How to Stock Your Bar for Any Budget

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Stocking your home bar can be a daunting task. Sure, you could just cobble together a selection of hand-me-down bottles from your parents’ liquor cabinet and house party leftovers. But we really don’t recommend it—that’s how you end up mixing Manhattans with vermouth so old it could have graduated college and gotten a PhD in tasting terrible. Nor do we recommend dropping a mere $50 on a slew of plastic bottles with built-in grips for easy over-pouring. Instead, opt for one of our curated shopping lists (complete with bottle recommendations), designed for three different budgets.

The Beginner Bartender: $150


For the first-time home bar builder, it’s essential to start with the basics: the five main spirits, two types of bitters and two shades of vermouth. It’s that simple to get started—just one quick liquor store run. If $150 seems steep, just consider how much you spend over the course of a couple nights at the bar, and the cost of imbibing at home will seem like couch change in comparison. This setup is the bartending equivalent of learning the E, A and D chords on a guitar: it equips you with everything you need to master 80 percent of the classics. Pick up some fresh fruit and whip up some simple syrup and your horizons get even bigger.

Primary Spirits

  • Blanco Tequila - Pueblo Viejo ($17)
  • Dark Rum - El Dorado 8-Year Cask Aged ($20)
  • Whiskey - Wild Turkey 101 ($20)
  • Vodka - Wodka ($19)
  • Gin - Gordon’s London Dry ($13)

Bitters
  • Angostura ($10)
  • Peychaud’s ($10)

Vermouth
  • Dry - Dolin de Chambery Dry Vermouth ($10 for 375 ml)
  • Sweet - Dolin de Chambery Rouge Vermouth ($10 for 375 ml)

The Seasoned Drinker: $400


This isn’t your first rodeo. You’ve mastered your classic cocktails and started cultivating a rep among your friends as the go-to bartender. It’s time to upgrade the basics and expand your bar. Here we'll add mezcal, and a wider selection of amaro and bitters. This setup opens the door to drinks like Negronis, Mojitos and Margaritas.

Primary Spirits

  • Blanco Tequila - 1800 Silver ($25)
  • Dark rum - Ron Flor de Caña ($33)
  • Bourbon - Four Roses Small Batch ($30)
  • Vodka - Tito’s Handmade ($20)
  • Gin - Citadelle ($25)

Bonus Bottles
  • Reposado Tequila - EspolĂłn Reposado ($19)
  • White Rum - Brugal Especial Extra Dry Rum ($19)
  • Mezcal - Fidencio Clásico Joven ($35)
  • Rye - Templeton ($32)

Modifiers (choose two)
  • Campari ($28)
  • Fernet Branca ($22)
  • Amaro Montenegro ($22)
  • Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao ($32)
  • St-Germain ($27)

Bitters
  • Angostura ($10)
  • Peychaud’s ($10)
  • Orange - Regan’s ($10)
  • Plus one of the following:
    • Celery - Fee Brothers ($20)
    • Chocolate - Scrappy’s ($20)
    • Tiki - Bittermen’s ($20)
    • Mole - The Bitter End ($20)

Vermouth
  • Dry - Cocchi Americano ($15)
  • Sweet - Cocchi Vermouth di Torino ($15)

The Maestro Mixologist: $850


Congratulations, you’re officially cocktail-obsessed. We support you wholeheartedly. It’s time to fill out the top shelf. Upgrade to premium bottles and diversify even more with spirits like rhum agricole, cachaça and high end whiskies. We went ahead and threw in some sherry and a few more liqueurs for good measure. Stocking your bar this way means a substantial chunk of change, but if you truly love cocktailing it's money well spent. 

Primary Spirits

  • Blanco Tequila - Casa Noble Crystal ($40)
  • Dark Rum - Pusser’s 15-Year Navy Rum ($55)
  • Bourbon Whiskey - Booker’s ($60)
  • Vodka - Leopold Bros. Silver Tree American Small Batch ($40)
  • Gin - The Botanist Islay Dry ($32)

Bonus Bottles
  • Reposado Tequila - Casamigos Reposado ($48)
  • White Rum - Cana Brava ($30)
  • Mezcal - Ilegal Mezcal Joven ($47)
  • Rhum Agricole - Rhum J.M Blanc ($32)
  • Cachaça - Novo Fogo Silver ($34)
  • Sherry - El Maestro Sierra 12-Year Amontillado Sherry ($29)
  • Scotch - The Macallan Single Malt 12-Year ($62)
  • Irish Whiskey - Knappogue Castle 12-Year Single Cask ($45)
  • Rye - High West Double Rye ($35)

Modifiers (choose three)
  • Campari ($28)
  • Fernet Branca ($30)
  • Amaro Montenegro ($22)
  • Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao ($32)
  • St-Germain ($27)

Liqueurs
  • Maraschino - Luxardo ($30)
  • Crème de Violette - Rothman & Winter ($22)
  • Crème de Cassis - Briottet ($30)

Bitters
  • Angostura ($10)
  • Peychaud’s ($10)
  • Orange ($10)
  • Plus one of the following:
    • Celery - Fee Brothers ($20)
    • Chocolate - Scrappy’s ($20)
    • Tiki - Bittermen’s ($20)
    • Mole - The Bitter End ($20)

Vermouth
  • Dry - Carpano Bianco ($21 for 1L)
  • Sweet - Carpano Antica Formula ($15 for 375 ml)

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