What’s up you cool babies?
I saw a question on Facebook from someone looking to start stocking their first bar. Astute readers will notice I am focusing on spirits below. I think they provide the most bang for their buck and can be used in a variety of drinks. Plus, wine is not my forte. Beer goes in the fridge.
Vodka (if you can’t taste the difference, great! If you can, I recommend Absolut as the best affordable vodka), non-scotch whisky (bourbon, rye, Tennessee, etc. Jack will be just fine, but I would rather spend a little more on some Bulliet), dark (not spiced, sorry Cap’n! Mount Gay works) rum. Those three will allow for a variety of mixed drinks that will appeal to many people. And if you want to do shots, you can.
From there, I would add gin (Hendrick’s is particularly nice for sipping) and tequila (100% blue agave if you can; Espolon Blanco and Hornitos Reposado are both great, affordable options). These allow for martinis, margaritas, and other citrus mixes that will benefit from these flavors. Tequila and assorted sodas (Coke or Squirt, in particular) also pair nicely.
Maybe then get some more whisky, if you like it. If you decide to go with some scotch, I would recommend looking for a lower priced scotch like Glenfiddich 12, which has some peat while not being overwhelming. Blended scotches also tend to be 10-20 bucks cheaper while providing some of those more generic scotch flavors. Monkey Shoulder has treated me well.
You might also decide to get into rum, in which case you can pick up something in the ten year range without breaking the bank (I enjoy Zaya, which has a forward vanilla flavor). I recommend sticking with dark, as they seem to benefit more from the aging (to me, at least). I would also recommend getting some light rum (Bacardi works) at this point, which pairs well with fruit juices and Jell-O shots (don’t use vodka, use light rum - trust me). And if you’ve been playing along with the above recommendations, you can now make a Long Island Iced Tea (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, sour mix; splash of Coke).
In addition to the alcohol, it’s good to keep some mixes and other additives on hand. Olives, cocktail onions, maraschino cherries, angostura bitters (while technically alcohol, these are usually added in drops, not ounces), lemons, limes, and oranges. Maybe some toothpicks and a bar shaker. A vegetable peeler can remove a slice of zest from the aforementioned fruit, classing up a drink instantly.
I don’t have any recommendations for non-standard, generally stand-alone products like Jagermeister or Malört. If you like them, then buy them. Same with Baileys and that chili-mango liqueur I bought one evening after many libations. Ahem. That’s a story for another time.