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 Tending Bar: Substituting Alcohols

For over a millenium, producers of alcohol have been trying to distinguish their spirit from other spirits available. As a bartender, it's good to know when two spirits are close substitutes. You might also want to try switching these in drinks that you enjoy just to see if you're able to taste the difference.

The widest substitution made will be between name-brand spirits and their generic counterparts. For instance, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, and many other orange-flavored liqueurs are all Triple Secs, and can be substituted freely. Do, of course, ask the drinker if the substitution is acceptable, but recognize that the impact on the drink is slight.

Acceptable substitutes:
Rye Bourbon Rye and Bourbon are both whiskey, and although there are significant differences they are often disguised by any mixer or other alcohols.
Gin Vodka Gin and Vodka don't taste the same, but if Vodka is good in something, then Gin is probably good also.
White Tequila Gold Tequila Silver Tequila is probably the best Tequila for mixing, but often drinks make an unnecessary distinction between different types of Tequila. Substitute freely.
Schnapps Liqueurs Most Schnapps are sufficiently sweetened that they could be packaged as liqueurs, and some people will prefer the substitution.
White Créme de Menthe Green Créme de Menthe The only difference between these two spirits is color. If you're adding white instead of green, you might also want to add yellow and blue food coloring.

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