When you’re a student expected to live on $176 a week from Studylink, every dollar counts. It’s a constant struggle to balance those optional extras, like rent and food, with the essentials, like coffee and alcohol. Getting a buzz on a budget is a delicate art – you want to drink to forget your financial woes, not create new ones.
The Golden Ratio
If you’re wanting to get your money’s worth of alcohol, any self-respecting student needs to have an experienced grasp on the magic ‘dollar per standard’ formula. The ‘Golden Ratio’ of one dollar per standard is fast escaping us, being washed away by the rising tide of inflation and taxes.
The hunt for cheap alcohol is becoming more and more intense, as the golden ratio is becoming more and more rare. For this reason, we at Critic are launching the most important piece of investigative journalism in our history. A quest to discover, once and for all, the cheapest alcohol in Dunedin.
Let’s set some ground rules. Firstly, this is solely about price, taste is totally irrelevant. It can taste like ethanol and farts put through a soda stream provided its dollars per standard ratio pays off. Secondly, we are only counting standard Recommended Retail Price (RRP). You may occasionally find deals better than RRP on special, and if you do you should absolutely take full advantage of them, but for the purposes of this investigation we are only considering the RRP of products that are consistently stocked and available. Thirdly, the beverage must be sold at a liquor store, supermarket or other off-license outlet within the Dunedin City Limits. Lastly, while we have done our absolute best to scour the city for the best deals possible (and are quite confident in declaring our winner), anyone who thinks they can top us is encouraged to write in.
The first stop on our intrepid journey is Super Liquor, home of the legendary Southern Gold. As the distinctive sign out the front proudly proclaims, it costs $27.99 for a tray of 24, putting its dollars per standard (D/S) at 1.16, an impressive figure. Swap-a-Crates seems like a contender, but they are surprisingly dear. Even when you include the discount for returning your bottles, it would need to cost less than $32.50 to beat Southern Gold’s D/S. Both Flame and Haagen come in just over, and will often put up a good fight at sales time. However, based on regular retail pricing, SoGo reigns supreme as the cheapest beer in the city. Beer snobs be damned, this weird-tasting frothy excuse for a lager will save you stacks in the long run.
But, as most drinkers will know, beer is not your go-to option for a cheap night on the piss. It’s time to explore the wondrous world of RTDs. Diesels are a solid option. At 330mls, this mixture of sugar and motor oil offers a bigger punch than most RTDs. At 7% and $14 for six cans it offers 10.5 standard drinks and a D/S of 1.33. Not bad by any means but certainly beatable. In reality, any chance a canned RTD had of hitting the golden ration died out when the government outlawed 8% beverages. While Cody’s, KGB and Cruisers all offer an easy path to diabetes, none of them are a particularly good deal on the alcohol front anymore.
But there is one outlet in Dunedin that blows them all away. At Meenan’s Bottle Store on Great King St, the oldest liquor store in Dunedin, you can fill your own rigger with a variety of alcohol. Among them is their own brand of ‘Vodka Ice’, a slightly cheaper knockoff of the famous Icebreaker from McDuffs Brewery (RIP). Provided you bring your own bottle, Vodka Ice is 4% and costs just $3.10 per litre. That’s a D/S of 1.03, tantalisingly close to the Golden Ratio. That’s so close it’s almost teasing us. But you can get there, thanks to economies of scale. If you splash out for an entire keg, you’ll get a total of 150 standard drinks for $150 (not including the keg deposit), giving us our first taste of the glorious Golden Ratio .
But it’s not always practical to buy a whole keg for a night (and you’ll have to end up sharing it anyway). Surely we can reach the Golden Ratio without having to shell out for 50 litres at a time.
The Hard Stuff
Our next move was to explore the world of hard liquor. A standard bottle of name brand 40% vodka will run you about $40 at most liquor stores and contains 32 standards. Stil has a cheeky tendency to fool you into thinking it’s a lot cheaper than it is by dropping its strength to 37%. From our findings, if you want to find the best D/S on spirits at local liquor stores, you’ve got to drop into truly disgusting territory. Thanks to the government offering massive tax breaks to protect the wine industry, anything between 9% and 14% normally has an excellent D/S. Taking full advantage of this is a range of watered down vodka and other spirits coming in at precisely 13.9%. Kristov Raspberry is the best known and costs $12 for 11 standards, a D/S of 1.09. It tastes like the sewage runoff from a Real Fruit Ice Cream shop, but it’s a great deal.
So is that the answer? In order to buy the cheapest spirits you have to go for watered down, flavoured, industrial ethanol? Well, no, you just have to travel a bit farther out to beat it. Any deal-hunter will know that McDuffs Brewery (RIP) used to sell fill-your-own bottles of spirits for around $30-32 a litre, depending on flavour, right bang on the Golden Ratio. With the closure of that great establishment, it seemed like truly cheap spirits would be a thing of the past in North Dunedin. However, through our committed hunting, we managed to find one other outlet way out in the depths of South D, unbeknownst to most students. The Dunedin Malthouse, supplier of all your homebrewing needs, sells vodka and gin at $31 a litre and whisky, rum and brandy at $31.50 snaking past the Golden Ratio with a D/S of 0.97. It is worth noting that if you go to the Dunedin Malthouse and pick up some homebrewing or distilling equipment, with a bit of practice you can start making decent alcohol for way less than anything in this article.
Anytime you can beat the Golden Ratio, you know you’ve got a great deal. But a great deal isn’t enough, we’re looking for the best deal. Let’s move on to the wine – a drink which is simultaneously the classiest and least classy way to get pissed, depending on whether you’re drinking from a glass or a bottle.
Fat Bird and Little Penguin are perennial BYO favourites, perfect for choking down alongside your Butter Chicken Mild. Red wines are usually your best shot when it comes to D/S. As far as we could find there are no bottled wines that beat the golden ration at RRP. Honestly, the range of wines at most supermarkets is so large that basing any decision on standard pricing is almost impossible – you should just grab whatever is on special.
Glass bottles are a major expense for producers. It’s tough to make the margins meet with added expense. That’s why bottle wines are never going to beat the real heroes of budget alcoholics: the goon.
God Bless Goon
Goon is the sweet, sweet nectar that binds the Australasian continent together. It’s delicious and nutritious, and the goon sack can easily be turned into a makeshift pillow when you inevitably pass out after finishing it.
By far the best tasting wine goon is the iconic Blenheimer. Available at Countdown for $22, it contains a very respectable 25 standard drinks, putting its D/S at a very healthy 0.88. It’s light and fruity and very drinkable. The secret to the taste is that at 11% it’s much lower on ethanol than your ordinary bottle wine, drastically reducing the harsh feeling at the back of your throat.
But, while Blenheimer is a deal for the ages and super duper yummy, it’s not the best deal in Dunedin. Drumroll please…
The moment is here, we can finally announce the winner, the best deal in the whole city, the champ of champs, the drink of drinks, the hero of students everywhere. The award goes to...
Mystic Ridge Wine Goon from pak’n’save
(Cheers and applause erupts from the crowd of broke scarfies)
Coming in at 12.5% and served in a full 3 litre goon sack, Mystic Ridge comes in hot with 30 standards and costs an unbeatable $22.95.
That’s a D/S ratio of 0.765, almost unheard of in this day and age. It tastes like absolute fucking dirt. Imagine a cocktail of paint thinner and that liquid that collects at the bottom of the veggie drawer in your fridge. But with a price like that you can afford to buy a few mixers to help you sink it down. If you buy five of them you can make a massive batch of jungle juice, mix it with $35 worth of soda and juice and still come out better off than any keg.
So let’s all have a toast for the undisputed Dunedin alcohol champ, Mystic Ridge!