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How to Build Your Home Bar – Part I: Bar Basics

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I’m shocked no one has talked about this yet, but it’s high time we discussed drinking at home in more depth. Getting hammered in bars is all well and good, especially if you can get someone else to buy your drinks. But then you always end up owing somebody something. So clearly the way to save money — and make friends! — is by boozin’ it up at your place. In this first weekly installment of a series of five, we’ll start by building you a basic liquor cabinet.

Bar Basics

First, know when to be spendy and when to be thrifty. If you primarily want to make mixed drinks, there’s no need to go top-shelf. However, if you like to sip on a snifter of brandy or a neat bourbon, don’t take your chances on those no-name liquors. Bottles of decent booze seem a bit pricey, but you’ll feel better when you think about how much you’re saving (one Captain and Coke at home costs less than $1, whereas it’s $4 at the bar in the best-case scenario). Finally, if you have friends of means, consider throwing a liquor party: You provide beer, wine, and munchies, and everyone else must bring a bottle of their favorite alcoholic libation. Here’s what you’ll need before you can start calling it a home bar:

  • Vodka: Trader Joe’s sells a huge bottle of something called “Vodka of the Gods” for $10, and since nobody (in their right mind) drinks straight vodka, it doesn’t matter what you buy.
  • Gin: I’m not a big gin drinker, but it’s helpful to have some Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire around for any old, English gentlemen you might entertain.
  • Rum: A white rum, like Bacardi, and a spiced rum, such as Captain Morgan, should meet most of your rum needs.
  • Whisky: This broad category technically also includes bourbons and scotches. In my opinion, the best whisky to cover all your bases is Jameson. It’s also not too expensive: $20 for a normal-sized bottle.
  • Tequila: Everybody knows tequila turns you into a screaming, punching, crying nightmare, so maybe get a lower-quality one, such as Jose Cuervo, expressly for making margaritas.
  • Triple sec: Also great in margaritas, any ol’ brand of triple sec will add that orangey flavor to your drinks.
  • Schnapps: Mmm, schnapps. Peach appears in drink recipes most often, but consider picking up a few other flavors depending on your personal preferences.
  • Other liqueurs: You can get as many or as few as you like. Think about what you tend to order when you’re at the bar: Fernet? Jägermeister? Goldschläger? Stores sell any number of disgusting things!
  • Beer and wine: Dude, you know what to do. Get a 12-pack of lager to keep on hand to satiate almost any guest. Drop a few bones on a bottle each of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon that you’ll probably never drink, too. Can’t be too prepared!

Next time: Tools of the trade

Image courtesy of Association for Psychological Science

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Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart - Red-Light Special

Sarah M. Smart was summoned into being on a distant ice cream planet
through an unholy union of Two-Buck Chuck and unicorns. They sent her to Indianapolis and then the University of Missouri's School of Journalism
to spread peace and big hair. Perpetually in mourning for the comma, she
has worked for a variety of print media, including Indianapolis
, Global Journalist, and Vox. Since moving
to San Francisco for the booming dumpster-diving scene, she has been an
online operative for such fine folks as , Neo-Factory, and
Academy of Art University. After a day of cat-feeding, hat-making,
dog-walking, vegan baking, and daydreaming about marrying rich, all she
wants is a margarita as big as her face.