When I first began stocking my home bar, I had no idea where to start. I picked out spirits and brands that I’d seen via advertising, in recipes and at my local liquor store.
Suffice to say, I wound up with a lot of crap.
Then I poured a ton of time and money into reading, tasting, buying and trying everything and anything I could get my hands on, until I had enough experience to produce the Cocktail Democracy Bar Stocker, which looks something like this:
Click through the link and you’ll be taken to a Google Docs Spreadsheet with instructions on how to use the Bar Stocker. First thing you’re gonna have to do is make your own copy of the Bar Stocker, for which you’ll need a Gmail account.
From there, it’s just a simple matter of checking out the “Stock My Bar!” sheet and picking the items you want; watch the upper left corner as you do to see the cost you’re accruing.
The rest of this post is advice on what to pick. Before you read it, you should glance at my Easy Peasy Bespoke Cocktails guide for an overview of how to make your own custom creations. Ready? Let’s begin!
“How much do I need?”
A bottle? Five? Ten? Well, it all depends on how much you can spend and what you want to make. If you’re looking to recreate every drink in the PDT book, for instance, you’re gonna need 260 bottles. Yes, I’ve done the math.
For spirits — around 80 proof or higher — you’ll want 4 bottles, for a beginner’s collection. A Gin, Bourbon, Tequila and Rum is a good spread but if you like a particular spirit you can adjust.
For modifiers — liqueurs, fortified wines like vermouths, etc — you’ll want another 4 bottles (luckily modifiers are cheaper than spirits). Keep in mind that for vermouths, sweet pairs nicely with brown spirits and dry goes with clear spirits, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.
For bitters — Any collection should have the three main kinds of bitters: Angostura, Peychaud’s and Orange.
Depending on your choices, this will run you around $250, give or take. I know; it isn’t cheap. If your budget is closer to the $100 range, I recommend my previous guide.
“Okay, I have some stuff already. What else should I get?”
What most people actually mean by this is “What’s worth my money?” because if you hate apricots, for instance, then you’re unlikely to get an Apricot Liqueur. And this question is much harder.
I can vouch for pretty much anything listed in the Bar Stocker and also trust the descriptions listed at AstorWines.com. Your friendly neighborhood bartender will also recommend items based on what you like to drink.
Other than that, I recommend asking the very active and helpful Twitter cocktail community (you can find me @cocktailspin).
I’ll leave you with a little photographic motivation — good luck!