Short on cash but big on entertaining? No problem! We asked some of the best bartenders, drink bloggers and industry insiders for their tips on the best way to stock a home bar with everything you need to be the host with the most for $100 or less. From ice cubes to premium bourbon, we’ve got your must haves for a whopping $98.86. Kaching!
Gin: Tanqueray No. 10, 375 ml, $15
A top contender for most mixologists, your bar, budget or not, won’t get very far without this classic liquor which is making a strong comeback. To maximize your flexibility, our pro drinkers suggest a London Dry-style gin. Marc Tessier, head barman of Prairie 360 in Winnipeg, chooses premium Tanqueray No 10 in an affordable 375 ml bottle. What’s it best for? “An amazing martini gin with a strong citrus backbone. One of my favourites,” he says.
Whiskey: Alberta Premium Canadian Rye, 375 ml, $11.87
Everyone polled had a brown spirit near the top of their list. David Wolowidnyk, bar manager at Vancouver’s West restaurant had a smart and practical tip: choose smaller, 375 ml bottles to the most bang for your booze buck. That means you can include more liquor options as well.
Bourbon: Russell’s Reserve 10 Year, 750 ml, $40
Another all-star on our experts’ lists, bourbon is the base for many classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan that are happily riding tsunami of popularity. Emily Arden Wells, the booze mastermind behind the drinks blog Gastronomista, recommends Russell’s Reserve 10 Year, which she uses for her killer Old Fashioned.
Sweet Vermouth: Cinzano Rosso, 500 ml, $8
From Negronis to Boulevardiers, you can’t get all that far in cocktail land without a splash of vermouth. Luckily, this aperitif is value driven, and you don’t need a lot to make your drinks sing. It also makes for a great nightcap served over some ice with a twist of orange.
Bitters: Angostura, $9
Bitters are experiencing a boom right now, with inventive mixologists making their own and many getting in on the action by bottling and selling their own concoctions. With as many flavours as there are Crayola crayons, prices know no bounds. But, for our budget-friendly bar, stick with classic Angostura for under $10, says Prairie Rose, the New York-based cocktail blogger of the über popular Bit By a Fox.
Citrus: Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, $5
Whether it’s garnish or mix, peel or flesh, every bar needs citrus advises Rose. “Citrus is key to making cocktails,” she says.
Big Ice Cubes, $8
If you’ve spent all this time and energy creating an incredible cocktail and then go chip away some measly, freezer-burnt ice, your cocktail suffers. Emily Arden Wells insists her bar has big ice cube trays as they “make even the most humble of pours feel grand and luxurious.”
Bubbly water: Perrier, 750 ml $1.99
A non-negotiable. “Essential,” says Prairie Rose. “You should always have seltzer if you’re making drinks.”
What are some of your home bar favourites? Share in the comments section below. Cheers!