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Stocking a Home Bar

Stocking a home bar depends on many factors:  The tastes of those who will partake, the space you have available and of course, the amount of money you're willing to spend. 

Based on my experience, you can keep most people happy with a few basic liquors, liqueurs, wine and a small assortment of beers.   

The Basics

Vodka - Typically a premium name brand such as Absolut or Skyy

Gin - Also a recognized brand like Tanquary or Bombay Sapphire.

Rum - Here you might want at least three different types, a dark (Goslings Black Seal or Myers), a light (Bacardi) and a spiced rum (Captain Morgan's).

Whiskey - Good Whiskey can get expensive.  For some a basic bottle of Jack Daniel's might suffice while for others you might want an assortment of Irish, Canadian and American whiskies.  It's up to you.

Bourbon - Wild Turkey, Maker's Mark, and Jim Beam are among the biggest names.

Scotch - Scotch can also get expensive.  Choose according to the tastes of your guests and your budget.  Cutty Sark, Johnnie Walker, J & B, and Teachers are among the most well known.

Tequila - There are two different types of Tequila drinkers.  There's the "Lick it, slam it, suck it" crowd (based on the traditional Salt, Shot, Lime sequence) and there is the 100% Blue Agave sipping crowd.  To keep both happy consider a bottle of Jose Cuervo for the slammers and a more upscale tequila such as Sauza Comemerativo or XQ for the sipping crowd.


Schnapps - The single most commonly used schnapps in the US is Peach Schnapps.  It's used in everything from Sex on the Beach to the Woo Woo.  After peach, you might want to consider a mellon (Midori), Apple, Butterscotch, and any other flavors that strike your fancy.

Crème's - The essentials here are Creme De Menthe (Green and / or White) Cacao (Brown or White), and Banana

Brandies - Flavored brandies are often a party favorite.  The common ones are Cherry and Blackberry.

Orange Flavored Liqueurs - There are many different kinds of liqueurs flavored with orange.  They are often lumped together under the name Triple Sec, but they include items such as Grand Mariner, Blue Curacao, Cointreau, and, yes, even your basic Triple Sec.

Others - Kahlua, Jagermeister, Rumple Mintz, Benedictine, Frangelico and Chambord are some common staples as well.

There are literally hundreds of different liqueurs and liquors out there in almost every flavor.  


Billy Joel said it best:  "Bottle of red, bottle of white, whatever kind of mood you're in tonight".  

When it comes to wine mild mannered people become freakish snobs.  You'll never please everyone, so it's best to keep it simple with a good bottle of Merlot and  a nice Chardonnay.  Wine doesn't keep well after its been opened so trying to keep a large selection on hand is not really practical.  Of course, if you know that your quests like a particular style (say a fine Mad Dog 20/20 or a good vintage Wild Irish Rose) then you should base your wine offerings on your guest's tastes.


With beer, as with wine, it depends on the tastes of your guests.  Typically for a large party, I'll have a lot of Corona and Coors Light and a small selection of others such as Sam Adams, Becks, Bud and a few cans of Guinness.  I know that most of my guests like Corona or Coors Light with the exception of a few.

If you don't know your guests tastes ahead of time, then you'll need a selection that includes domestic and imported beer as well as at least one brand of light beer.  You might also want to consider a non-alcoholic beer as well. 

There is also a new trend in the category of "Clear Malts".  Zima was the first, but they now seem to be everywhere:  Schmirnoff, Skyy, and Bacardi each have a clear malt premium flavored beverage out.  I've tried all three and like Skyy Blue the best.  Of course a 12 pack of Skyy Blue costs more than a case of Corona!


Mixers are almost as important as the liquors themselves.  What would a Rum and Coke be if you had the rum, but not the Coke?!  Here are the basics:

Cola (Coke or Pepsi - I get whatever's on sale at the time)

Diet Cola - Here it makes a difference.  Some prefer Diet Coke, some, Diet Pepsi.  Others like Pepsi One.  I try to keep them all on hand.

Sprite / 7-Up

Ginger Ale, Tonic Water, and Club Soda - Unless you use it all the time, get the small bottles so it keeps better.

Pineapple Juice - This is available in little 8 ounce cans and keeps for years so it's easy to keep it available without it going bad.

Orange Juice

Cranberry Juice

Grapefruit Juice

Bar Mixes

Sour Mix - You can buy this at most grocery stores in either a bottle or in a powder.  You can also make your own with lemon juice, sugar and water.

Margarita Mix - Pick your favorite.  It beats squeezing limes.

Bloody Mary Mix - I've never been asked for a bloody mary in my entire career.  But you never know.