Drinking the Bottom Shelf: Emmets Irish Cream

Drinking the Bottom Shelf

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


I spill enough pixels here extolling Bottom Shelf research fiancé Emily's many charms and virtues that I think I can get away with a quick gripe about one of her very few faults: The woman can't shop her way out of a paper bag.

I recently told one of our friends that I've never been to Ikea, and she said, "You're kidding me. In the past couple of years you and Emily have lived in three different apartments with a grand total of six rooms. She dresses very nicely and you...are engaged to someone who dresses very nicely. You two are the very embodiment of half-fashionable faux-poverty, and as such you have most certainly been to Ikea."

I assured her that I haven't, because I shop very locally—not as a hippie does, but in the manner of a basically-innocent-but-things-happen man practicing for modified house arrest—and Emily, despite her proud Swedish heritage, would sooner spend an afternoon eating mayonnaise sandwiches at a kitten slaughterhouse than shopping at a furniture store so big it needs its own meatball concession. She simply has no stomach for the acquisition end of the consumer process.

But even though Emily does not enjoy the acts of selecting and paying for things, she has a normal appetite for the actual possession of things. Her favorite things to possess are various sizes, shapes, and colors of foot coverings. She receives a lot of these things as gifts, but as our family does not exchange Columbus Day presents, she was left to her own retail devices when she found her feet to be insufficiently rubber-coated at the onset of the fall rainy season.

Last year she sloshed around in a cute pair of polka dotted Target boots, which were adorably priced at $20 but after two years of meritorious service had begun to leak every time the sky turned off-blue. This year, she vowed, would be different, because she was gainfully employed and apparently some terrible harridan in her office recommended a line of boots that cost $125. You know how many $2 beers you can buy with $125? ROUGHLY ONE THOUSAND. But I love her and she loves boots and it's her money anyway, so off to the bootery she went one fine Sunday afternoon.

Since Emily shops so infrequently, she rightly figures she can afford brand-name stuff; I do most of the shopping in our house and make nearly all of the financially ruinous decisions, so I try to limit myself to sales and generics and unattended loading docks.

The immoral of this story is that Emily's expensive boots sprung a leak, and she is so enraged that I've had to resist the urge to tell her so. Plus I don't actually think generics are always the way to go. Take imitation Nyquil capsules, for instance. They may have the exact same ingredients as the original, but the half-assed perforation of the inferior packaging is too big a hassle for a sick man in need of a bedtime fix.

But buying generic always saves you money (at least in the short term), and often gets you just as good a product. And in the glorious world of the Bottom Shelf, it can even get you a better product. In the past couple of months, we've stumbled upon superior knockoffs of Captain Morgan's (Lady Bligh) and Kahlua (Kapali), as well as a fake Malibu (Admiral Nelson) that's essentially as good as the original.

Since the coffee liqueur's been settled and everyone knows you can get decent cheap vodka, it makes sense to hunt down a serviceable-or-better imitator of Baileys Irish Cream to round out the last third of a thrift-store Mudslide. There are several on the market—including Carolans, Molly's, and Brady's—and I tried Emmets first.

My soggy-footed research assistant conducted a blind tasting that revealed this to be a Target boot/thousand-beer boot situation: Neither is very good, but the cheap one's better before price is even factored in.

Baileys has a one-note smell of melted vanilla ice cream, whereas Emmets suggests a darker, more complex drink, with a bit of caramel and pleasant evidence of alcohol. They are similarly and disconcertingly viscous, with the major distinction being that Baileys reveals way too much cheap alcohol for a 34 proof liqueur. It tastes like a White Russian made with Popov and malice.

Emmets, which cost $14 per 750 mL at a store that gets $22 for Baileys, is no great shakes, but it's smoother without being sweeter and definitely the right choice for any Irish cream shoppers with expensive boot habits or marginally discerning palates.

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