Alcohol Ingredient Substitutions

Occasionally you will encounter a situation in which you do not have a particular spirit or you run out of the necessary ingredients that is required for a cocktail. Here are some guidelines for acceptable substitution of ingredients:

Acceptable substitutions:

Gin and Vodka

This is a tough one to pull off, but in general, if you are making martini-type drinks, gin can sometimes be substituted for vodka and vice versa. While these alcohols taste quite different, the texture and appearance of a cocktail is not altered by switching, and can often be just as good.

Rye and Bourbon/Blended whiskey

This is a guideline only. Whiskeys have distinct flavors, even whiskeys of the same grain. Experiment, but keep notes about what works and what doesn't - especially if you have whiskey-loving guests.

White Tequila and Gold Tequila

Many "tropical" drinks such as Margaritas do not actually rely on the subtle distinctions between tequilas, as much as advertising would have you believe. Gold tequilas are generally slightly sweeter than clear tequilas, as they have caramel and flavor additives.

Rum and Tequila

Exotic drinks tend to rely on spirits brewed in equatorial lands. Rum drinks often work well with tequila substitutions and vice versa, especially white rum for white tequila or gold/light rum for gold tequila. However, the flavour will not be the same, but it is likely the drink will still be good.

Schnapps and Liqueur

Depending where you are in the world, there may not even be a distinction between schnapps and liqueur. Sweeter brands of schnapps are practically liqueurs and may be substituted freely. Be careful of dry schnapps, which can be closer to a vodka.

Unacceptable substitutions:

Tonic Water and Carbonated Water (Club Soda)

These are not the same. Tonic water is flavored with quinine, which is the base for making bitters. Carbonated water (a.k.a. soda or seltzer) just has dissolved carbon gases for bubbles.

Scotch Whiskey and Any Other Whiskey

There is generally no acceptable substitute for Scotch.