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Please help me stock my husband's bar cabinet

My husband is on a business trip and as a surprise for him I have purchased a bar cabinet for his study and I want to stock it for him before he returns. I am looking for good quality essentials with the tools and glassware to go with them. A shopping list with brands would be great. I do have some stock on hand, but kind of want to start fresh with all new bottles. Any ideas?

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    1. re: DavidT

      Thank you for the reply, David. I searched the board and don't know how I missed that thread. It has some great info.

    2. Have you checked out 12bottlebar.com or Kindred Cocktails recommended brands list? http://www.kindredcocktails.com/info/...

      You didn't list any drinks your husband likes, so here would be my basic list skewed to my personal tastes and the making of classic cocktails:

      Gin: Tanqueray -I love the juniper kick of this stuff, some people would prefer something softer like Bombay Dry or one of the new school gins
      Light Rum: El Dorado 3 or Flor de Cana Extra Dry
      Whiskey: I would get a bottle of rye (Rittenhouse 100 or Wild Turkey 101 if you can find them, otherwise any bottle in the $20-30 range should work), but if your husband prefers bourbon by all means get that
      Brandy: Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
      Dry Vermouth: Dolin or Noilly Prat
      Sweet Vermouth: Dolin, Carpano, Cinzano, or Martini & Rossi
      Orange Liqueur: Cointreau
      Angostura Bitters
      Orange Bitters: Regan's, Angostura, or Fee's

      For tools, a Boston shaker with tin and glass, a Hawthorne strainer, a bar spoon, an Oxo mini measuring cup or two, and a citrus squeezer.

      For glassware: 2 or more cocktail glasses (I like mine to be about 6 oz), and some kind of tumbler or old fashioned glasses if you don't have them already.

      This list won't have you buying a ton of bottles, but will let you make a good number of the classics with fresh citrus and some mixers: Martini, Manhattan, Daiquiri, Sidecar, Pegu Club, Tom Collins, Whiskey Sour, Gin & Tonic, etc.

      16 Replies
      1. re: nickls

        Good list. I'd add a decent but inexpensive silver tequila, like Espolon blanco (so you can make margaritas, mostly), and I'd probably do both a rye and a bourbon since they serve different purposes (Bulleit makes great, inexpensive versions of both). Also a jar of Luxardo maraschino cherries. As for the sweet vermouth, I'd stay away from M&R - Dolin is not much more expensive and is MUCH better. And remember that you can't keep the vermouth in the liquor cabinet - it should go in the fridge (it's basically wine, after all).

        If it were for me, I'd also add a bottle of Campari, but that's a personal taste item.

        Boy, I wish someone would do this for me...

        1. re: monopod

          Thank you so much for the suggestions. Good tip on vermouth, I would have let it go back without knowing it.

          I sure hope that he enjoys the surprise. His trip was just extended to Saturday so I have an extra day to get this done. I'll post a photo when it is complete.

        2. re: nickls

          Thank you for the reply. I appreciate the solid recommendations. I actually found Kindred Cocktails yesterday printed a list to take shopping with me.

          This is all relatively new to me. My husband is usually beer guy in the hotter months (Newcastle, Canadian honey browns, etc) and Laphroaig in the evenings and during winter. I enjoy wine and have a few hundred bottles in our small cellar. As far as spirits go I usually order a vodka on the rocks, gin and tonic, spiced rum cocktail, margarita on the rocks, etc.

          Basically what I am looking for is to have a good enough stock on hand for entertaining. I find that we are having more parties after our recent move to a new home and never seem to have the right stuff on hand to make what our guests ask for. Budget is not a huge concern. I will go high end when it makes sense, but don’t want to overspend on a name when a mid-range bottle is fine.

          Here’s what we have on hand now. It’s a bit haphazard as we didn’t put any thought into putting it together.

          Hendricks gin
          Tanqueray
          Laphroaig 10
          Sailer Jerry
          Kettle One
          Jack Daniels
          Crown Royal
          Bombay Sapphire
          Don Julio gold
          Patron silver
          Johnny Walker Blue (for my Irish dad).

          1. re: mkatieq

            Sounds like your husband is a fellow ex-pat Brit. On the Scotch side he might also appreciate some Ardbeg (made by the Laphroaig folks) or some Bowmore - both Islay malts but not as peaty as Laphroaig. If he wants a cheap peaty scotch, Black Bottle is a cheap (I pay $16/bottle) peaty blend that is my "reduced circumstance" Scotch. You might want to convert your dad to Johnny Walker Double Black - very passable and way cheaper than Blue - which is mostly marketed to affluent Asians. Makers Mark is an American Whiskey that is malted and may well appeal to Scotch drinkers. Other Brits and miscellaneous colonials may well like cocktails made from Pimms No 1 cup (gin based). On the tequila front I believe that reposados and white tequilas by Espolon or Lunazul are cheaper and better than your choices. On the vodka front - all the tasteless vodkas like Ketel One and Grey Goose are a ripoff.

            1. re: kagemusha49

              Actually he's a Canadian with Scottish roots. My mother is an ex-pat Brit from Newcastle. Thank you for the suggestions. I will modify my list a bit. I like Pimms No 1 cup. It's the first drink that I ordered in a bar when I was on holiday with my family in England.

              1. re: kagemusha49

                Good suggestions. Black Bottle is a great option for a cheaper smoky Scotch. A couple of corrections though. Ardbeg is not made by Laphroaig; they are separate distilleries owned by separate companies (Laphroaig is owned by Jim Beam, Ardbeg my LVMH). They are both very peaty though have somewhat different characters.

                I'm not sure what you mean by Makers Mark being "malted." Maker's Mark is a wheated bourbon. Almost all bourbon has a small amount of malted barley in it to aid in fermentation, but Maker's isn't significantly different from other bourbons in that respect.

                1. re: sku

                  True Makers Mark is not made from barley but the wheat is treated in a similar way to malting.

                  1. re: sku

                    Thank you! I think that I will always have Laphroaig on hand. I love the smokey smell even though I don't drink it.

                  2. re: kagemusha49

                    Espolon and Lunazul might be cheaper than her tequilas, but neither one holds a candle to Don Julio (not sure by gold if she means repo or anejo, but both are outstanding.)

                    The newer Espolon is at least comparable to Patron (maybe a little better) in taste at about half the price. I am not a fan of lunazul - though I didn't hate the anejo, the bottle of repo I had a while back was barely drinkable with a soapy taste. IMO there are many others in the same price range that are far better, such as El Ultimo, Camarena, or Corazon.

                    1. re: ncyankee101

                      I defer to your more extensive knowledge of tequila sir!

                      1. re: ncyankee101

                        Thank you for the response. My mistake, I just looked at the bottle and my Don Julio is reposado. You really are the tequila master.

                        I've added your suggestions to my shopping list. This is a fun little project for me. I made a spreadsheet to take with when I go shopping. I'm heading to Hi-Time, I figure if I stock my husband up with his bottles, I might as well reward my efforts with a couple bottles of wine.

                        1. re: mkatieq

                          Well I would definitely not say I am anything close to a "tequila master" LOL, more of an advanced novice compared to many I correspond with, but I have delved into several of the better brands over the last couple years.

                          Don Julio reposado is still one of my favorites, though since you say you are heading to Hi-time (awesome store, my internet reference standard) there are a couple of excellent tequilas you can get there for great prices. Herencia mexicana is one of my favorite blancos, and their price of $18 is an unbelieveable bargain (original price was $60, which is a little ridiculous, it would still be a buy at $30). Don celso repo for $27 and Muchote repo for $25 are both in the same league as Don Julio at much lower prices.

                          Oh geez I almost forgot - not sure if your husband likes to sip on blanco tequilas as opposed to mixing them, but they have just started US distribution one of the best tequilas in the world - Tapatio - and Hitime has a liter bottle for $37. I haven't gotten hold of it yet, but tequila connoisseurs have always listed it as a "must-buy" for those visiting Mexico.

                          1. re: ncyankee101

                            Hmmmm, I stand by my original thought...you are the tequila master. At least to this uber novice. Thanks again.

                            Yes, Hi-Time is fantastic. I have literally spent a whole day shopping for wine. I get lost in the underworld there. I always end up chatting it up with their knowledgeable staff. I have learned to go there alone. I'm by no means a wine expert, I tell them what a like and they come through with some great suggestions. Fun stuff.

                    2. re: mkatieq

                      When I transferred our stock on hand to the cabinet, I found an unopened bottle of Flor De Caña Centenario 12. I am not familiar with it. Is it a good rum?

                      1. re: mkatieq

                        I've never had the 12 yr, but I have the 4 and 18 yr and both are very good. The whole line is very well respected and the 12 yr is generally considered their best, and it is on my list to try.

                        1. re: ncyankee101

                          What a pleasant surprise. I love finding treasures at home.

                  3. What do you and your husband like to drink?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      Actually a good question. My parents' liquor cabinet would have consisted of Chivas Regal and....that's it....had they not entertained family members whose tastes varied. In the circa-1970 cabinet they kept Chivas for themselves (and for guest who liked scotch (& water & soda & gingerale, ubiquitous in the 60's), a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, gin during the summer (for g&t), Drambuie for the rusty nail drinkers, Amaretto and Gran Marnier for the sippers. That's it. So it's good advice to know yourself, and your audience.

                      1. re: pinehurst

                        I agree, pinehurst, it is a good question. Here is my response that I posted above:

                        "This is all relatively new to me. My husband is usually beer guy in the hotter months (Newcastle, Canadian honey browns, etc) and Laphroaig in the evenings and during winter. I enjoy wine and have a few hundred bottles in our small cellar. As far as spirits go I usually order a vodka on the rocks, gin and tonic, spiced rum cocktail, margarita on the rocks, etc.

                        Basically what I am looking for is to have a good enough stock on hand for entertaining. I find that we are having more parties after our recent move to a new home and never seem to have the right stuff on hand to make what our guests ask for. Budget is not a huge concern. I will go high end when it makes sense, but don’t want to overspend on a name when a mid-range bottle is fine. "

                        Our biggest issue is that we entertain family, friends, and clients in our home. The requests are all over the map. I just want to be prepared with enough stock on hand to handle most of the requests and be able to provide a good substitute when we don't have exactly what they want.

                        One other thing is that I just love they way a good bar cabinet looks. I love the bottles, the silver tray, the glasses, etc. In addition to eye candy, I want the bar to make sense in what I stock it with. This will also give me a chance to play around and try some "new to me" drinks.

                        I love this board and am so thankful for the posts. Everyone has been so helpful. I feel that I owe you all a cocktail.

                        1. re: mkatieq

                          Out of curiosity, what types of drinks are people requesting that you can't make? It seems to me that you have most of the primary spirits covered with the exception of bourbon. When I go to someone's home, I don't expect to be able to get any drink that I might be in the mood for. There are a lot of drinks I like and will make at home but wouldn't even expect to get in a neighborhood bar, let alone a friend's home. For example, if you have a close friend who drinks negronis, I'd have campari and sweet vermouth on hand but I wouldn't buy it just in case someone might ask for a negroni.

                          I think you should buy a decent bourbon (maker's mark, bulleit, buffalo trace or basil hayden). Beyond that, I'd buy the ingredients needed to make things that close friends/frequent guests drink or that you might drink yourself. The handful of bottles that I've bought just to have around without a known purpose mostly still sit unopened in my liquor cabinet.

                          1. re: bg90027

                            Good advice, thank you. It seems that most of the time I am missing one thing to complete the request. Someone may ask for a gin and tonic and I am missing the tonic or a Manhattan and I don't have vermouth & bitters. Just basic stuff like that. Until I started this little project I didn't realize that we had so much on hand. I don't have the list of what I purchased with me, but off the top of my head, I picked up El Dorado 3, Makers Mark, Dolin, El Ultimo. Pimms, Cointreau, Campari, bitters, and maybe a couple of others. I also ordered some tools online (shaker, bar spoon, etc.).

                            I set up the bottles and put a big red bow around the cabinet. My husband was thrilled. I've been meaning to attach a photo. I'll do that soon.

                    2. Well, sounds like the bar is stocked, but my recommendations for a basic, very functional cocktail bar would be:

                      Rye: Rittenhouse
                      Bourbon: Elijah Craig 12
                      Brandy: Landy VS
                      Gin: Plymouth and Beefeater
                      Light Rum: Flor De Cana Extra Dry or Cruzan White
                      Cointreau
                      Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)
                      Green Chartreuse (pricey, you may hate it, but there is nothing like it and it comes up a surprising number of times in classic cocktails)
                      Angostura Bitters, Peychaud Bitters, and Orange Bitters (I prefer a mix of Fee Brothers and Regans, but honestly, Angosturra makes some fine orange bitters)
                      Dry Vermouth: Dolin (or Noilly Prat)
                      Sweet Vermouth: Dolin (or Martini & Rossi, or if you want to spend big, Carpano)

                      Also important to have on hand: simple syrup; fresh oranges, lemons, and limes (both to make fresh squeezed juice and to use as functional garnishes); soda water; and tonic water. If you know folks will be coming over and you may want to make them a cocktail, squeeze a few ounces of lime and lemon juice beforehand. Some may balk, but I think it keeps fine in the fridge for a few days. I use tiny, sealed tupperware things that hold about a third of a cup of liquid and usually always have some lime and lemon juice on hand.

                      Also, I like the little vacu-vin things for sealing my vermouths...which should ALWAYS be stored in a fridge.

                      Glasses: basic rocks glass, cocktail glasses (try not to get the gargantuan things that are so commonly seen, a 6 oz size is perfect), and some collins glasses.

                      I'v worked my way through most of Robert Hess's Essential Bartender's Guide and found that the stuff listed will cover a good number of the cocktails in his book. Oh yes, that book... If you're looking into playing around with cocktails, I think The Essential Bartender's Guide is a great place to start. Most of the cocktails are simple and from the early days of classic cocktail making. I think Hess also tends to do a great job in tweaking them here and there for a more modern acceptability. He also gives some nice background on a number of the drinks. That said, you'll no doubt find some you hate, but that's part of the adventure in trying out new drinks.

                      Worth noting, I wouldn't add vodka because I can't think of anything I'd really care to use it in. I love scotch, but just for a basic cocktail bar, it wouldn't be on my required list, since there are not that many classic scotch cocktails. That said, I strongly encourage the drinking of Scotch because it is one hell of a wonderful spirit. For basic mixing and sipping, I'd just go with JW Black.

                      Tequila is also sort of used in a limited number of classic cocktails, but my GF and I make a lot of margaritas, so I always have a bottle of Cazzadores blanco around. From what I've found, it's the best value in these parts for a very good 100% agave blanco.

                      Also worth getting later down the line...

                      Campari
                      St. Germain
                      Benedictine (this actually gets used a surprising amount in classic cocktails)
                      Goslings rum and real Jamaican ginger beer (basically for Dark and Stormys)
                      Absinthe (or an absinthe substitute like Herbsaint or Pernod)
                      A smoky peaty scotch of some kind
                      Homemade grenadine

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: The Big Crunch

                        Cazadores blanco is decent if you can find it under $20, I got a couple bottles in PA for $18, but in a direct comparison I actually prefer El Ultimo (thought it is close), and the price at Hitime is $15 vs $22 for Caza.

                        The El Ultimo may have been sweetened just a tad, but it is not overly sweet and has a more fruity and less earthy of a taste than the cazadores, a profile most people find more appealing, especially in a mixer. I like both profiles myself, in fact my favorite Tequila is the very earthy Casa Noble.

                        I do like the cazadores anejo better than the blanco, the wood aging is well done in this one.

                        1. re: ncyankee101

                          Up here Cazadores seems to be on sale each month for $21.99, so I've gravitated towards it. Milagro also seems to be permanently on sale for that price and I like their reposado better than Cazadores.

                          I'll give the Ultimo a try however next time I need a refill of blanco tequila. I hadn't heard anything about it before, and it is indeed cheaper, at $19.96 a bottle regular price.

                          1. re: The Big Crunch

                            Crunch - for some reason I thought you were in PA?

                            I am not the only one tooting the horn for El Ultimo, last I checked it was renowned Tequila critic Lippy "The Tequila whisperer"s favorite bargain brand.

                            The hands down best bargain I have found on a blanco is Herencia Mexicana at hitime for $18, it is a top notch tequila from legendary NOM 1079 at a ridiculous price. I don't even consider this a bargain brand because it doesn't seem to be widely available, I've only seen it at Hitime - and the repo is $37, anejo $46, only the blanco is inexpensive.

                            Next time I place an order there I am going to load the boat. But I will leave room for some Tapatio.

                        2. re: The Big Crunch

                          Wow! Thank you! Fantastic advice and solid choices. I will add many of your suggestions to my wish list of completer stuff to get. I just ordered the Hess book on Amazon, thanks for the recommendation. I do want to explore more drinks rather than sticking to my limited go-to cocktails. I always have ginger beer on hand, my daughter loves it and I love a dark and stormy. I am partial to Bundaberg, but with your recommendation will pick up some Jamaican.

                          1. re: mkatieq

                            I finally broke down and tried Fever Tree ginger beer, and it is very spicy, far more than my usual Reed's. It actually has ginger sediment floating around in it and has a very mild burn in the back of your throat like eating ginger. Not cheap though at $6 for a 4 pack of 6.8 oz bottles.

                            Gosling's is excellent in a D+S, as id Old Monk which is very similar. I also like Pusser's, it has a little different flavor but brings an interesting dimension. Of course, to be a real D+S you must use Gosling's as they have the name copyrighted and might be watching this board ;-)

                            1. re: ncyankee101

                              Well, it looks like I'll have to make another trip to Hi-Time. When I was there the other day I had my 2 boys with me. I'm sure that I looked like the mother of the year with a 2 year old, a 6 month old, and a cart full of booze. This time I will go it alone ;-).

                              I have Sailor Jerry's on hand just because I ran out of Gosling's and haven't replaced it. I do like rum, so I will grab a couple of bottles. I will also give Fever Tree a try. $6 for 4 is about what I pay for Bundaberg.

                            2. re: mkatieq

                              I haven't heard of Bundaberg, but I'm sure it's fine. I'm not sure the "Jamaican" part means a lot, but it's something I try to stress only because it might save folks the mistake of just buying a cheap, plastic 2-liter of sugary stuff labeled Ginger Beer. My guess is that you could also sub in Blenheim's ginger ale (which has a wicked amount of ginger in it) for a decent ginger beer. That stuff is pretty tasty, isn't it?

                              1. re: The Big Crunch

                                I doubt it - ginger ale and ginger beer taste completely different

                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                  True...except Blenheim's is really unlike any ginger ale I've ever had. It's honestly got more ginger heat than any authentic ginger beer I've ever had (which, admittedly is only Red's and Fever Tree) but it's also pretty hard to find outside of SC. That said, it also has less of the other flavors in ginger beer, so I suppose it wouldn't be quite the same.

                                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                                    I got to this thread via a search related to bourbon. But as I read this, I was sipping on a bourbon (Basil-Hayden's) and Blenheims. I'm happy to finally be able to regularly get Blenheim's here in central IL. It is the One True Ginger Ale. :)

                                2. re: The Big Crunch

                                  Bundaberg is pretty good. I'd say its comparable in quality to Reed's if you are familiar with them. I most often use Bundaberg or Reed's. Fever tree is good but I don't think it's worth the extra cost and smaller bottle size.

                                  1. re: bg90027

                                    Bundaberg is good (it's the standard in Australia) but it's SUPER sweet, so depending on your preferences it may or may not work well for you.

                                3. re: mkatieq

                                  The Big Crunch's list is a good one if you want to broaden the scope of what you drink and try a lot of classic cocktails. There are a lot of things on there though that are completely inessential for entertaining though. I have Luxardo,Goslings, Campari and Absinthe at home myself because I like cocktails that use them. I would never though expect a host or hostess to have them or be able to make a drink with them and Green Chartreuse is exactly the sort of bottle that will sit unopened in your cabinet if you don't have a planned use for it. Simple syrup is an essential component to a lot of artisinal cocktails. I make my own and even make a variety of flavored ones for different drinks I like. I don't think you need it for entertaining though and most of the drinks that require it take time to make so anyone polite is not going to ask you for one when you are hosting. I think having all your basic spirits, vermouth, standard mixers (club soda, tonic water, cola, fruit juices), and a bottle of bitters is more than enough to make most drinks a reasonable person would expect.

                                  Again though, his list is a good list if you just want a better bar for your own use for trying out different classic cocktails. Also, with that in mind, given that you love a dark n' stormy, you might also want to buy a bottle of John T. Taylor's Velvet Falernum. The Corn n' Oil, which is a great and simple classic island cocktail is simply 2 oz of Black strap rum such as gosling's, 1/2 oz of Falernum, a couple of dashes of orange bitters over ice. Falernum is also used in a large number of Tiki drinks if you or your daughter are interested in making them.

                                  1. re: bg90027

                                    It's funny how quickly I have migrated from setting up a starter bar to wanting a better bar. I am a collector by nature and I appreciate the craft behind most things that I am interested in. The good thing is that there is no due date and this can grow over time. It will be fun trying new things.

                                    Thanks for the Falernum tip and recipe. That sounds good. Tiki hour will be on soon. As for my daughter, she'll have to stick with ginger beer on it's own since she is way too young to have an adult beverage. She does love to put umbrellas in her glass to feel a little fancy.

                              2. Saint George Gins and Vodkas are the best. Forget the rest. Nobody does it like Saint George. If he is a Gin man the Saint George is tops.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DillMuncher

                                  Well, as far as vodka, my guess is that a lot of folks can also make equally good colorless, and virtually tasteless and odorless alcohol. As far as gins, I think it's a misnomer to say a single one is the best. Some cocktails work best with a stiffer London Dry while others benefit from a softer Plymouth. Since all of the St. George stuff is of the "experimental" American variety, it's a toss up as to how each one will work in a cocktail. I've had their rye-based gin, and while interesting, it would in no way whatsoever be my go-to gin for virtually any classic gin based cocktail.

                                2. I like having two or three of the "same" spirit that are different enough to hook a newbie, like a Dalwhinnie and a Bowmore or an Evan Williams SB and a Bookers or a Bombay, a Hendricks, and a Tanqueray. I also love Calvados. also a vertical of anything is fun, like a Macallan 12, 18, and 21 or several different Van Winkles.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tim irvine

                                    Very interesting and a great idea, Tim. My list just got a little longer. Thank you.