Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Leroux Ginger Flavored Brandy

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

Will Gordon drinks his way through the bottom shelf of the liquor store...so you don’t have to.


I don't like to go out on Saturday nights, because I'm intolerant of 24-year-old teenagers with square-toed shoes and screechy girlfriends, which is to say because I'm too old and miserable to enjoy the company of anyone who isn't.

So it's no great hardship to work Saturday nights, because that still leaves six nights a week to catch up on eating soup and waiting to die, and I was downright thankful that this past Saturday night's work obligations saved me from having to dodge fun on New Year's Eve. I wish I liked NYE, because it seems unsporting and cliché not to, but in my bitter dotage I find myself unable to get excited for the hassle and the crowds and the tiaras.

We cranky and old love it when New Year's Eve falls on a Saturday, because then two worthless birds are taken out with one stone. It's tragic when New Year's Eve scums up a respectable geriatric party night like Tuesday or Sunday, but Saturday's already wasted on the young.

I love New Year's Day, though. I'm a sucker for resolving and fresh-starting and eating eggs at two in the afternoon, and this year I did all that while watching football and drinking Champagne. Man, Champagne is so much better than prosecco and cava and all the other fakers and frauds that brunch chumps love to smother in orange juice. I rarely drink real Champagne, because where's a guy like me going to get $30 on a regular basis? But it was the best part of New Year's Day and I hereby resolve to make it the best part of at least one day a month.

Champagne tastes a little better than other sparkling wines, but its real value comes in the bubbles. The last mug of Champagne has more life than the first lick of prosecco, and I have become very carbonation-aware since getting a seltzerizing machine for Christmas.

I like to make liquid foods. I'll try to cook almost anything, but I'm at my happiest when preparing a soup or a sauce or a syrup or a shot. When we visited my sister last summer, Bottom Shelf research coordinator Emily noticed me coveting Heather's water enbubbling device, so she got me one of my own. It's miraculous, and I look forward to taking over the comment section of Carey and John's soda column with long rants about my citrus soda bootlegging adventures.

But I didn't have this magical carbonator in time to make my sister soda for Christmas, which is just as well because she has her own soda-making machine and also has the good sense to demand alcohol in her liquid gifts, so we enrolled her in Will and Emily's Moonshine of the Month Club instead. January's selection was the very good ginger liqueur recipe featured on this very site. I recommend it to all of you who enjoy nice things, such as an apartment that smells like vanilla beans cooked in booze.

I realize that not all Serious Eaters are serious brandy simmerers, though, so as good as the homemade stuff is, I figured I owed it to you all to check out the bottomest shelf brand of ginger brandy in my liquor store. I got a $9 bottle of Leroux's version and prepared for the worst.

I had low hopes, because in my experience commercially prepared ginger brandy exists solely as a backup plan for when the VFW runs out of blackberry brandy on Dollar Shot Afternoon. I bought it because I thought it would be fun to write about, but it didn't really occur to me that I would enjoy having the bottle join the other rotten skeletons in a cheap drinks columnist's booze closet. I was mistaken.

This stuff isn't bad, and at 70 proof, it's a bit stiffer than the SE recipe. It smells strongly of lemon dish soap followed by hot booze and a little hint of ginger, but it actually tastes very gingery and a small bit creamy. It's marred by the cheap sting of $9 brandy, to be sure, but much less so than I'd feared. It's eminently drinkable on the rocks, and you could even splash some seltzer in there and suck down pints at a leisurely pace while you wait for your next Champagne occasion to roll around.