Bottom Shelf Booze: 5 Local Drinks to Get You Wasted on the Cheap

March 15, 2019

The holidays are now over, but we’re all probably still reeling from ingesting too much food and drink. While I’ve no doubt a lot of us enjoyed a bit of bubbly and other imported libations during the break, there are plenty more who tried to kill their liver with the cheap stuff (which is not exactly a bad thing).

Firewater, gut-rot, moonshine, or bottom shelf booze, you can call these brands whatever you want. Just remember that they fill a very important need in our society (to get us totally smashed while keeping our wallets intact). For the uninformed, here are 5 of the more popular brands you should look for the next time you’re a little short.

5. White Castle Whisky

If there has ever been an iconic figure for local booze, the White Castle model would be it. Picture a woman in a red bikini, riding a white horse along a stretch of sandy beach, and you’d have the most well known figure to help boys through puberty to shill for spirits on local television.

White Castle Whisky takes a few cues from the then-popular White Horse Whisky, but the similarities remain superficial. Among the local bottom shelf brands, White Castle Whisky may be the most complex and expensive choice, but it can’t hold a candle to whiskies from abroad. Still, for the free calendar price, it can’t be beat, which is why it still sells so well.

4. Ginebra San Miguel

Also known as bilog and kwatro kantos, this local gin probably outsells all other gins available in the Philippine market. While it works well as a pre-made Molotov cocktail, it’s also a pretty versatile drink. It can be consumed neat or in popular mixes like gin-pomelo.

This gin has been around for more than a century, and its taste (and affordability) probably hasn’t changed that much since its inception. A word of warning, it can be a harsh drink for the uninitiated due to its high alcohol content and astringent mouth feel. Nevertheless, it continues to be a favorite among Filipinos all over the country.

3. Tanduay Rhum 5 Years

Tandauy is the brand that made both rhum and calendars of scantily clad female celebrities regular fixtures in sari-sari­ stores. It is more popularly known as lapad, thanks to the wide, flask shaped bottle of its smallest variant.

While rhum is naturally sweet  (it’s derived from sugar), Tanduay takes things up a notch by blending its product with even more sugar to get its distinct smooth draw. The end result is a sticky sweet spirit that has been purported to turn to plastic when left under the sun. While this is no doubt an urban legend, it’s a pretty useful tale for mothers who’d like to keep their kids off alcohol (or at least away from the cheap stuff.)

Yes, there will always be those that look down on this rhum, but I’m sure a certain senator will be forever grateful to it for giving us this awesome 2014 calendar.

2. Emperador Brandy

Don’t be fooled by the commercials that feature actors drinking the stuff out of huge brandy snifters. In the real world, more people probably drink Emperador Brandy out of shot glasses, and chased by iced tea. Also known as a long-neck (again, because of the bottle’s shape), this brandy is really cheap at less than a hundred pesos a bottle.

While brandy is considered a digestif, and is best enjoyed in moderation, Emperador fans see no reason to follow such silly rules. It’s usually consumed in copious amounts, since doing so doesn’t put too much of a dent on the wallet. I confess that I myself have partaken in drinking sessions where we easily put down six to eight bottles of this hooch, mostly because it’s so damn cheap.

Emperador’s popularity has led to many copycat brands being introduced into the market, giving us more TV commercials featuring actors who probably never have, and never will, taste the product they are endorsing.

1. Gold Eagle Beer

via Flickr

via Flickr

This beer was actually pretty famous in the late 80’s up to the early 90’s. Produced by San Miguel, it was cheaper than their flagship Pale Pilsen, but some would argue that it tasted pretty much the same. While I haven’t seen a Gold Eagle Beer commercial in quite awhile, its tagline “Pang-kundisyon para bukas/sa may ambisyon” (gets you in good condition for tomorrow) is unforgettable since it’s the only beer I know that boasts of restorative powers.

Oddly enough, it has become the beer of choice in a lot of provinces exactly because of this claim. A lot of the drinkers out there swear that it gives them a good night’s sleep after a particularly grueling day, and they wake up refreshed the next morning, ready to take on the challenges ahead.

If you’re the type to eschew local alcohol in favor of more expensive options at whatever local hotspot is currently trendy, don’t turn up your nose just yet. You’d be surprised to know that almost all bars here use the local stuff for a lot of their mixes, and chances are you’ve unknowingly enjoyed a long-neck or lapad a time or two. While they certainly won’t win any points for class, let’s thank these cheap alcoholic alternatives for getting us nice and buzzed, but not broke.

Have you tried any of these brands? Were you a poor engineering student who found joy in getting drunk on gin with just twenty pesos in your wallet too? Let us know in the comments below!

Nico Goco Nico Goco

Nico is an engineer with a fondness for food, drink, and cooking. This is in serious conflict with his desire to lose weight. Writing is his outlet to make sure the right side of his brain still works. When free, he likes to read, travel, and nurture a dozen different hobbies. He also believes that the perfect fried chicken is the cure to anything.

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14 comments in this post SHOW

14 responses to “Bottom Shelf Booze: 5 Local Drinks to Get You Wasted on the Cheap”

  1. Adrian De Leon says:

    Ah, Emperador. That stuff hardened my liver beyond my years when we were drinking it in high school. Good times, but also a lot of bad ones, lol.

  2. MarioC says:

    hahaha i was a poor engineering student who drank copious amount of ginebra san miguel “stainless” and tanduay lapad … of course after final exams. Ginebra San Miguel is the best! Although I have to admit, it is an acquired taste

    • Nico Goco says:

      the joys of sharing bottles of gin and packets of happy peanuts with your friends. while having just twenty pesos each. if you’re lucky, someone springs for sisig. good times.

  3. secretwalangclue says:

    is Gold Eagle available in Manila? I havent tried that. Beer na Beer meron.

  4. Pilar San Luis says:

    This post reminded me of Dolphy’s Banayad Whiskey! So funny!

  5. Weena S. says:

    gin bulag!

  6. populardeviance says:

    Empie Light!

  7. llyann says:

    empe light!!!! my fave!!! part of our love story!!! ^^

  8. Carl Tomacruz says:

    I once ordered a Cuba Libre in The Reserve, at Ortigas. The bartender wasn’t mixing in Bacardí; he whipped out the Tanduay instead!

  9. Dorian Gray says:

    White Castle surprised me when an ex-pat friend of mine broke out a bottle. My Filipino friends only drank San Miguel gin, which is very drinkable. I have Filipino friends who swear by Emperador Lite –I’m not a brandy drinker, but this was also good. You know you’re in the province when Gold Eagle is for sale, which I prefer to San Miguel pilsen.

    The one drink here I don’t like is the Tanduay 5 year.

  10. Anidict13 says:

    How much of their prices has changed over the course of, what, a year or two?

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