinese American guy decided to drink this Gran Legacy Gin neat because I want to know what gin tastes like in its natural state. Honestly, upon cracking open the top and taking a whiff of this gin, the smell wasn’t offensive. In fact, it smelled rather like a mild spearmint gum. My first sip of this drink, on the other hand, gave me a totally different impression. It took me a while to figure out what the taste was. I definitely knew what it was because I had remembered the smell of it from somewhere but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So what did I do? I Googled “What does gin taste like?” First link at the top of the page? It tastes like Christmas trees.
Christmas trees. That’s definitely not how I would have described it. If anything, a better description would be that it tastes like pine cone. It has a sort of earthy, tree root-y flavor to it. Now, just to go on a tangent for a moment. I’m Chinese. Back when I was younger, and on those days when I got sick, my parents would make me Traditional Chinese Medicine to drink. The nastiest medicine you’ll ever have to go through, if you’ve ever had to drink that stuff. My parents would mix in a combination of tree roots, tree leaves, bug casings, deer horn, the scales of snakes, and other unsavory things, mash them, add some water and then boil them all together for three hours. Then they strain it and have me drink its content. You can imagine how badly it tastes. But I’m bringing up this story because it relates to the taste of gin. Gin tastes a lot like that same earthy, root-y flavor of Chinese medicine. So if you’re Chinese or, more broadly, some type of Asian, and you’ve had to drink your traditional medicine from your home country, gin tastes a lot like that. For everyone else in the West? If you’ve ever smelled pine cones or pine trees before, it tastes like that.
Now me personally? Because I’ve had the experience of drinking Chinese medicine and its horribly bitter flavor, drinking gin straight was actually rather mild. It’s not bad. I can drink it neat. For the average drinker though, I would imagine that it might be a bit off putting because of the piney flavor but it’s really not all that offensive. If you add a few ice cubes, the piney flavor gets mellowed out, quite unlike the other Gran Legacy line of products that I’ve written about already. Adding a splash of water also had the same effect. Surprisingly, there’s not much of a burn on entry or a burn on its way down the gullet.
When it comes to mixing it into a cocktail, like a gin and tonic, and you don’t have the time to buy a batch of limes or just forgot and don’t want to go out to get some, here’s what I recommend. Buy a bottle of the CVS store brand of sparkling water, key-lime flavored for 99 cents. (This sparkling water, by the way, has an added sugar substitute sweetener: aspartame.) Fill an old-fashioned glass to the brim with ice, add about a quarter worth of gin and top off the rest with the sparkling water. It’s actually a pretty good. It tastes almost like a Sprite. The sparkling water with aspartame and lime flavor completely masks the gin’s piney flavor. For $5.99 plus tax and CRV and $0.99 plus tax, it totals to about just shy of $9. You could totally get shitfaced off of this combo and it won’t be so bad, taste wise.
One last thing, I really, really don’t recommend mixing this with Redbull, Monster, or any other type of energy drink. They do not go well together. The harshness of the gin really comes to the forefront if you try mixing these two. I’m not sure why that is but that’s just been my experience.
And that about sums it up. For next time, I’m thinking about maybe trying out Gran Legacy’s Vodka or one of the other line of Gran Legacy liquors. Until next time~