Cocktail Recipes > Bartenders Guide > Spirit and Alcohol Substitutions

Spirit and Alcohol Substitutions


It may happen that your bar is lacking some ingredients: an inexperienced bartender might stop making some particular cocktails just because he misses that one ingredient, but that's not usually the best solution. Many spirits taste and look very similar, especially when mixed with other tasty ingredients, so you can usually get away with substitutions without people even noticing

Common substitutions:

Gin - Vodka

Gin and Vodka do taste quite different, but their color and texture is very similar and nobody will notice the change

Rye - Bourbon/Blended whiskey

This obviously only works in mixed drinks. If a clent asks for a plain rye you can't give him plain Bourbon! Just keep in mind that whiskeys and bourbons have very subtle differences, and the best whiskey enthusiasts will often notice the change

White Tequila - Gold Tequila

They have different colors, but the taste is very similar, so unless you're preparing a particularly clear drink you can easily substitute one for the other

Rum - Tequila

The most obvious and successful substitutions are white rum - white tequila and gold rum - gold tequila. The taste is quite different, but the drink will usually be good anyways.
Just don't go overboard and prefer heavily mixed drinks for these substitutions

Schnapps - Liqueur

While dry schnapps is similar to vodka in taste and texture and is not to be used in this case, you can easily substitute liqueurs with the sweeter brands of schnapps

Unacceptable substitutions:

Tonic Water - Carbonated Water (Club Soda)

They taste different! Carbonated water (soda or seltzer) doesn't really have a taste, since it's only carbon gas, but tonic water tastes like bitters (since it contains quinine) and it does actually alter the taste of your drink

Scotch Whiskey - Any other Whiskey

Scotch has an original and particular taste, and it's not usually possible to substitute it with another kind of whiskey or spirit