In Celebration of Spirited Thriftiness (a.k.a. ‘Cheaper Booze’)

It sure felt like genius to be enjoying a couple six packs of decent beer out on the patio with some coworkers. Six packs, even of the best stuff, are maybe $7-$10 (12.5 cents/oz. tops); at the cool, dive-ish bar near our office, the beers were $6 a pop (37.5 cents/oz). That’s easy math. Drink more than enough and still have pocket change left over for McDonald’s the next day.

Of course, we were mid-30s office drone only interested in talking to each other. If we were still young and anxious to mate meet people, that’s a different story. However, according to a recent study by market research firm Mintel’s food & drink division, Americans are increasingly coming around to a similarly frugal way of thinking. What Mintel refers to as the “off-premise alcoholic beverage market” has grown 21% to nearly $80 billion, the firm says. A large factor in the change, Mintel says, is that people aren’t eating out as much. Unsurprising in light of this data, respondents to a survey indicated nearly double the consumption at home versus restaurants and bars. Further, 28% of those responding indicated that they’ve traded down to cheaper brands in an effort to save money.

The trend is consumer driven, and not likely due to marketing or manipulation by the beverage producers, who are still concentrating on their top brands, according to an industry insider we spoke with. He shared with us his opinion that, if anything, it’s the retail stores, looking for customer retention, that are sweetening beer and booze prices and further fueling the flight to value. Booze is a hell of a loss leader.

In celebration of this rather spiritual zeitgeist, here are some of Osmosis Online’s humble suggestions for enjoying higher quality libations and staying on-budget:

Whaler’s Rum

If you’ve been a reader here for any length of time, you had to know a Trader Joe’s-centric pick (or two) was coming up.

Whaler’s Original Dark Rum is available in many outlets, but is a mere $10 at our favorite specialty supermarket. It’s a dark rum in the style of Gosling’s Black Seal (which will run you closer to $20-$22).

While we readily respect Gosling’s trademark for the Dark ‘N’ Stormy cocktail, you might like the “Opaque ‘N Tempestuous,” mixing Whaler’s with a little Hansen’s Ginger Ale and a squeeze of lime.

Tito’s Vodka

Tito’s is some damned good vodka. A six-times distilled vodka done in micro-batches that constantly wins awards. Christopher Null over at rated it an A+.

Tito’s can generally be had for less than $20 (at TJ’s it’s about $17), and we’ve seen it for $18/$19 at major grocery stores. It’s like top-shelf product for mid-shelf price.


You know what’s really expensive, yet delicious? Absinthe ($30-$80, depending on brand). You know what’s an awful lot like absinthe, and a heck of a lot cheaper than most? Herbsaint. For about $20-$23, you get a rather potent liqueur that’s sweet but not cloying, and delightfully spice-filled, highlighting the anise flavor.

It’s delicious on its own, and an essential ingredient in our favorite cocktail. You won’t even notice the lack of wormwood.

Wine at K&L

We’ll stray from the Trader Joe’s recommendation on this one, because while you can find a delightful Chilean for $5 and similar, there’s a lot of product that is pretty middlin’. And don’t even get us started on two-buck chuck (a headache waiting to happen if there ever was one).

We sought advice from perhaps Osmosis’ foremost beverage enthusiast, Katie Glick, who recommends wine shopping at K&L Wines.

While K&L isn’t as widespread as Costco (which also has been known to hide some grape-derived bargains), Katie notes that there are “several locations in California (and they ship wherever it’s allowed).” So 18 our of the 50 states are in luck.

“Their prices are extremely good, lower than the normal retail price, and you can use the company’s Web site to check inventory,” she says. Other benefits include ordering online for store pickup, and free store-to-store shipping should your local one not have the bottle you are looking for.

Is there room for a very nice bottle of something-or-other every once in a while? Sure! But following some of the above advice–or finding other relatively affordable ways to indulge your fondness of drink–will help ensure you’ve saved enough for when something truly special is called for.


5 comments for “In Celebration of Spirited Thriftiness (a.k.a. ‘Cheaper Booze’)

  1. July 26, 2010 at 6:48 am

    i wonderin if you did that on purpose or if its a fruedian slip

    you said going out to “mate meet new people”

    haha…good article, i love cheapliqour tips

  2. July 26, 2010 at 8:27 am

    I totally had an HTML fail — it’s on purpose, but mate is supposed to be like this

    Fixin’ . . . thanks man

  3. July 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    argh! i don’t get why the people like Titos. as a russian, i don’t find it good at all.

  4. July 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    argh! i don’t get why the people like wine besides Manischewitz . . as a Jew, it’s the only thing I can drink.

  5. July 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    point taken, brat! but i’m not saying that russians make the best vodka. in fact, i love me some Level vodka, which is the top-shelf version of Absolut, which is a swedish brand. dutch Ketel One is also lovely, which proves that some of my best friends are non-russian vodkas. sadly, Titos is not.

    p.s. Manischewitz is gross.

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