Four Old Stand-by Spirits from David Wondrich

Writing in Esquire Magazine, David Wondrich muses about the changes ever-present in the spirits business. In favor of "innovation" and the drive for something new, old brands disappear, new expressions appear, formulas are changed, and the world as we know it is turned upside down.

But not with these four spirits that Wondrich recommends as perennial favorites that you can find anywhere and always count on. Absolut is not a vodka I drink very often — my go-to is usually Stoli — but the other three are favorites of mine as well.

  • Absolut vodka ($20). Absolut's core expression — the plain-old 80-proof Absolut — is as stable as granite, probably because every drop has always been made from winter wheat, yeast, and artesian water in one distillery in southern Sweden. Impeccably clean and slightly yeasty. Perfect.
  • Tanqueray gin ($20). It's what real gin tastes like: piney, a little bit sweet (but not sugary or in any way cloying), and slightly lemony, with a bracing whiff of clean alcohol to remind you it's bottled at the traditional 94.6 proof. The martini gin of all martini gins.
  • Wild Turkey 101 bourbon ($20). Okay, back in 1979, the bottle had a big red "8" on it for the number of years this classic premium bourbon had been aged. Now the eight-year costs extra. But if the 101 is younger, it isn't by much — the whiskey is still big and warming, not hiding its high proof but still smooth and rich and just what you want in an old-fashioned.
  • Courvoisier VSOP ($35). Fresh and appealing. Just put it in a glass and drink it.