Building a home bar can be overwhelming. We make it for you.

First, you need to decide on your approach.

Follow the guidance included with Fundamental Cocktails

We separate the 52 cocktail recipes included in Fundamental Cocktails into four different bar levels, and provide you with an ingredient list for each bar level. You can simply take this ingredient list to the store, buy the ingredients needed for the bar level, and gradually build the bar of your dreams.

OR pick a recipe you want to make, and buy the ingredients you need

If you want to dip your toes in, then it's best to just pick a recipe (or a few) that you want to make and then buy the ingredients you need. However, we still recommend selecting a recipe from bar level 1 or 2 in Fundamental Cocktails, because those ingredients are more likely to be reused in other cocktail recipes.

Next, you need to decide which specific products to buy.

Below are some of the spirits that we love.  These are what we buy for our own home bars; we don’t have any affiliation with these companies.

We have included indicative pricing in case it helps you decide what to buy, but the pricing in your area may vary.  These prices were obtained from Boston liquor stores in June 2020, and are based on 750ml bottles unless noted otherwise. 

If you want liquor delivered to your home, then check out Drizly.  Use promo code “difou” to get $5 off your first order.  Home bartender in residence Sean will get a credit if you use this promo code, which he will use to buy more liquor, which he will then evaluate and use to update this list.

Base Spirits

Bourbon

There's a lot of great bourbons out there, but also a lot of bad ones. Find one you like, stick with it, and hope the rest of the world doesn't find out about it (and drive the price through the roof).
  • Buffalo Trace $30

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails

  • Maker's Mark $30

    Often also available in 1L+ size options

  • Basil Hayden's $44

    A nice upgrade

Rye

Like bourbons, there are a lot of great ryes, but also a lot of bad ones. Ryes are spicier than bourbons, and we tend to favor higher proof ryes when making cocktails.
  • Rittenhouse Rye $28

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails, but sometimes hard to find (it's also 100 proof, so be careful)

  • Old Overholt $19

    Surprisingly good for the price

  • Woodford Reserve Straight Rye $47

    A nice upgrade

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is very popular due to its smoothness.
  • Jameson $30

    A classic that also comes available in 1L+ size options

  • Bushmill's $26

    Also very nice

  • The Irishman Single Malt $50

    Worth checking out if you can find it, and is good for sipping straight, but likely more than you need for a cocktail

Scotch (for mixing in cocktails)

We love single malt scotches for sipping, but most of them are wasted in cocktails. Don't judge us by these selections.
  • Monkey Shoulder $35

    Good blended scotch; Sean served this at his wedding

  • J&B Rare $26

    Brings us back to the college days, but still decent in a cocktail or mixed drink and often available in 1L+ size options

  • Dewar's White Label $26

    It'll get the job done

Gin

There are a lot of types of gin, and it largely comes down to personal preference. Some of the main categories are London Dry gin (dry, juniper heavy), Plymouth gin (less dry, more roots, less juniper), Genever/ Dutch gin (made with malt grains), Old Tom gin (sweeter), and American and International gins (flavors all over the place). We recommend trying a few types to see what you like best.
  • Aviation $28

    American gin. Ryan Reynolds' gin brand. It's not just hype; we actually really enjoy it.

  • Bombay Sapphire $27

    London Dry gin. A classic that also comes available in 1L+ size options.

  • Sipsmith $36

    London Dry gin. A nice upgrade.

Brandy

You may notice that these are all Cognacs. Cognac is a category of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France. We've separated Pisco brandy out into its own category below, though.
  • Pierre Ferrand Ambre $45

    Sean's current favorite

  • Maison Rouge Cognac V.S.O.P. $25

    Excellent value for the money

  • Courvoisier VS Cognac $32

    We prefer VSOP, but this a widely available and a decent option if you're budgeting

Tequila

Always buy 100% agave tequila. If it doesn't say 100% agave on the bottle, then it's a mixto and not worth your money (*cough* Jose Cuervo Especial *cough*). Time aged in a barrel is designated by the words blanco (0-2 months), reposado (2-12 months), joven (mixture of blanco and reposado), or añejo (1-3 years). Blanco, reposado, or joven should be used for cocktails (we prefer reposado); using añejo in a cocktail is a waste.
  • Milagro Reposado $30

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails

  • Espolòn Tequila Blanco $30

    A nice blanco if you prefer less-aged tequila

  • Casamigos Reposado $53

    This is George Clooney's brand. You're definitely paying a premium for the name, but it's actually pretty dang good.

Mezcal (for mixing in cocktails)

Boy, this is a tricky topic. There is such a wide variety of mezcals, but only a few are widely available commercially. You also need to understand that the mezcal-making process leads to variation from batch-to-batch, so you're not going to have the same consistency with this spirit that you get from others.
  • Mezcal Vago Espadin $56

    Sean's personal favorite, but it's pricy. If you're not sold on Mezcal, maybe start somewhere else.

  • Alipus $30

    Sean served this at his wedding

  • El Peloton De La Muerte Mezcal Joven $32

    A nice option for cocktails that also comes available in 1L+ size options (if you can find it)

Light Rum

This part of the list was hard to put together, because we're not big light rum drinkers around here.
  • Privateer Silver $30

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails

  • Plantation 3 Stars $20

    May be difficult to find

Dark Rum

Dark rum is much more flavorful and complex than light rum.
  • Myer's Original Dark $35

    Delicious Jamaican rum that is perfect for a dark & stormy. Often also available in 1L+ size options.

  • Gosling's Bermuda Black $24

    A good Bermuda rum, which is less expensive than our first pick. Often also available in 1L+ size options.

Over-proof Rum

You'll likely find this used in tiki-style cocktails (where you can mask the taste with lots of fruit juices). Bacardi 151 used to be the go-to, but they've discontinued the product. Proceed with caution; this stuff is practically rubbing alcohol.
  • Hamilton Overproof 151 $30

    Medium/ dark copper in color

  • Goslings Black Seal 151 $25

    If you prefer the taste of dark rums

Vodka

We don't buy expensive vodka. Vodka is distilled in a way that is supposed to remove the flavor, so you're not going to see a huge difference in quality justifying some of the prices that brands dictate. But you should probably also avoid the really cheap stuff (where you'll notice a difference).
  • Tito's $20

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails. Made in Texas. Often also available in 1L+ size options.

  • Kettle One $24

    A widely available brand at a decent price point. Made in the Netherlands.

  • Absolut $25

    Another widely available brand at a decent price point. Made in Sweden. They also make a variety of flavored vodkas (if that's your thing).

Pisco Brandy

Pisco is Peruvian brandy. The most common cocktail using Pisco is a Pisco Sour, but there are also some other great ones you can try (such as the Chilcano or El Capitán). There are a lot of great Piscos to try, but they are sometimes hard to find because it's a less popular spirit in America.
  • Macchu Pisco $28

    A widely available Pisco that Sean stocks in his home bar

  • Caravedo Mosto Verde Pisco $45

    Highly rated upgrade pick

Cachaça

Cachaça is a Brazilian spirit distilled from sugar cane. Unlike rum, which is usually distilled from sugar by-products like molasses, cachaça is distilled from freshly-pressed sugar cane. The most famous cocktail using this spirit is the Caipirinha.
  • Leblon $29

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails

Independents

These don't fall into one of the big categories above.
  • Pimm's No. 1 $20

    Lovely gin-based liquor

Champagne/ Prosecco​

We aren't going to recommend specific brands. When you're using champagne and prosecco for cocktails, just don't buy the really expensive stuff. Try to find something in the $8-15 price range, and remember that you can't recork it once it is open.

Liqueurs

Triple-sec/ orange Liqueur

Triple-sec or orange liqueur is really popular in cocktails (for good reason). We specifically reference "Cointreau" in our Fundamental Cocktails recipe cards, but you actually have a few different options.
  • Cointreau $35

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails​

  • Patrón Citrónge Orange $22

    A really nice option for Margaritas

  • Grand Marnier $35

    A bit sweeter than Cointreau, but also a nice choice

Dry Vermouth

The quality of your vermouth is going to make a big difference in your cocktails. We do not recommend the most popular brand (Martini & Rossi). Once opened, vermouth should be stored in the fridge. Dry vermouth has a shelf life of about 1 month in the fridge after opening. If you are not making a lot of cocktails using this ingredient, then consider getting a 375ml bottle instead.
  • Dolin Dry Vermouth $15

    Sean's personal favorite for cocktails​

Sweet Vermouth

The quality of your vermouth is going to make a big difference in your cocktails. We do not recommend the most popular brand (Martini & Rossi). Once opened, vermouth should be stored in the fridge. Sweet vermouth has a shelf life of about 2 months in the fridge after opening. If you are not making a lot of cocktails using this ingredient, then consider getting a 375ml bottle instead.
  • Dolin Sweet Vermouth $15

    Sean's value pick

  • Carpano Antica $40 1L

    Sean's upgrade pick. Note that this price is for 1L, not 750ml. This vermouth is only sold in 375ml and 1L sizes.

Maraschino Liqueur

Clear liqueur that is made from Marasca cherries. The pits are included with the fruit, which gives it a nice, almost almondy bitterness.
  • Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur $37

    Others may disagree, but this liqueur is so unique that we wouldn't substitute it for other brands

Amaro

Amaro is an Italian herbal liqueur. It's often used as an after-dinner digestif on its own, but is also delightful in cocktails. There are a lot of options, but these are some of our favorites. This isn't a "pick one" list; we recommend all of these.
  • Amaro Nonino $50

    Amaro. Lovely herbal liqueur that is a must-have if you're making a Paper Plane cocktail.

  • Averna Amaro $32

    Amaro. Hints of orange, licorice, and herbs. A must-have for a Black Manhattan.

Bitter Liqueurs

There are A LOT of bitter liqueurs on the market (and some really great options), but we want to highlight two Italian bitter liqueurs that we always have stocked in our home bars. This isn't a "pick one" list; we recommend all of these.
  • Campari $35

    Distinctive red color that you'll recognize from classic cocktails like the Negroni

  • Aperol $25

    Sweeter and more orange notes than Campari

Coffee Liqueur

Coffee-flavored liqueur is actually made with coffee (who would have thought?). We use it most often in White Russians, but it also appears in other drinks like the Mind Eraser.
  • Kahlúa $25

    It's the most popular for a reason

Crème de violette

Liqueur with a beautiful purple (violet) color that is created by steeping violette petals. Unless you really love it, we recommend trying to get a smaller bottle, because a little goes a long way in your cocktails.
  • Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette $23

    Great for drinks like the Aviation

  • Combier Liqueur de Violette $30

    A nice option, but harder to find

Amaretto

Sweet Italian liqueur with an almondy taste (but it's actually often made from apricot pits).
  • Lazzaroni Amaretto $21

    Sean's personal favorite, and a great value

  • Disaronno $28

    The most well-known amaretto. Decent and widely available.

Ginger Liqueur

Ginger liqueur is, well... gingery. It has a nice spicy kick to it. If you are a ginger fan, then it's worth getting some.
  • Domaine De Canton $37

    Great stuff, and we haven't found another brand that compares yet

Absinthe

This anise-flavored spirit is definitely an acquired taste (think black licorice). Unless you really love it, we recommend trying to get a smaller bottle, because a little goes a long way in your cocktails.
  • St. George Absinthe Verte $20 200ml

    This is the price for a 200ml bottle, and may be a good place to start if you aren't sure whether you like absinthe

  • Lucid $66

    A nice absinthe that is fairly easy to find

  • Leopold Bros. Absinthe Verte $70

    Sean's upgrade pick

Crème de cassis

Sweet liqueur made from blackcurrants. Very tasty stuff.
  • Combier Creme de Cassis Liqueur $26

    A nice creme de cassis at a decent price point

  • Edmond Briottet Creme de Cassis $38

    May be more difficult to find

Crème de cacao

This chocolate liqueur comes in clear and dark. We don't have any specific brand recommendations; just make sure you select the right kind for the drink.

Herbal Liqueurs

These common cocktail ingredients are pretty unique. This isn't a "pick one" list; we recommend all of these.
  • Green Chartreuse $59

    Found in cocktails like the Last Word (Sean's favorite). It is pricy, so consider getting a smaller bottle if you're trying it for the first time.

  • Yellow Chartreuse $59

    A little sweeter and less potent than its green cousin. It is also pricy, so consider getting a smaller bottle if you're trying it for the first time.

  • Drambuie $36

    This herbal liqueur has a Scotch base, so it pairs really well with Scotch drinks.

  • Benedictine $32

    Sweet and unique. Made from 27 herbs, spices, and peels.

Wine-based Aperitifs

Like vermouth, these should be stored in the fridge after opening. They have a shelf life of 1-2 months in the fridge after opening.
  • Lillet Blanc $20

    French wine-based aperitif. Probably most well-known for being part of James Bond's vesper martini.

Bitters

Bitters are a very common cocktail ingredient. There are A LOT of different types, but the three below are the must-haves. This isn't a "pick one" list; we recommend all of these.
  • Angostura Aromatic Bitters $12 4oz

    When a recipe says "bitters" but doesn't specify the type, this is what they mean. This price is for a 4oz bottle.

  • Angostura Orange Bitters $12 4oz

    We often use Angostura's, but Regan's brand is also nice. This price is for a 4oz bottle.

  • Peychaud's Bitters $8 5oz

    Classic New Orleans bitter used in a Sazerac. This price is for a 5oz bottle.

Sodas/ Other

Ginger Beer

Not to be confused with ginger ale, ginger beer has a spicier kick that is great in cocktails. Prices range widely depending on size and quantity.
  • Barritt's Ginger Beer $7 48oz

    Sean's current go-to. Affordable and delicious. Price is for a 6-pack of 12 oz cans (48 total ounces).

  • Gosling's Ginger Beer $7 48oz

    Also nice and affordable. Often widely available. Price is for a 6-pack of 12 oz cans (48 total ounces).

  • Fever Tree Ginger Beer $10 27.2oz

    Much more expensive, but also very nice. Price is for a 4-pack of 6.8 oz bottles (27.2 total ounces).

Ginger Ale

If you drink ginger ale often and already have a favorite brand, then just use that. If you're not a ginger ale drinker, then consider these options. Prices range widely depending on size and quantity.
  • Canada Dry $2 1L

    A classic. Price is for a 1L bottle.

  • Schwepp's $2 1L

    A little more syrupy than Canada Dry. Price is for a 1L bottle.

  • Fever Tree Ginger Ale $5 500ml

    Much more expensive, but also nice. Price is for a 500ml (1/2 liter) bottle.

Club Soda

Club Soda is similar to sparkling water, but its infused with carbon and mineral salts (rather than occurring naturally). If you drink club soda often and already have a favorite brand, then just use that. If you're not a club soda drinker, then consider these options. Prices range widely depending on size and quantity.
  • Canada Dry $2 1L

    A classic. Price is for a 1L bottle.

  • Schwepp's $2 1L

    Another good standard. Price is for a 1L bottle.

  • Fever Tree Club Soda $5 500ml

    Much more expensive, but also nice. Price is for a 500ml (1/2 liter) bottle.

Tonic Water

Tonic water contains quinine, which adds a bitter taste. Definitely don't substitute tonic water for club soda or sparkling water; you'll be in for a bad surprise. Prices range widely depending on size and quantity. We prefer Indian-style tonic water (if you can find it)
  • Canada Dry $2 1L

    A classic. Price is for a 1L bottle.

  • Schwepp's $2 1L

    Another good standard. Price is for a 1L bottle.

  • Fever Tree Tonic Water $5 500ml

    Much more expensive, but also nice. They also have a ton of flavored options. Price is for a 500ml (1/2 liter) bottle.

Maraschino Cherries

We only give one recommendation here for a reason.
  • Luxardo Maraschino Cherries $20 400g

    These are not your hot pink ice-cream sundae cherries from childhood. These have a deep, rich flavor that is fantastic. Price is for a 400g jar (pricy, but worth it).

Grapefruit Soda

Necessary for make a good Paloma.
  • Jarritos Grapefruit $2 12.5 oz

    Reach for this bright green bottle of Mexican soda if you see it. Price is for a 12.5 oz bottle.

Orgeat

Orgeat is an almond syrup with sugar and some orange-blossom water. It is a common ingredient in tiki-style drinks. We don't have any specific brand recommendations. Just keep in mind that you wont' need a lot.

Lime Juice Cordial

This sweetened lime juice is sometimes included in cocktail recipes. Only use it when specifically requested. Otherwise, you should always use fresh fruit juice.
  • Roses's Lime Juice $5 12 OZ

    Price is for a 12 oz bottle (which will last a long time)

Simple Syrup

DO NOT BUY SIMPLE SYRUP. It is super-easy to make at home (hence the name), and it will be way better. We are creating a video for you, and will link to it soon.

Finally, you need to go out and buy it.

We honestly didn’t think you’d make it this far down the page.  

If you want liquor delivered to your home, then check out Drizly.  Use promo code “difou” to get $5 off your first order.  

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