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Cocktail Crafty



Tips & Tricks: How I Stock My Home Bar for $200

So you want to start making cocktails at home? Great! I'm a big advocate of bringing the cocktails you love to enjoy at the bar to your home. 

Imagine Netflix and chillin' with a couple of Gimlets. A girl's night in with Moscow Mules. Or a birthday dinner at home complete with Manhattans. 

These are the times when having some basic bartending skills and a well stocked home bar can come in handy. But where do you start?

Your Home Bar

It doesn't have to be fancy. Despite all the shiny gold bar carts you see online, your home bar doesn't have to break the bank.

I make cocktails on a semi-daily basis. What does my home bar look like? It's an old book shelf with a broken leg. It's not pretty but it was free. 

I love to look at all the pretty home bars for sale online. But I'm not going to drop over a $100 for a cart that can only hold 4 bottles of booze. Use a kitchen counter, an old side table, or a book case. Save your money for the actual alcohol.

What to buy?

You know that gin you bought in college that you drowned in O.J.? Skip it. But don't go reaching for the Premium brand either. 

Good booze can be purchased for $20-30 a bottle. When you're stocking your bar for the first time, stick to the basics, then start collecting the higher end, specialty, or local brands.

Know When to go Big

I recently started purchasing the 1.75 liters (or handles) of booze. They may be bulky and take up space but they're cost effective and last longer. Buying in bulk means a lot less trips to the store.

If you don't want to have to lug those bulky bottles out every time you want to make a drink, use decanters. I like to use large mason jars. They're cute and they're cheap! Just be sure you clearly label each jar.


Going big doesn't apply to vermouth or other fortified wines. There's nothing worse than vermouth that has "turned". Trust me!

I make a lot of cocktails for the purpose of this blog. So 750ml works for me. The average home bartender can probably settle for the smaller 375ml. 

Store vermouths, and liqueurs that are cream based or less than 30 proof (15% ABV), in the refrigerator. If they taste odd after a month, toss 'em. If you're not finishing a bottle of vermouth within a few weeks, start buying smaller bottles.

Save the Liqueurs...for Now.

Liqueurs can be pricey. And trying to determine which to buy can be confusing. My tip for you is to hold off on the liqueurs for a later shopping trip when you have a specific recipe in mind. 

Never impulse buy a liqueur without an understanding of how you're going to use it. $30 is a waste of money on a product if it sits there gathering dust, or worse if you have to dump it.

My Home Bar Shopping List

This is my actual shopping list. Prices were obtained from my local Total Wine as of the date of this post. 

I chose the brands listed based on my own personal tastes, availability, and price. I've taste tested a lot of spirits over the past few years, so, while price is a concern for me, flavor is a bigger factor. 

Bourbon - I love rye but I find that I use bourbon more. 

  • My go to: Bulliet Bourbon
  • Size: 1.75 L
  • Price: $33.99

Vodka - You can pry my Tito's from my cold dead hands! Yeah, I like it that much.

  • My go to: Tito's Vodka
  • Size: 1.75 L
  • Price: $28.99

Rum - I like to save the aged rums for trips when I have money to spare.

  • My go to: Barcardi Superior White Rum
  • Size: 1.75L
  • Price: $18.99

Tequila - I could have gone cheaper on the Tequila but based on what was available I felt 1800 was a safer bet. 

  • My go to: 1800 Silver Tequila
  • Size: 1.75L
  • Price: $38.99

Gin - Hubby and I have a difference in tastes when it comes to Gin. Beefeater is our compromise.

  • My go to: Beefeater
  • Size: 1.75L
  • Price: $24.99

Sweet Vermouth - (refrigerate) Again, I could have gone cheaper. But at less than $20, I like Dolin best.

  • My go to: Dolin Vermouth de Chambery Rouge
  • Size: 750ml (350ml may
  • Price: $13.99

Dry Vermouth refrigerate

  • My go to: Dolin Vermouth de Chambery Dry
  • Size: 750ml
  • Price: $13.99

Bitters - The more you get into cocktails the more flavors of bitters you will collect. One bottle will last you forever! Start out with Angostura.

  • Size: 4oz
  • Price: $9.99
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There you have it. You're home bar starter kit. All you need now are some citrus, syrups, and mixers. Below are some simple recipes to get started with. 

Next time on Tips and Tricks, I'll talk about bar tools and their substitutions you may have already own.



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