Stocking Your Liquor Cabinet with the Basics

Having a liquor cabinet in the house, while it may cost you some money to get it started, will ultimately save you money. It allows you to entertain without the need for visiting a local watering hole. It also can be the favorite first stop after a long day of work. With the basics in place, you will have an assortment of liquors and mixers to choose from, allowing you to make a wide variety of cocktails.

Basic Liquors

To start, begin stocking your liquor cabinet with the basic liquors used in most drinks. While you don’t need to buy the most expensive liquors, the higher the price the better and/or smoother the flavor. As a rule, buy mid-level liquors that you primarily use to mix. Anything you sip or drink straight should be quality. Avoid bottom shelf rotgut liquors. They are poorly made and of very low quality despite being cheap. You get what you pay for with liquor.

Without question, stock your cabinet with a fifth of each of the following liquors: gin, rum, tequila, bourbon, whiskey and vodka. If you prefer one in particular, consider buying a quart. If you like a particular brand, stock that readily, such as Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Bacardi run, Tanqueray gin or Smirnoff vodka. Tequila used for mixing may be of a lower quality such as Jose Cuervo Gold, but if you like to sip or shoot it, spring for Sauza Hornitos or something even more expensive such as Don Julio Anejo.

Scotch is another must. Blended scotches such as Dewar’s, Chivas Regal or Johnnie Walker Red or Black are nice, but single malt scotch is the best. You can spend hundreds of dollars on a nice bottle of scotch. A bottle of Macallan 12 year, the Glenlivet or some other variety that costs you between $50 and $100 is more than adequate.


Some mixers are alcoholic while others are not. Include in your collection a bottle of dry vermouth for martinis, sweet vermouth if you like Manhattans and Triple Sec orange liqueur for margaritas, cosmopolitans and numerous other drinks. Other liqueurs that are helpful include mint, chocolate and orange liqueurs. Non-alcoholic mixers that are a must include tonic water, soda water, an assortment of soft drinks and fruit juices. Pre-made mixers such as Bloody Mary mix, sweet and sour mix and daiquiri mix are helpful. Rose’s lime juice is a must, too.


Certain tools and glassware you’ll need straightaway to get your liquor cabinet up and running. A muddling spoon, shaker, strainer, small cutting board, salt dispenser, jigger and bar mat are all very useful. An assortment of glasses including martini glasses, highballs, rocks glasses, shot glasses and snifters are good to have around. In addition, unless you were a bartender, having a helpful drink recipe book is great for ideas.

Much of your liquor cabinet will be built according to taste. For instance, if you love Crown Royal, purchase it instead of Seagram’s 7. This is true for every liquor. You needn’t buy every type of liquor, but in order to provide your guests with the most options, a little of everything doesn’t hurt.