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Dec 20, 2011 10:51 AM

Help the newbie - what to make with this small collection of spirits

I'm very new to cocktails, but have found myself with a couple bottles from gifts or purchased for specific uses. I'd like to learn to make more drinks but can't afford to add many more items at the moment. Here's what I have:

-Makers Mark whisky
-Orange bitters (Fee brothers)
-A cocktail shaker, shot glass with measurements, citrus juicer, variety of glassware

That's it. Well, also plenty of wine and beer. So far I've made a bourbon sidecar, eggnog with bourbon, gin and tonic, and champagne, cointreau, and cranberry juice (someone told me this was called a poinsettia).

What else can and should I make with this (adding non-alcoholic ingredients such as juices, etc is fine). I could probably do one more moderately priced liquor as well, assuming it has multiple uses. I don't like super-strong drinks but am willing to try most anything. The bitters were a gift and I honestly have no clue about them

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  1. You should probably grab a bottle of Angostura bitters, they only cost $6 or so for a small bottle and are indispensable in a lot of cocktails.

    A natural drink to try with what you have would be the Pegu Club. Gin, lime juice, Cointreau, bitters. Some other gin and citrus drinks I like are the Tom Collins, Bebbo, and Clover Club (requires raspberry syrup or grenadine).

    With the bourbon you can try a Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, and Old Fashioned.

    You can try your orange bitters or use Angostura bitters in the Pegu Club and Old Fashioned. The orange bitters also work well in a Martini, for which you would need to buy some Dry Vermouth, but that one tastes stronger, so might be something you want to work up to. You can also get Sweet Vermouth to make a Manhattan.

    1. Bourbon and gin are both good with ginger beer and lime (this is called a "buck" - gin makes a London Buck, not sure what the bourbon buck is called).

      If you make yourself some grenadine, you can make a Crow Cocktail (1.5 oz bourbon, 1.5 oz lemon juice, 1.5-3 tsp grenadine) and a Ward Eight (2 oz bourbon, 3/4 oz each lemon juice and orange juice, 1 tsp grenadine). Grenadine is easy to make, here are some recipes:

      As you start looking to add bottles and make new drinks, databases like KindredCocktails and CocktailDB are good places to look for ideas - you can find drinks that look interesting that you can almost make, then get the one missing ingredient. Also, the 12 Bottle Bar blog ( is a great look at what can be done with a minimalist liquor cabinet.

      1. Follow along on the 6 month journey (as of now) of two cocktail novices who live near each other in Canada and make something new most nights, starting with a bar not dissimilar from yours and ending up with quite a sophisticated palate and inventory.

        And, thanks, Transpose, for the mention.

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