How to Stock Your Bar Cabinet
Step Two: Curating Cocktail Ingredients
After acquiring some basic bar accessories (see post here), I started filling my bar cabinet with alcohol and making sure I had staples like lemons and limes on hand. Realizing that I didn’t need absolutely every type of alcohol, I started with what I’d need for my favourite cocktails. Yes, purchasing several bottles of alcohol at once is expensive, but it has paid dividends as I’ve been able to be more flexible when making cocktails.
Tip: For alcohol that you drink often, purchase a more expensive version and a less expensive version. When you are making cocktails with lots of flavour additives – like syrups or juices – that mask the flavour of the alcohol, you don’t always need to use the best liquor. Having an alternate will save you some money.
Unless I already had a favourite brand or had a recommendation from a friend, I honestly started out by selecting bottles that would look beautiful on my bar cabinet. Who says you can’t judge a booze by its cover? I’ve surprisingly ended up enjoying all but one, and most have ended up as staples in my home.
Below are some of my recommendations, if you aren’t sure what to buy.
I fill my bar cabinet with alcohol based on my favourite cocktails, and you should tailor your selection based on your own tastes. My favourites are below:
- Best Overall: Casamigos
- Value: 1800
- Note, there are several different types of tequila:
- Silver: most common in cocktails and bars – generally bottled right after distilling and the most budget friendly
- Gold: caramel colouring added – often used for shots as it has a smoother, slightly sweet taste from slightly longer aging
- Reposado: means “rested” as the tequila is aged in barrels for 60 days to 1 year; generally results in slightly sweeter tequila. Used for premium mixed drinks or shots.
- Anējo: aged 1 to 3 years, typically in whiskey or bourbon barrels. Best for sipping, as the long aging process makes it smoother.
- In my bar cabinet, I generally have a silver tequila for cocktails and an Anējo tequila for sipping
- Best Overall: Spirit of York or Reid’s (both local Toronto brands!), Dillon’s (Ontario-based!) or Hendricks
- Value: Bombay Sapphire or Beefeater
- Best High-End: Grey Goose or Belvedere
- Best Overall: Beattie’s Potato Vodka (Ontario based!) – potato vodka is typically more aromatic and naturally sweeter than grain-based vodka, making it great for cocktails
- Best Budget: Absolut
- Best Overall: Plantation or Mount Gay
- Best Spiced: Kraken Black Spiced Rum
- Best Budget & for Cocktails: Bacardi Superior
- Note, there are several different types of rum:
- White – aged more than a year and filtered to get rid of colour; has a mild taste and is good for mixed drinks where you don’t want to overpower the cocktail (eg. mojito)
- Gold – usually has notes of vanilla, almond and citrus from the aging process; good for cocktails where you want a more noticeable rum taste
- Dark – aged the longest and good for sipping
- Spiced – infused with various flavours from seeds, dried fruits, ginger, cinnamon etc.
Whiskey, Rye, Bourbon, Scotch
I don’t drink a lot of whiskey, rye, bourbon or scotch and it’s difficult to pick for someone else, as there are so many distinct flavours. Below are options that are widely liked for cocktails.
- Rye Whiskey: Old Overholt or Rittenhouse
- Bourbon: Buffalo Trace Bourbon (great for an Old Fashioned) or Woodford Reserve (great for cocktails like a Whiskey Sour)
I always have the following on-hand, to make some of my favourite cocktails:
- Cointreau for a Margarita
- Aperol & Prosecco for an Aperol Spritz
- Sweet Vermouth & Campari for a Negroni
- Bitters to suit your fancy – my favourites are: W&P Spicy Margarita (note: not very spicy but nice flavour), Kinsip (from Prince Edward County), Dillon’s (from Southwestern Ontario) and various others that I’ve collected on my travels (see photo at top of post)
- Lemons & limes & oranges
- Sugar (for simple syrup)
- Herbs – rosemary & mint
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