Whether you're planning your first soiree or just want to be prepared when a few friends stop by for after dinner drinks, following a checklist provides everything you need to make dozens of popular drinks. If you keep a list handy and check items as you run out of them, you'll always know exactly what you need when it's time to restock.
Download a Free Liquor Cabinet Checklist
You'll need Adobeto download this checklist. Simply click on the printable to open it, and then you can save it to your device and print a copy whenever you need one.
Liquors are the essential inhabitants of the liquor cabinet. They serve as the foundation for most all of your drinks.
Rum is the key ingredient in mojitos and daiquiris. It's also great for adding to the frozen drink mixes you can buy at the grocery store. Go for a mid-priced brand like Captain Morgan or Bacardi. You can also purchase dark rum, but keep in mind its flavor overpowers many recipes.
You can't make a margarita without tequila. It's also great for palomas and sunrises. A popular tequila is Jose Cuervo, but any brand with 100% agave is a good bet.
Vodka is the go-to hard liquor because a good one is odorless and flavorless. It's the primary ingredient in a huge number of mixed drinks, ranging from screwdrivers to cosmopolitans. If you're going to splurge on a liquor, splurge here. Two good ones are Absolut and Grey Goose.
This one is necessary for Manhattans, sours, and old fashioneds. Note that whiskey and bourbon are at most times interchangeable, so feel free to go with your preference. Whiskey brands to try include both Jack Daniel's and Bushmills; if you prefer bourbon, try Jim Beam or Maker's Mark.
If guests want martinis, you have to have gin. It's also a necessity for the popular, and easy to mix, gin and tonic. Popular mid-priced brands are Beefeater and Tanqueray.
If you like to prepare heavier drinks, keep some cognac in your bar. It's starring role is in the sidecar. Try Hennessey or Courvoisier. You can also substitute brandy since it is the same thing.
Popular Cocktail Mixers
While a lot of people will be happy to drink liquor up or on the rocks, you'll be a more popular host if you also have mixers available. Some good ones to keep in your bar include:
- Triple sec or Grand Marnier - Orange flavor
- Chambord - Raspberry flavor
- Creme de menthe - Mint flavor
- Kahlua - Coffee flavor
- Amaretto - Almond flavor
- Peach schnapps - Peach flavor
- Apple pucker - Sour apple flavor
- Grenadine - Cherry flavor (non-alcoholic)
- Bitters - An additive to help flavors blend together
- Vermouth - Accent flavor for martinis and Manhattans
- Bloody Mary mix - For breakfast the day after the party
- Margarita mix - Freeze and blend
- Sour mix - Gives bite to sour drinks
- Simple syrup - Adds a sugary sweetness to dessert-style drinks
- Juices - Pineapple, orange, cranberry, lime (get canned juices to avoid crowding the bar fridge)
- Sodas - Club, cola, lemon-lime
You don't have to spend a lot of money on barware. A few key pieces used only for mixing drinks should do the trick:
- Jigger - Always use a jigger to measure your pours so you have the right amount of alcohol in your drinks.
- Shaker - You'll need this for any drinks you're serving in shot or martini glasses. It lets you mix with ice without leaving the ice in your drink.
- Strainer - Put this on top of the shaker to easily pour your drinks.
- Bar spoon - Use it to stir your rocks drinks (ones that have ice in them when served).
- Stir sticks - Add them to guests' drinks so they can remix them if they separate.
You should also stock some garnishes although it's better to keep them in the kitchen than in the bar if your bar lacks a refrigerator. The three essentials are maraschino cherries, lemon wedges, and lime wedges. Others to consider are green olives, celery stalks, and sliced fresh fruit. Popular fruits to add to drinks are honeydew melon, apples, and oranges.
Additional Bar-Stocking Tips
You may also want to include a red wine and a white wine when making your alcohol purchases. This will satisfy people who don't fancy hard liquor. If you need help stocking your bar or you're still unsure about what to purchase, ask guests to bring the ingredients for their favorite drinks to your next party. Most everyone loves to share their expertise, and you'll get a good idea of what your friends like to drink so you can be better prepared next time.