You don’t have to give up your favorite spirits, even on a budget…not if you’re resourceful about it.
Buy it on sale. This goes without saying – unless your favorite brand is one of the more reasonably-priced, you shouldn’t be paying full price for it. Ever. When it does come on sale, stockpile extra.
Buy it from the source, if you can. Vineyards and breweries often offer discounts, as well as interesting tours. (Many, like the Coors brewery in Golden, CO, kick out free samples, as well.)
Take advantage of oddball promotions. Naked Wines gives substantial discounts if you subscribe to certain website ‘partners.’ I found out about this online store through Domestic Sluttery, a blog that, contrary to its racy title, features lots of ideas about crafts, recipes, home decor and such. Joining their e-mail list got me a huge coupon to Naked Wines — plus free shipping, if I ordered more than $100 worth.
Sometimes you’ll get to meet some interesting people along the way. My oldest daughter went to a liquor store’s open house featuring Dan Ackroyd. Dan was promoting his Crystal Head vodka. (He has a line of wines, too.) She didn’t get to meet Dan in person (the line was too long), but she did get a steal of a price on some wines and beer.
Go to stores with a reputation for quality — and lower prices. Your area should have a store that’s known for their product and/or regular sales. If not, one national chain for reasonably-priced beer and wines is Trader Joe’s. Not only do they stock a wide range of spirits from all over the world — their “Two-Buck Chuck” (now closer in price to “three buck” or even “four buck Chuck”) is famous for its low price and consistent quality. (Its real name: Charles Shaw California wine, and it ranges from merlot to my own favorite, a not-too-sweet pinot grigio.)
The flip side: Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a ton of locations. (The nearest stores to us are in Albuquerque, NM, some 6 hours drive, although one will finally open about an hour’s drive away, come spring of this year.) If you’re reasonably close to one, though, or driving on vacation or business to a town where a store is located, it’s not a bad idea to stop in and load up.
Finally, the obvious option is to:
Brew (or press) and bottle it yourself. Making wine or beer isn’t really that hard — it just takes time. Husband used to brew his favorite ale in our bathtub during college days. (The large glass jug got moved whenever we needed to use the shower. The beer turned out pretty good, too.) Kits are probably your easiest starting point as a beginner, until you understand the process. There are plenty of online sites, though, that give basic how-tos, and sell equipment and ingredients. (Weird fact: although many craft breweries nowadays are maintained by men, brewing beer and wine was considered primarily women’s work in Colonial America.)
Drink up! But do it responsibly.