Gran Gala Orange Liqueur

From the beginning of my cocktail experiments, I have been fascinated by orange liqueur, triple sec, curacao, and any other names you might want to line up to describe an essence of orange and a base spirit. I had started with Cointreau, fallen to the bottom shelf with Bols Triple Sec, and climbed halfway back up to find Gran Gala.

As usual, the walk around the ABC store after the first of the month draws my eye towards sales. And on that particular month, I found Gran Gala. Reviews were all over the place, but a blind tasting put it up in the decent realm.

So, purchase made, and back to the Lair. The aroma was sweet and certainly had some orange. It was fine in cocktails, so no complaints. It does bring a punch (of alcohol at 80 proof ) to the punch, so to speak. The only difference from previous or current orange liqueurs I’ve tried is the color. It is sort of a golden brown. Not a big issue, but is does color drinks, where other clear liqueurs don’t (aside from blue curacao) .

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $15 (on sale)

Buy again: Yes

Copa de Oro Coffee Liqueur

Boy, those sale prices get my attention. While perusing the shelves, I ran across Copa de Oro Coffee Liqueur, a Kahlua knock off. Now, I am a coffee lover. So this was an opportunity to mix coffee and cocktails.

Copa de Oro, upon opening, smells like coffee with sweetener. In a shot glass, the sip revealed a very sweet, thick, coffee syrup. There was very little alcohol taste. Aside from the heavy sweetness, I could drink this straight, or over ice.

The first cocktail I tried was a Black and White, which is simply coffee liqueur and Half ‘n Half. It was very good, but very dessert like. I have also used it more recently in the Mr Bali Hai, which I enjoyed immensely.

I think I’d like to try another brand to see if it is equally as sweet.

Proof: 44 (22% ABV)

Price: $7 for 750ml (on sale)

Buy again: Probably

DeKuyper Blue Curacao

Let’s face it. Blue Curacao is used for adding blue color to drinks, because Windex isn’t safe to drink! In the DeKuyper bottling, there may be some fake orange flavor and a sweet component. But, it’s blue!

I have seen reviews of other brands that might be a little truer to an orange curacao, and less focused on the blue coloring.

Proof: 30 (15% ABV)

Paid: $ for 750ml

Buy again: Probably (I have blue drinks to make!)

Bacardi Banana Rum

Bacardi must have the largest line of rums in the world. That isn’t saying that they are all good.

I bought this miniature (50ml) bottle just to try it on a whim. It has the same artificial banana flavor that I find in banana liqueur, mixed with a very basic white rum taste with some white rum burn.

From a cocktail point of view, I guess its easier to have two-in-one than separate bottles. Maybe? I don’t know. I think I’ll just stick to having a good white rum and a good banana liqueur.

Proof: 70 (35% ABV)

Paid: $1 for 50ml

Buy again: No

Malibu Coconut Rum

Malibu is almost synonymous with coconut rum. I had previously bought and tried Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum, which is very good. It tastes natural is has a good sweetness level.

Malibu hit me with the smell of alcohol with just a little coconut. It tastes first of sugar, followed by coconut. The taste wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t like I hadn’t read the reviews and seen the ratings. This was another curiosity purchase. I bought a miniature (50ml) bottle of Malibu just to try it, so no great loss.

Proof: 42 (21% ABV)

Paid: $1 for 50ml

Buy again: No

Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum

Just to give another spiced rum a shot, I picked up a bottle of Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum. This is one of the rare alcohol items that actually lists what the spices are supposed to be. The list includes allspice, vanilla, pepper, ginger, mace, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and juniper berry.

To be very honest, I couldn’t identify all of these items if they were given to me individually. The aroma, however, is a nice, sweet, spicy mix. Not really intended for sipping, so I skipped that.

Mixed in a Rum and Coke, it isn’t bad. It isn’t great either. The Bacardi Oakheart or the Captain Morgan Private Stock are both substantially better.

Proof: 70 (35% ABV)

Paid: $12

Buy again? Probably Not

Captain Morgan Private Stock Spiced Rum

Again, thanks to a sale price, and Derrick and Ian at Common Man Cocktails, I decided to try another spiced rum. While I wasn’t very impressed with Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, this is another story.

Although it is pricey (for a cheap drinker like myself) at $25 for 750ml, it was on sale at $22. So I gave it a shot. Let me tell you. I like the Bacardi Oakheart a lot. This is on the same level as the Oakheart to me. Great flavor, the alcohol doesn’t hurt you, and it mixes well. Vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and some other spices I can’t separate out.

It is sweeter than the Oakheart, but brings a lot of flavor to the party. Makes a great Spiced Rum and Coke.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $22 (on sale)

Buy again: Probably (when on sale!)

Plantation Original Dark Double Aged Rum

As with many of my purchases, I’m waiting for a sale. When Plantation Original Dark Double Aged Rum went on sale for $15 per bottle, I checked the reviews immediately. Most of the Plantation rums are well regarded. I watched a Common Man Cocktails review of the family including the Aged Dark, along with quite a few online ratings. Reviews behind me, I walked in to the ABC store, took a hard right, walked through the center of the store and right up to the Plantation, grabbed a bottle, checked out, and headed back to the Lair.

Upon opening the bottle, I was struck by the very pleasant aroma. It was sweet and fruity and had the funkiness that I kept reading about. Even that wasn’t unpleasant, just different. I also got no hint of alcohol! A little poured into a shot glass. I could almost drink this on ice! This was a new moment for me.

When added to cocktails, it yields a sweet and funky drink. I could be happy drinking this with Coke and never trying another cocktail or spirit.

But I think I’ll keep trying, anyway.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $15 (on sale)

Buy again: Yes (Absolutely, have a second bottle in the wings!)

Appleton Estate Signature Blend Rum

I’ve been quite the bargain hunter during my brief time as a consumer of cocktails. Not knowing if you will like something keeps you off of the top shelf, and looking for sale items to try. This is part of my quest just after the first of the month, when I journey into the local ABC store.

I snapped my pictures of the sale items and headed home. Amongst the rums, on the top shelf of all places, was a sale on Appleton Estate Signature Blend. This used to be called VX, but someone in marketing thought a change was in order. Regardless of the name, it got good marks for an entry level rum, and if memory recalls, had a sale price of about $20. That may not seem like much, but prior to this, the most expensive bottle was a bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal on sale for $16.

Driven by curiosity and with $20 that could be parted with, the deal was done. In the Lair, the cap was removed. Wow, I did not expect that. Compared to the white and spiced rums, there is complexity here. A smokiness from being in a charred barrel. Sweetness and something fruity.

If it isn’t considered a horrible thing to do to a good rum, I’ll tell you about mixing it with Coke. It was great! Not the kind of sugary spiced rum in coke, but it felt like a real, grown up cocktail with a real, grown up rum in it. Since I’m not a sipper of spirits, I don’t know how it would compare to other grown up rums. But for me, this changed my perception of rum from the candy sweet spiced variety to a serious drink. I can like both, you know, but now I can see new horizons.

Update: I’m sipping the Signature Blend and it is has a little burn, but the taste is very nice. I’m still trying to separate out the flavors, but maybe that will come in time.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $20 (on sale)

Buy again: Yes