Stocking a bar cart may seem intimidating, but it’s simpler than you think. With a mix of essential base spirits, aperitifs, liqueurs, bitters, non-alcoholic mixers and a few unexpected bottles to show off your personality, you’ll be ready to make hundreds of cocktails for even your most discerning guests.
Blanco tequilas can sometimes be a bit lacking in flavor, but Siete Leguas’s take on the form blends a blanco’s traditional smoothness with an intense flavor of cooked agave.
Bottled at a robust 100 proof, Knob Creek’s 9-Year Bourbon boasts a hearty oak flavor after spending nearly a decade encased in the stuff.
A happy medium between light and dark, this tropical golden rum spends the first three or four years of its aging process in retired bourbon barrels.
Equally at home in a martini or negroni, Sipsmith’s traditional London Dry Gin is distilled in its namesake city from a smooth and complex blend of 10 different botanicals.
If you’re looking for mass-produced vodka, this ain’t it. Icelandic Reyka is distilled in small batches from lava-rock-filtered glacial spring water. The result is an exceptionally clean spirit.
Single Malt Whisky
The acclaimed world of Japanese whisky can be intimidating and expensive, but this bottle from industry leader Suntory makes for an approachable and affordable introduction.
Like a good, quality tequila, this young mezcal is made with 100 percent pure agave. Use its subtle smoky flavor to punch up your margaritas, or sip it over ice.
St. George was first out of the gate with a new American absinthe after the spirit’s ban was lifted in 2007, and its authentic recipe remains the best way to chase the green fairy.
Liqueurs & Bitters
There’s no more essential or versatile liqueur than orange liqueur, which figures in too many classic cocktails to count. And there’s no more essential orange liqueur than clear and complex Cointreau.
The most ubiquitous bitters in existence, Angostura’s vaguely medicinal blend of herbs and spices is a must-have for any home bartender looking to make old-fashioneds or Manhattans.
If you’re willing to venture outside of Angostura when it comes to bitters (and you should), your first stop should be Regan’s refined take on old-school citrus bitters.
Sometimes vermouth can be an afterthought, but not this French-made concoction of sauvignon blanc and jacquère wines that’s been infused with 17 different plants and spices.
Far less cloying than your average Italian vermouth, Antica Formula brings a bittersweet complexity to your cocktails. Keep this and your dry vermouth in the fridge once opened to maintain freshness.
Lovingly crafted in a natural botanical-focused Brooklyn distillery, this American aperitivo makes for a bright and refreshing alternative to the usual Amari standbys of Campari and Aperol.
Club soda adds length to a number of popular drinks, and Regatta’s innovative and premium version uses evaporated sea salt to achieve the perfect level of carbonation.
Fever-Tree’s tonic utilizes authentic quinine from Central Africa and bitter orange oils from Mexico, for flavor that blows away your typical supermarket fare.
Ginger ale’s sharper, stronger cousin, ginger beer brings bite to tipples like the Moscow mule. Maine Root’s rendition is exceptionally spicy and ginger-forward.