The PLCB is limiting sales of some alcohol. Here’s what to buy instead.
If you’re having a big party or just want to stock up, here are some options that are not limited by the new PLCB rules.
As of last Friday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board started rationing the sales of 42 wine and spirits products, limiting sales to two bottles per day, per customer.
The announcement seemed to set off a mild panic, at least on social media, but in truth, the bottles listed only represent 2% of the PLCB’s total list of available products. If your go-to bottles include Dom Perignon (baller!) or Hennessy, you’re out of luck for the “foreseeable future” according to the agency, which cites supply chain issues and overall shortages for the ration.
But 42 bottles in a literal sea of other options shouldn’t get you down. Bottle shops around the city are flourishing with interesting, small-production producers for the curious and the bold, while PLCB-operated Fine Wine Good Spirits stores are still plenty stocked.
Taking into account the rationed products, we put together a list of alternatives for the brand-loyal, who may view the current state of things as an opportunity to branch out and explore. Rather than offer alternatives brand-by-brand, we’ve organized our alternatives by category; all listed products are available on the FWGS website at the time of this writing.
Whiskey and bourbon
Whiskey drinkers are a loyal bunch, in many cases following a brand’s various evolutions while taking note of mash bills, proof, time in oak, and any number of minute details outside the grasp of casual drinkers. Asking them to ration their Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace or Colonel Taylor order seems downright cruel. Bourbon drinkers love what they love, and you can’t blame them for that, but if you’re on the market to explore other distillers, now’s a good time to branch out — whiskey and bourbon are practically made for cozy nightcaps as the temperatures outside drop. For starters, High West’s offering is light aromatically, but delivers a hit of spice on the palate, Evan Williams’ Black Label Redemption is perfectly priced for any back-bar or cocktail bourbon, and Four Roses Straight Bourbon Single Barrel is a smooth, complex sipper. And if you like a bit more rye in the mashbill to spice things up (literally), you can’t go wrong with Old Grand Dad Straight Bourbon, especially bottled in bond.
Moet & Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, and Dom Perignon are not only on the list of wines being hit with a ration, but are also among the most recognized Champagne brands around. They are not, however, the be all, end all. Dollar for dollar, Krug’s Grande Cuvee is as celebratory, luxurious and genre-defining as Dom Perignon, for instance, while lesser-known Champagne houses like Bertrand Delespierre and Rene Geoffroy deliver high-quality bubbles at comparable prices.
Sorry Hennessy fans: All available sizes of Hennessy fall under the PLCB rations. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to meet you in the middle with an alternative here; Hennessy is widely available and affordable, while other Cognacs in the category can be pricier, but also more complex and with different flavor notes. One suggestion is to give Calvados, the French brandy made from apples, a try. In some cases, it is more affordable, and it is downright pleasant, with a touch of apple-y sweetness. If you’re unfamiliar with Calvados, Boulard’s 200 ml bottle is an affordable $9 introduction to the stuff. For those looking for something more apples-to-apples (pun unintended), E and J Brandy VSOP is available in multiple sizes, ranging from $4.79-$24.99.
Don Julio and Patron make up the tequila contingent of the PLCB list of rationed products, but with the variety of agave-based products out there, there’s no reason to mourn. Tequila and its relative, mezcal, have been booming over the last few years, with exciting labels and products celebrating the complexity and variety of its base ingredient. You’ll find Espolon Blanco in many bars these days, likely because its balanced profile lends itself to being a great cocktail chameleon, though it is smooth enough on the rocks with a citrus twist. On the other end of the flavor spectrum, Illegal’s Joven Mezcal is a lighter style mezcal with just the softest whisper of smoke, which brings a touch of earthiness to sweet margaritas and citrusy palomas. Finally, Del Maguey is one of the top-rated mezcal purveyors, often showcasing different styles of agave in single-batch bottles — the San Luis Del Rio offering, made with 100% espadin, is aromatic, complex, and soft, affordably priced as an entry-level mezcal for beginners.