How To Stock Your Home Bar

Guidelines for Beginners:

1. Choose things that you like, not what you think you should have. You're not a business, this is a home bar. You're looking to please yourself! Or maybe, for some of you, impress your friends. To each their own.

2. If you make cocktails every night, look for good values for your base spirits. Taste a lot. Blind taste. Don't get swept up in brand marketing.

Be wary when you see words like "premium" and "top shelf." Find a budget bottle you like and make that your house poor, invest in a nice decanter and keep it filled. 

3. Have a bottle from every category you enjoy, but build up slowly. You don't need to buy it all at once.

3. Keep a few mixers on hand. Fresh citrus, tonic water, ginger beer, a bottle or shrub or homemade simple syrup.

5. Have at least one kind of bitters, and if it's only one, make sure it's an "aromatic" style.

For a bit more guidance, here are some suggestions to get you started. It's a work in progress and I've probably forgotten something. 


This is a guide to a starter bar, budget friendly, including some lesser known favorites of bar folk. 

Vodka : Gruven / Kirkland Brand / Something Local!

London Dry Style Gin : City of London / Beefeater (classic ya'll) / Trader Joe's Rear Admiral London dry

New American or Western Style Gin // / St. George Botanivore

Bourbon, mixing grade : Old Bardstown/ Buffalo Trace / Jim Beam Black
Bourbon, sipping grade : Four Roses Small Batch / Eagle Rare 10 year / 1792 Small Batch

Rye, mixing grade : Rittenhouse 100 / Sazerac

Blended scotch, mixing grade : Bank Note 5 year / Compass Box Artist's Blend

Single Malt, sipping grade : unpeated beginner malt such as (Balvenie 12 yr / 

Blanco Tequila, Mixing grade : Cimarron / Lunazul

White Rum, mixing grade : Plantation 3 Star / Denizen

Aged Rum, mixing grade : El Dorado 5 year / Bounty Gold 

Brandy (Armagnac/Cognac) mixing grade : Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 / Tariquet VS Armagnac 

Sweet Vermouth : Carpano Antica 

Dry Vermouth : Dolin Dry / Noilly Prat

Curacao or Triple Sec : Merlet Triple Sec / Pierre Ferrand Curacao 

Fruit liqueur (apricot, pear, raspberry, etc) : Rothman & Winter / St George Spirits

Bitters : Angostura / Peychaud's

Mixers & Garish :  Simple Syrup / Cocktail Cherries / Tonic Water or Seltzer

*Extra Credit: Campari / Aperol / Luxardo Maraschino / Fernet Branca

Intermediate Bar

You have a solid start or you're looking to upgrade a few areas. 

Vodka :  St. George All Purpose / Potocki Rye Vodka / High West Oat Vodka

London Dry Style Gin : Sipsmith / Broker's / 
Trader Joe's Rear Admiral London dry (trust meeeee)
New American Gin :  AMASS / Benham's Sonoma
Barrel Aged Gin : Rusty Blade /  Barr Hill Tomcat

Bourbon, mixing grade : Elijah Craig / Henry McKenna 10 / 
Eagle Rare 10 year 
Bourbon, sipping grade :  Four Roses Single Barrel / Rowan's Creek / Willet Pot Still
Rye whiskey, mixing grade : Rittenhouse 100 / Old Overholt / Sazerac
Rye whiskey, sipping : Pikesville / Corbin / Pendleton 1910 (12 yr)

Blended scotch, mixing grade : Bank Note 5 year / Aisle of Skye 7 year

Single Malt, sipping grade : unpeated (Tamdhu 12 or Glenfarclas 12)
Single Malt, sipping grade : peated (Kilchoman Machir Bay or Bruichladdich 10)
Japanese or World whiskey : Aksahi White Oak  (highballs)/ Hibiki Harmony (sipping)

Blanco Tequila, mixing grade : Cimarron / El Tesoro 

Mezcal -- Espadin : Bruxo No. 1 / Yuu Baal / Mezcal Union / Legendario Domingo 
Reposado or Anejo Tequila, sipping grade : Tequila Ocho / Siete Leguas

White rum, mixing grade : Santa Teresa Claro / Plantation 3 Star

Aged rum, mixing :  Hamilton Demerara / Plantation 5 Year / Pusser's 
Aged rum, sipping : Foursquare Port Finish / Plantation Single Island / Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

Brandy, mixing grade : Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 / Tariquet VS Armagnac 

Brandy (Armagnac/Cognac) sipping grade : Park VSOP or XO / Delord Napoleon Bas Armagnac / Dudognon Reserve 

Sweet Vermouth : Punt e Mes (heavy) / Dolin Rouge  (light)

Dry Vermouth : Noilly Pratt / Carpano Dry / 
Aperitivo : Aperol / Campari / Gran Classico
Curacao or Triple Sec : Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao 
Fruit liqueurs (apricot, pear, raspberry, etc) : Giffard / St George / Pur
Misc Liqueur : Leopold's or Luxardo
Amaro/Fernet :  Fernet Branca / Meletti Amaro / Cynar / Amaro Nonino 

Bitters : Angostura or other Aromatic bitter / Peychaud's / Reagan's Orange or Angostura Orange

*Extra Credit Cocktail Corner : Green Chartreuse / Calvados / Pisco / Grenadine / Gomme Syrup


Hella Crazy Stocked Bar Cause You're A Baller or The One Upper Bar: 

Vodka : Black Cow (made from whey!)

London Dry Style Gin : Sipsmith VJOP  (juniper in your FACE)

Newfangled Gin: Empress Gin (changes color with dilution, your friends are gonna ohhh and ahhh)
Fancy Gin: Monkey 47 gin

Sipping Bourbon: Bardstown -- (that new bottle everyone keeps asking about)

in progress.....


  1. I wish this guide existed when I was first buying stuff! Not too late to fill in some gaps though... :-)

  2. P.S. Where would you put Chartreuses, the Campari/Gran Classico/Aperol-ish family, and Smith 'n' Cross in your basic-to-baller spectrum?

    1. Hmm, Chartreuse would be extra credit for the intermediate bar. Campari and family, well that's just a terrible oversight on my part. Would definitely put them in the "must have" for intermediate. Good ol' Smith n Cross...maybe there should be a "Secret Cabinet" section for those in the know. :)

  3. I have been anxiously waiting for the hella stocked bar recommendations for way too long. :-) Glad to see that you're back to writing!


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