Build the Ideal Bar
Investing in a well-stocked liquor cabinet is key when it comes to entertaining, whether you’re planning a dinner party, preparing for holiday houseguests, or even just indulging in a cocktail after work. However, buying a particular brand because it’s more expensive doesn’t always mean you’ll wind up with a higher quality product.
Some spirits are so good, we think they should be included on every home mixologist’s shelf. Hunt these bottles down at your neighbourhood liquor store and brush up on your bartending skills to wow your guests – or simply treat yourself (you deserve it)!
Your first encounter with tequila likely didn’t effectively introduce you to this distinctive and complex liquor – in fact, you probably don’t even remember it. But a well-made tequila (without added sugars and other alcohols) offers a wide range of flavor notes and might even provide some added health benefits.
These are some of our favorites.
This agave-based spirit’s signature smoky flavor makes it ideal for either drinking on its own or mixing with other liquors, to balance out bitterness or tone down sweetness. Once you’ve picked up one of our suggested bottles, try replacing half of the alcohol in your regular mixed drink with some mescal to familiarize yourself with this liquor’s somewhat assertive taste.
(We love this one neat with a simple slice of orange – it’s like having a creamsicle at a bonfire!)
Even if you’re not a fan of the traditional gin and tonic, there’s a solid argument to be made for why a good bottle of gin should be included in your home bar. Infused with botanicals like juniper, anise, coriander, orange peel, and cinnamon, each gin is completely unique – which means that a bad gin can be virtually undrinkable.
A good gin, though, with the right balance of these delicate flavors, can be a great addition to a craft cocktail – or with just a couple of ice cubes a fresh wedge of lime. These ones are perfect for both mixing and sipping.
Whiskey & Rye
Whether you like it neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water (trust us), whiskey is a diverse spirit that satisfies a wide range of palates. There are tons of different varieties of whiskey, since it can be made from a variety of grains (including corn, barley, wheat, rye, and buckwheat) before being stored in casks for years – and sometimes, even decades.
Developing your taste for whiskey is a lifelong journey, but our recommended bottles will help get your exploration underway. We especially love Japanese whiskey.
This is a drink with character. A good bourbon will have notes of sandalwood, pipe tobacco, dark toffee, and oak – and tastes like it should be sipped slowly in a warm study filled with leather-bound books. If you don’t have a home library, though, don’t worry. These bourbons can be enjoyed anywhere, especially if you put on some Tom Waits.
The world of scotch can be a little intimidating, since the labels are covered in terms that can be hard to understand. But the ultimate thing to remember is that it doesn’t really matter if you get a blended malt or a single grain, or how long it’s been aged – you just need to get a scotch that tastes good to you.
You’ll need to sample a few different kinds before you figure out what you like, but these options are a good starting point.
Brisk and clean, a good vodka is best consumed chilled – in fact, we recommend sticking the bottle in the freezer for a couple of hours before you plan to drink it. This spirit is the ideal mixing liquor, since most vodka has been distilled and filtered to the point of absolute purity. This also makes it the perfect blank slate for the addition of ingredients like green chiles, allowing distilleries to create especially unique and flavorful liquors.
This liquor is a lot more than just a way to inoffensively add alcohol to Coke – distillers are starting to take this spirit very seriously. While most rums are distilled from sugarcane, there is a wide variety of options for rum-drinkers. You’ll find rums ranging from light to dark, with flavor notes from floral to spicy. A good rum will definitely make a good mojito, but it can also be enjoyed neat.
Mixers & Juices
These liquors are certainly delicious on their own, but creating craft cocktails will give you the opportunity to practice or show off your bartending skills. Our recommended mixers and juices are just the tools you need to make tasty and refreshing drinks that will rival the cocktails at your favorite hangout.
(If cocktails and spirits aren’t your thing, don’t worry! We’re compiling a list of must-have wines for your home bar, too.)