Thanks to fellow Blogger “Alcohol Tourism” I’ve decided to make a dialed back version of Home Bar 101, and focus solely on affordable booze for Your First Home Bar. All prices noted here are as of April 28, 2013 and are in U.S. Dollars.
(That photo? Oh, that’s what’s in my Living Room. For your first bar, ignore that photo. You can do something like that later!)
If you haven’t already read Home Bar 101, you might want to. It’ll cover things a bit more in depth that this article will. Still, a quick note on what you DON’T need when starting out:
- You don’t need flavored vodka.
- You don’t need Scotch whiskey nor Irish whiskey.
- You don’t need Chambord nor POM.
- You don’t need Absinthe.
You need the basics. And these are the basics for your First Home Bar; or as Alcohol Tourism put it, this is a bar for someone of college age. These are good performers, and good quality for no more than $25 a bottle. And here we go:
#1: Whiskey – Four Roses “Yellow Label” Bourbon
I just can’t stop thinking about this stuff. Four Roses “Yellow” is recommendation for the sole bottle of whiskey in your first home bar. It’s smooth, universal and totally mixable. It will serve ALL of your whiskey/bourbon needs as you start out. And $18 a bottle, this stuff is an absolute STEAL and tastes better than some $35 bourbons I’ve had.
You CAN find Four Roses at your local liquor store. Maybe not at your local supermarket, but every liquor store will have it.
#2: Rum – Cruzan “Silver” Aged Rum
I do prefer black rums, but Cruzan Aged Rum (the clear stuff) is very neutral. Only a mild touch of warm on your palate and a lovely heat down the throat. It’s a neutral clear rum, mildly sweet, approachable, totally mixable, and a STEAL at $13 a bottle.
You should be able to find Cruzan everywhere. I actually got my bottle at the local Safeway!
#3: Tequila – Espolon Blanco
As noted in my Tequila 101 post, the only true Tequila is clear Tequila. Even so, you’ll still have tons of choices. My recommendation for a tequila at $35 or less is Espolon Blanco. Fantastic over ice or in Margaritas, Espolon is a zero guilt, no bite tequila that will convert all of your friends over to tequila drinkers!
Available at your local booze shop for $22. Any more than $25 and they are ripping you off.
#4: Gin – New Amsterdam or Beefeater
Gin should be herbal, but still moderately neutral. I’m giving you a choice here because New Amsterdam Gin is pretty heavy in the citrus department and Beefeater is classic juniper and spice.
Do you like a Dry Martini, a Proper Martini (you know, one that actually has Vermouth in it), an Aviation Cocktail, or a Singapore Sling? If yes, go Beefeater. But for Gin & Tonics, Rickeys, and Vespers, New Amsterdam is PERFECT.
Both are available everywhere, and neither will cost you more than $14 a bottle.
#5: Vodka – Green Mark or Tito’s
Vodka is supposed to be neutral… it’s supposed to disappear into whatever drink you mix it into. Both Green Mark Vodka and Tito’s Handmade Vodka tick those boxes and do so while tasting like $50 bottles… however, they’ll only cost you $12 to $14 a bottle! These are amazing vodkas and belong in your home bar. You’ll likely never need to replace these brands unless you start buying Jewel of Russia.
They are both smooth, warm, and truly neutral.
Now, if I’ve done the math correctly, you just bought the Five Basic Bottles of Booze for Your First Home Bar, and did it for about $80! Good work!
Mixers & Liqueurs
Here are a few other basics you should have to round out your very first home bar:
- Triple Sec – Necessary for a Sunrise, a Sidecar, and a Margarita. Note: use Triple Sec as a replacement for Cointreau in any drink that calls for it… until you can afford it. And: do not buy EXPENSIVE Triple Sec. Totally defeats the purpose. Potter’s = $5.50. DONE!
- Dry Vermouth – Necessary for a Gibson, a Martini, and a Kangaroo. Note: Martini & Rossi Extra Dry is what you want. And, you only need a half bottle! 375ml is enough and will run you $3.75.
- Sweet Vermouth – Necessary for a Rob Roy, a Brooklyn, and a Manhattan. Note: Martini & Rossi Sweet is what you want. And, you only need a 375ml bottle at $3.75. Seriously, you won’t use it that often.
- Tonic Water – Schweppes, 6 pack of 10 ounce bottles = $5.50.
- Bitters – Angostura or Peychaud’s. Pick just one. They are the classics and will cover your bases. But they’re pricey: $10 a bottle.
- Grenadine & Rose’s Sweetened Lime – They pop up now and then; and again: get the little bottles. Just please: refrigerate when not in use! 12 ounce bottles should run you $3.75 each.
Now, for these extras, count on spending another $36. Drop that to $26 if you skip the bitters for now. Hey! Skip the bitters, and you’re looking at a $101 price tag! (Total coincidence.)
If you can, have these around:
- Maraschino Cherries
- Queen Olives
- Lemons & Limes
And there you go.