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Top 5 Liquor Stores - DC Metro Area


weinoo
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Just as I was looking for what everyone's thoughts are about the top 5 cocktail lounge destinations (thanks for the answers, by the way), I am also looking for everyone's thoughts on the top liquor stores in the area.

I'm not talking about wine selection here; I'm all about the spirits with this post. Best variety, price/value, knowledge of staff, etc. etc.

As an example, I had stopped into Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits a week or two ago. Nice store, lots of help, etc. etc. But as I was wandering the aisles, some of the prices made me do a double take. Over $24 for Rittenhouse BIB - I just paid $15 on sale at a place here in NY. $35 or more for Campari. Whoa...same store here - $24. Let's not even get into Carpano Antica, which I haven't yet found. But there were some bargains to be had...I think I paid $15 for a 750 of Beefeater, which isn't bad.

Now, I can always schlep the booze down if it really is that much cheaper in NYC...I am driving most of the time. But, I'd still like to find the best in the area - you know, for when I run out of Arrack.

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Just as I was looking for what everyone's thoughts are about the top 5 cocktail lounge destinations (thanks for the answers, by the way), I am also looking for everyone's thoughts on the top liquor stores in the area.

I'm not talking about wine selection here; I'm all about the spirits with this post. Best variety, price/value, knowledge of staff, etc. etc.

As an example, I had stopped into Calvert Woodley Wine & Spirits a week or two ago. Nice store, lots of help, etc. etc. But as I was wandering the aisles, some of the prices made me do a double take. Over $24 for Rittenhouse BIB - I just paid $15 on sale at a place here in NY. $35 or more for Campari. Whoa...same store here - $24. Let's not even get into Carpano Antica, which I haven't yet found. But there were some bargains to be had...I think I paid $15 for a 750 of Beefeater, which isn't bad.

Now, I can always schlep the booze down if it really is that much cheaper in NYC...I am driving most of the time. But, I'd still like to find the best in the area - you know, for when I run out of Arrack.

For Wine: 1) Macarthur Liquors 2) Arrowine

For Spirits: Ace

For Beer: Rodman's (Wisconsin Ave only)

If you are ever in Baltimore, I highly recommend you check out The Wine Source. Great selection of everything at great prices

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Definitely Ace Beverage for spirits. Wine is far more subjective, and I rarely buy out of district aside from mailing lists / auction. For me I'd say Macarthur, Schneiders, WWOW, Pearsons, CW. That said, I shop most frequently at schneider's, considering location, etc.

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If you are looking for the cheapest place for spirits, it's not in the District. It's the Montgomery County stores: there are two close to NWDC: one in the Chevy Chase shopping center where the "geriatric" Giant is, or in central Bethesda. Anyone who buys wine at a Moco store is a sucker--it's ridiculously overpriced. But the liquor for some unknown reason, is much cheaper than elsewhere. And they often have sales. Of course, the selection is very limited, compared to what Joe has at Ace--Ace is the place to get your Carpano Antica Formula, by the way.

I have bought Woodford Reserve bourbon on sale at the Moco store for half the price I've seen in DC liquor stores. Various añejo tequilas as well.

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If you are looking for the cheapest place for spirits, it's not in the District. It's the Montgomery County stores

Zora is right; if you are beginning to stock your bar, you should start there. For example, Campari is often on sale for $18. You can check their weekly specials on the website, I see Plymouth is $18 right now. They will ship their stock to whatever location you want to pick up, as long as it is in their system somewhere. Sounds like you're a good candidate to try Pikeville's Supreme, the last of the Maryland-style ryes ($9).

But Joe at Ace Beverages will put the soul into your home bar. Joe helped me track down several bottle of Marie Brizard's line recently, which are hard to obtain right now. (BTW, I will make it worth your while if you can bring down a bottle of Apry from NYC!) It's the only place I've seen for Laird's Apple Brandy BIB ($19ish).

Sure, there are other places to find forgotten bottles on the bottom shelf or clearance bin, and both Schneider's and Bell's carry CAF (for starters). But Joe is the only retailer that I ever see out at these cocktail joints consistently, and he really enjoys what he does. A tremendous resource to the District's cocktail scene.

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If you are looking for the cheapest place for spirits, it's not in the District. It's the Montgomery County stores: there are two close to NWDC: one in the Chevy Chase shopping center where the "geriatric" Giant is, or in central Bethesda. Anyone who buys wine at a Moco store is a sucker--it's ridiculously overpriced. But the liquor for some unknown reason, is much cheaper than elsewhere. And they often have sales. Of course, the selection is very limited, compared to what Joe has at Ace--Ace is the place to get your Carpano Antica Formula, by the way.

I have bought Woodford Reserve bourbon on sale at the Moco store for half the price I've seen in DC liquor stores. Various añejo tequilas as well.

On the whole, I agree with Zora - wine expensive and booze cheap.

But the MoCo store pricing can be incredibly inconsistent. I've seen wildly overpriced bottles of booze and wildly underpriced bottles of wine.

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I really like the service at Red, White & Bleu in FC on Lee, right after Broad St (Rte. 7). They have a good variety of wine and beer, plus they stock Chef Jamie's charcuterie and have good cheeses. Since I am still a wine novice, I am unsure of the price/value. This is only if I don't make the trek out to Ace, where, as everyone mentioned above, Joe Riley is a great gentleman to be on your side when stocking your bar.

I guess Total Wine is the place to go for lower priced stuff. The place just overwhelms me like Costco does though.

I heard Arrowine is nice, but again, do not go enough to know, but I just wanted to list some NoVA stores here. :(

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Zora is right; if you are beginning to stock your bar, you should start there. For example, Campari is often on sale for $18. You can check their weekly specials on the website, I see Plymouth is $18 right now. They will ship their stock to whatever location you want to pick up, as long as it is in their system somewhere. Sounds like you're a good candidate to try Pikeville's Supreme, the last of the Maryland-style ryes ($9).

But Joe at Ace Beverages will put the soul into your home bar. Joe helped me track down several bottle of Marie Brizard's line recently, which are hard to obtain right now. (BTW, I will make it worth your while if you can bring down a bottle of Apry from NYC!) It's the only place I've seen for Laird's Apple Brandy BIB ($19ish).

Sure, there are other places to find forgotten bottles on the bottom shelf or clearance bin, and both Schneider's and Bell's carry CAF (for starters). But Joe is the only retailer that I ever see out at these cocktail joints consistently, and he really enjoys what he does. A tremendous resource to the District's cocktail scene.

Thanks for the great responses. I now know where to go first. Campari and Plymouth at $18 are just what I'm talking about. I have a few bottles of the Pikesville, which I had picked up for $11 or so when visiting friends in Annapolis; at $9 or $11 a bottle, one of the great values of ANY spirit. More people need to drink rye.

Consider a bottle of Apry to be on the way on one of my next drives down.

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Consider a bottle of Apry to be on the way on one of my next drives down.

Music to my ears! If you can't find any in your regular haunts, that's ok.

PM me when you're free to go out some weekday night and we can grab a drink somewhere. I'd like to hear your take on NYC's scene.

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If you are looking for the cheapest place for spirits, it's not in the District. It's the Montgomery County stores:

As with so many things, it depends. Comparing the MOCO specials of this week with Calvert Woodley's specials of this week, it appears that CW is the clear price winner when it comes to major call brands of various spirits. MOCO appears to be the winner in "specialty" gins, by a huge margin for Plymouth's and Hendrick's.

Some examples:

Johnny Walker Red 1.75L MOCO - 32.99 CW - 28.79

Johnny Walker Black 1.75L MOCO - 55.99 CW - 50.99

Tanqueray 1.75L MOCO - 28.99 CW - 26.49

Beefeater 1.75L MOCO - 25.99 CW - 23.99

They tie on Skyy vodka at 20.99 per 1.75L. (I guess that's a call brand; I never drink the stuff.)

On the other hand:

Plymouth Gin 0.75L MOCO - 17.99 CW - 26.49 !!

Hendrick's Gin 0.75L MOCO - 26.99 CW - 38.99 !!

Trying to compare the specials on single-malt scotches is too much trouble, because the two have different things on sale, but where a direct comparison is possible they seem to be within a dollar or two of each other, with sometimes CW lower, sometimes MOCO.

To be fair, the Plymouth and Hendrick's are not specials at Calvert Woodley, but they are never among CW's specials.

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I'd like to pile on the Joe Riley/ Ace Beverage bandwagon. From the spirit side of the counter he has always been forthcoming with ideas and inventory to further the cocktail cause in this area. I credit him directly with getting me in touch with some distillers who didn't previously distribute to the VA ABC. He obviously didn't gain any business from my restaurant in this move, but I will forever recommend his shop to people looking for the hard-to-find cocktail ingredients.

To quote Steve McCarthy from Clear Creek Distillery; "I probably wouldn't be selling much on the east coast if it weren't for Joe Riley." That's a testemant to Joe's efforts.

Thanks for the other suggestions, by the way.

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Thought I would give a shout out to Batch 13, at 1724 14th St. NW between Logan Circle and U Street.  I've always found them to have a really interesting selection of spirits.  I'm no expert but I see lots of stuff here I've never seen anywhere else (single malt whisky from India, anyone?).  Decent selection of craft beers as well.  Customer service isn't great, though, and the staff don't seem to know much about the product, which is kind of odd because someone is bringing in some decent stuff.

Those of you in the area may have also heard of the recent somewhat hyped opening of Gallagher and Graham, billed as a "high end liquor store" on 12th St. just south of U (next to Dukem).  I took a look around a few days ago, and my two cents: not worth a visit unless you've been tasked with stocking up for your fraternity's next weekend party.  I've never been so bored walking around a liquor store...

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Great topic...when I lived in MoCo, I got a couple of truly insane deals on single malt scotch in the county stores.  The best deal ever was two bottles of Laphroaig 30 year-old for $130 per.  This was in the Kensington store about ten years ago.  At the time the average retail was at least twice that and has since gone much higher.  I can only guess that they didn't know what they had...best scotch I've ever tasted.

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Moco has the Balvenie 14 at $48-best price in the country according to WS, the days of 21 year old scotch for $50 are long gone.  Good selection of bourbons but always call to make sure the store has yours in stock. Local Bowmans small batch is tasty and a good deal at $29

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Great topic...when I lived in MoCo, I got a couple of truly insane deals on single malt scotch in the county stores.  The best deal ever was two bottles of Laphroaig 30 year-old for $130 per.  This was in the Kensington store about ten years ago.  At the time the average retail was at least twice that and has since gone much higher.  I can only guess that they didn't know what they had...best scotch I've ever tasted.

A few years ago, before I was truly aware of the cult of Pappy, I bought a bottle of the 10 year for $37 at the store in Silver Spring. Tasted it that night and went back a few days later to buy a couple more for "storage". Someone had bought out their entire stock of about 2 cases in one fell swoop.

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Plymouth Gin 0.75L MOCO - 17.99 CW - 26.49 !!

2015 update: FYI - Virginia ABC stores - 39.90!!!!

Surprisingly, though, their prices on the other things I got (Rittenhouse 100, Wild Turkey 101, Green Hat gin) weren't more than $3-4 off the online prices I've seen

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