Actually, as a group, alcohol stoves are pretty straightforward - add fuel, light, and boil water. Some variety of fuel is readily available - i have used Purell hand sanitizer (62% ethanol) in mine quite effectively. The one I really like is the venerable Trangia. It is heavier than most (3 oz), actually has a simmering attachment, and can be carried full of fuel (just make sure the gasket in the lid is intact). I really like the stove as supplied with the mini-Trangia cookset, about $35 at REI, and you are set for solo or two person cooking (water boiling).
I also used that same cook set with my Pocket Rocket, which has been my main appliance for the last ten years. Simple, effective, and reasonably light weight. I don't agree completely with the reviews you cite. In the overall scheme of things, the cost of the canisters is pretty insignificant. If you fly to your destination, finding a store with canisters in small towns can be a hassle. Canister stoves are basically convenient and foolproof and relatively light.
With almost any stove you will need to cobble up some sort of windscreen - usually a piece of heavy duty foil will do the job. For me, the PR has been foolproof, effective, and light weight.
As a certified geezer, I have not gone out in really cold temperatures, so I can't speak to the ability of the Pocket Rocket in sub-zero conditions, where it does get a bit cranky. If you are going out in winter, you need a liquid fuel stove, and its attendant weight. Be sure and carry maintenance and repair items.
I suspect that most of us are multiple stove users - alcohol or canister for mild conditions, and a liquid fueled stove for winter.