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 Useful advice > What you need for the complete bar
What you need for the complete bar

One of the rites of passage in our society is when you graduate from throwing a kegger in the backyard to a cocktail party in the condo. Before you can complete this metamorphosis however, you do need to assemble a proper home bar. If money is no object, then stock your bar with the best. If, however, you're still waiting for that day trader gig to work out then there is still no reason why you can't, with a little planning, have a home bar.

Vodka Sundsvall Exceptional aromatics, firm wet stone palate, complex Gordon’s Domestic, yet copper pot distilled
Bourbon A. H. Hirsch 16 year old Pot Stilled Only true pot-distilled Bourbon currently available Old Fitzgerald 8 year old 1849 Straight Bourbon Classic Bourbon profile matches that of brands at twice the price
Tennessee Whiskey Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Benchmark for the style George Dickel Black Label First rate, but often overlooked sippin’ whiskey
Rye Old Rip Van Winkle 13 year Straight Rye Uncompromising Rye palate for true enthusiasts Rittenhouse Rye Good Rye, great price
White Rum Rhum Chauvet (Martinique) Distinctive floral bouquet, great mixer Cruzan Virgin Islands White Rum Light-bodied, yet still rum instead of de facto vodka
Dark Rum St. James Millesime Rhum Complex, XO Cognac-like palate, truly amazing Ron Matusalem Classic Black Rum Old line Cuban brand, aged and bottled in Florida, good value for the money
Gin Plymouth Original Dry Gin Classic Dry Gin flavor profile Gordon’s London Dry Gin Domestic, yet copper pot distilled
Blended Scotch Johnny Walker Gold Label Lush, complex palate Famous Grouse Leading Blended Scotch in Britain, relatively unknown in US
Single Malt Scotch Bowmore 30 year old Because your snobby friends have already had Macallan 25 year old Aberlour 10 year old Highland Consistently the best choice for $20 or less
Irish Whiskey Midleton 1995 Very Rare Vintage dated first still run nectar of the gods Power’s Gold Label #1 choice in Dublin pubs, note the pot still character
Tequila Herradura Seleccion Suprema La crema de la crema de la agave azul El Toro Gold Complex, compact texture, under $10, good mixer, can't beat it with a piña
Brandy Kelt Petra, Tour du Monde This is what the Masters of the Universe are drinking Monarch California Brandy Remarkably smooth palate, under $8
Vintage Port Dow 1945 Vintage Hugh Johnson says at peak, we agree Quady 1990 Starboard Port California's best
Tawny Port Taylor 30 year old Tawny Perfect flavor profile of nuts and dried fruit Ficklin 10 year old Tawny Dead ringer for top quality Portuguese Tawny
Fino Sherry Hidalgo Fino Superior, El Cuadrado Crisp, dry with hint of almonds. Perfect apéritif Lustau Jarana Fino Mass produced, but excellent quality, widely distributed
Oloroso Sherry Osborne Rare Oloroso Amoroso Lush, concentrated notes of raisin, dates, almonds and Spanish sunlight Barbadillo Very Old Oloroso Consistent quality, great value for under $15
Peach Liquor Blanca de Navarra Peach Very ripe fruit notes, perfectly balanced Southern Comfort Back bar staple
Coffee Liquor Kahlúa Benchmark for the style Sambrosa Pretty good knock-off
Triple Sec Luxardo Triplum Triple Sec (Italy) Made from the "Golden Apples" of Greek mythology Marie Brizzard Triple Sec Good quality, reasonable price
Amaretto Amaretto di Saronno The original, and still the best Amaretto di Amore Pretty good, and half the price of Amaretto di Saronno
White Vermouth Carpano Punt e Mes Fresh-tasting, first-rate Italian brand Quady Vya Extra Dry Pretty good interpretation of the style
Red Table Wine Opus One 1989 Instant brand recognition, immediate peer envy and it even tastes really good California Petit Sirah, Parducci, Concannon, Bogle, most others Underappreciated, underpriced grape has complex, spicy palate and early maturity, go 2-4 years
White Table Wine Servin "Bougros" Gran Cru Chablis 1996 Top rated (97 points) Chablis from Burgundy Napa Ridge, Gallo Sonoma California Chardonnays with real gumption for less that $20
Sparkling Wine Beaumont des Crayeres Nostalgie Brut 1990 Vintage Crisp, refreshing fruit flavors with subtle backnote of toasty yeast. Not just the same old Dom Cavas Lavernoya Primerisimo, Lacrima Baccus Grand Cuvée, Brut Cava, NV Top Spanish sparkler (90 points), under $20, good deal, as are most other Spanish bubblies
Domestic Pilsner Beer Rolling Rock "Bucket 'o Rocks" was best bar promotion of the decade Miller High Life Retro beer for a retro world
Domestic Light Beer Point Light Lager You can actually taste the hops Coors Light Crisp, clean, harmless
Domestic Craft Beer Capital Blonde Dopplebock From Wisconsin, it's what the angels drink after work Samuel Adams Boston Lager Good, consistent, widely available
Imported Beer Fuller's ESB Ale As good as ale gets Negra Modelo Dark Lager The best non-craft dark lager in the Americas, value priced too
Bitters Angostura The benchmark bitters Angostura No real substitute
Sweetened Lime Juice Key West Distinctive and different Rose’s The benchmark lime juice
Grenadine Syrup Homemade from pomegranate juice When you make it yourself you can adjust the sometimes cloying sweetness DaVinci Grenadine All natural, less than $10
Bar Syrup Homemade Fresh is better Homemade Fresh is cheaper, and better
Tomato Juice Fresh, vine-ripened Fresh is still better Organic from the supermarket cooler Canned tomato juice is fit for penal institute inmates
Orange Juice Fresh squeezed Spanish blood oranges Unique Mirmosas, killer Screwdrivers Fresh squeezed supermarket orange juice Cheap luxury, indulge yourself
Club Soda Real (no CO2 cylinder) seltzer bottle If it was good enough for both James Bond and the Three Stooges… Canada Dry The Rat Pack brand of choice
Tonic Water Schweppes The original Seagram’s Decent quinine bite
Ginger Ale Blenheim South Carolina original, regular and "hot" Canada Dry The bootlegger brand of choice
Lemon-Lime Soda 7-Up The Uncola is still unmatched Sprite Adequate mixer
Cola Coca-Cola It’s the real thing Pepsi-Cola Adequate mixer
Coarse Salt Sea salt from France or Italy Salt with character for Margaritas and Bloody Marys Kosher salt Salt with character, yet relatively inexpensive
Hot Pepper Sauce Endorphin Rush Very, very, very hot Tabasco Sauce Always available, always good
No. 8 Green Olives Fresh Greek Available in bulk from your local Greek fruit market Collins Green Olives Standard bar brand available in most liquor stores, adequate
Pearl Onions Fresh Fresh is always better Collins Pearl Onions Standard bar brand available in most liquor stores, adequate
Whole Maraschino Cherries La Cigalette En Provence Top brand from the south of France CherryMan Maraschino Cherries Most domestic Maraschino cherries come from CherryMan
Celery Salt Kosher celery salt You were expecting Morton's maybe? McCormick Celery Salt Good for hot dogs, adequate for drinks
By Alan S. Dikty
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