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Top shelf tastes, bottom shelf budget: 3 DIY classy cocktails with cheap liquor

Top shelf tastes, bottom shelf budget: 3 DIY classy cocktails with cheap liquor

Mike Thomas

While everyone should enjoy a taste of the good life now and again, those fancy cocktails sure do add up quickly. But enjoying a high-end drink doesn’t have to come with an astronomical bar tab. Take it from Kyle Nelson, Beverage Director at one of the city’s nest watering holes, Service Bar.

“If you’re putting a lot of different things into a cocktail that masks the flavor of the liquor, you really don’t need to go any higher than seven to ten dollars [per bottle],” he explains. “If you’re drinking a vodka tonic or a vodka soda and you want it to be a little more neutral, then you definitely want to spend a little more. But a cheap bottle, a ‘bottom shelf’ bottle, will do just fine when you’re masking it.” Kyle took a break from serving up some of the best high-falutin’ cocktails in the city to share three top-notch drink recipes you can make at home with bottom shelf liquor. Try these dirt-cheap mixological wonders for yourself, and wow your friends without breaking the bank.


An upscale take on one of Nelson’s personal favorite combos—Kessler Whiskey and Sun Drop Soda—this cocktail offers maximum bang for the buck.

2 oz Kessler
.25 oz Noble Cut Limoncello
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water)
Two dashes orange bitters

INSTRUCTIONS: Shaken. Strain into a Collins glass over crushed ice. Top with soda. Garnish with dehydrated lime and lemon wheel.



A twist on the classic French 75, this version plays up the spice and smoke through the rare (and surprisingly complementary) combination of gin and mezcal.

1.5 oz Crystal Palace Gin
.5 oz Ancho Reyes Verde Poblano Liqueur
.25 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water)

INSTRUCTIONS: Shaken. Double strain into an oversized champagne ute. Top with sparkling wine (cava or brut). Garnish with a lemon twist.


This cocktail swaps the gin in a traditional Clover Club for the more neutral vodka. With complex mouthfeel and avor from the egg and fresh berries, this sophisticated drink comes in at around 20 cents per glass.

2 oz Korski Vodka
.25 oz Creme de Cassis
.5 oz lemon juice
.75 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water)
.5 oz egg white
8 fresh raspberries

INSTRUCTIONS: Muddle raspberries in with all ingredients. Dry shake rst (no ice). Hard shake second (with ice). Double strain into large coupe glass. Garnish with skewered raspberries.


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