Creating a Top Shelf Stocked Liquor Cabinet

Once your liquor cabinet is stocked with the basics including an essential assortment of liquors, mixers, glasses and tools, you may want to branch out and start building a top shelf. In bar terminology, the top shelf is where the highest quality, most expensive liquors sit. Consequently, they usually taste the best and are the smoothest. Keep in mind that creating a top shelf for your home liquor cabinet, if purchased all at once, can easily set you back hundreds of dollars. Whether you do it all at once or a little at a time, here are the must-haves for your top shelf liquor collection.

Clear Alcohols

Your clear alcohols include vodka, gin, rum and tequila. While some rums and tequilas are not clear, they are designated as such for simplicity’s sake.


Beginning with top shelf vodka, include a bottle of Monopolowa potato vodka is Polish made and is ideal for mixing or infusing. It is not the most expensive, but it is very good for the money. Top shelf vodkas include Grey Goose, Belvedere, Kettle One, Stolichnaya and Absolut. There are also numerous flavored vodkas available from both Absolut and Stolichnaya.


Top shelf gin includes Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick’s. Standard Tanqueray is great for mixing as well.


Bacardi Silver makes an excellent all-purpose light rum. Captain Morgan’s spiced rum is a favorite of many, and Myer’s dark rum has a richer flavor than the previous two. There are other less well-known rums, but these three varieties are top shelf.


Too many people will never drink tequila again because of a bad experience in college or in Mexico. It’s too bad because good tequila is so good. Save your Jose Cuervo Gold for mixing. On the top shelf, purchase a bottle of Don Julio Anejo or Reposado. Patron Silver makes another excellent choice. With tequila, the more expensive the bottle the smoother the taste.

Dark Alcohols

This category includes whiskey, scotch and bourbon. It may also include some shooters and higher end liqueurs.


Whiskey is tough because it is largely based on taste preference. While there are many expensive whiskeys, consider some of the following for the top shelf. Jack Daniel’s #7, Gentlemen Jack or Single Barrel Jack Daniel’s are excellent choices. Crown Royal Reserve, Seagram’s VO and Pendleton whiskey are great Canadian whiskeys. For Irish whiskeys, either Jameson’s or Bushmill’s are top choices.


Bourbon is whiskey made in Kentucky. High end bourbons include Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Jim Beam and Blanton’s.


Top shelf blended scotch whiskeys include Dewar’s, Johnnie Walker Red, Black and Blue and Chievas Regal. Single malt scotches are of a more refined quality. They are far too numerous to list, but some basics include Macallan 12, 18 and 25 year, the Glenlivet, the Glenfiddich and Lagavulin.

Top Shelf Liqueurs

Top shelf liqueurs can be mixed, shot or sipped. Some of the best include Jaegermeister, Goldschlager, Kahluha, Bailey’s, Disaronno Amaretto, Aftershock cinnamon liqueur, Gran Marnier orange liqueur and the many flavors of Schnapps.

While this list does not even come close to comprising the total variety of top shelf liquors and liqueurs, it will provide you with plenty to work with, keeping yourself and your guests fully entertained.