Sometimes, we want to put our feet up and enjoy a cocktail at the end of a long day. Sometimes, the weekend rolls around, and we want to hang out with friends from the comfort of our homes. Both situations call for a liquor cabinet that’s ready to serve. You’ll want to take notes as we discuss the go-to checklist for a well-stocked liquor cabinet. Let the good times flow.
We have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to the liquor available to us. For the sake of making a go-to list, we’ll narrow it down to the basics to meet most of your liquor cabinet needs.
For those sweet, summery cocktails, you need two bottles of rum—one light and one dark or spiced. The light rum is great for daiquiris and mojitos. The dark or spiced rum goes into your mai tai, hurricane, or any other tropical creation you come up with.
Hello, margarita and Mexican mules. For those taco nights with the family or your fiesta-themed parties, keep some tequila on hand for your favorite south-of-the-border drinks.
Move vodka to the top of the list because it’s an absolute staple for many. Here’s a small sample of the drinks that you can enjoy with vodka:
- Cranberry and vodka
- Vodka and soda
- Vodka and lemonade
Keep plenty of whiskey on hand for your guests who are whiskey afficionados. They’ll want a variety for tasting and sipping. For everyone else, whiskey sours, old-fashioneds, and Manhattans need a good whiskey.
Gin, with its aromatic flavors, is unique and makes some incredibly refreshing drinks. The gin and tonic is the most popular gin drink available. Other guests might enjoy a gin martini for a unique twist.
Liqueurs and Alcoholic Mixers
You’ll need liqueurs and alcoholic mixers alongside your traditional spirits for several important cocktails. You only need a few. Let’s look at what those are:
Vermouth is a fortified wine that is aromatized. Sadly, its wonderful aromas dissipate within a few months of opening, so choose smaller bottles.
Keep a dry vermouth and a sweet vermouth on hand. You’ll need vermouth for martinis, and every martini drinker has their own preference for sweet or dry.
A key ingredient for an excellent margarita, triple sec is an orange liqueur with a wonderful, sweet flavor. Although you may not use it often, you can keep a large bottle as it lasts for a few years after opening.
Amaretto is an Italian liqueur and is quite sweet. The most popular drink that features it is the amaretto sour, but some daring cocktail mixers give it a shot in old-fashioneds, replacing the simple syrup or sugar cubes with amaretto.
Other mixers on the go-to checklist for a well-stocked liquor cabinet contain no alcohol but play a significant role in the creation of our favorite cocktails. Here are some vital non-alcoholic mixers:
- Grenadine: You’ll need this red, cherry-flavored syrup for your hurricanes, or you can surprise the younger guests with kiddie cocktails.
- Bitters: Just as it sounds, bitters have a bittersweet flavor that helps balance other intense flavors in a cocktail. They come in a variety of flavors today, but the classic bitters feature in old-fashioneds, Manhattans, and Sazerac.
- Tonic: Necessary for some classics like the gin and tonic, tonic water is refreshing with a slight bitterness to it. It’s a must-have as a mixer.
- Simple syrup: Simple syrup is a sweetener that features in any number of cocktails. Easily make it at home by boiling one cup of sugar with one cup of water until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool, and store it in the refrigerator.
- Sugar cubes: Easy to find and easy to store, sugar cubes sweeten the old-fashioned.
- Club soda: For the fizziness in a vodka and soda, keep some club soda on hand.
- Specific mixers: Specific mixers can make cocktail mixing a bit easier. A few to keep stocked are bloody Mary mix, margarita mix, Collins mix, and sour mix.
Don’t disappoint guests when it comes to the flourish; top off your cocktail masterpieces with garnishes. Garnishes simply make the drink beautiful, but most also serve a purpose. That little squeeze of lime or the oil from that orange peel takes a cocktail from pretty good to fantastic. Take note of these garnishes to go along with what’s in the liquor cabinet:
- Green olives
- Cherries (maraschino and Luxardo)
- Sugar and salt (for rims)
- Stuffed green olives (with blue cheese)
- Cocktail onions
- Limes and lemons
Keep cocktail toothpicks nearby as well to hold garnishes.
You have all the necessary liquors, mixers, and garnishes; now, you need the tools to mix drinks. Here is your essential barware list:
- Bar spoon: Use the bar spoon for stirring drinks. A bar spoon has an extra-long handle for easy mixing.
- Muddler: Use a muddler to mash fruit, mint, or herbs at the bottom of a glass.
- Shaker: The shaker is necessary for a shaken martini and other cocktails.
- Jigger: A jigger is necessary for exact measuring so that your cocktails aren’t too strong or too weak.
- Corkscrew: Don’t forget your wine-drinking friends. Not everyone wants a cocktail. Be ready to open anything.
Finally, it’s time to pour the cocktails. Glassware matters. Unless you’re having a red Solo cup party (and there is a time and a place for such things), choose the right glass for the job. Keep the following glassware on hand:
- Wine glasses
- Shot glasses
- Martini glasses
- Rock glasses
Any glass will do in a pinch, but most glassware is created with a purpose in mind—to bring out the best in its designated drink.
Have fun exploring the many cocktail options and the spirits that go into them. Keep a variety on hand, from low-end to high-end, as you and your guests discover what you love.
To stock your go-to liquor cabinet checklist, browse VS Liquor’s online store. We carry specialty liquor online for those in search of rare and hard-to-find liquors. Feel free to contact us with all your liquor cabinet questions and needs.