The Basic Liquors and Liqueurs for Your Home Bar

The sheer number of liquors and liqueurs in the market can cause headaches for an amateur who wants to build a home bar. But keep in mind that it’s neither advisable nor sensible to include every liquor and liqueur because of the costs involved, not to mention that many of them may not even be opened.

The best thing that can be done is to determine your choice in alcoholic drinks and then build your bar around them. For example, if you’re into vodka-based drinks, then it makes sense to build your vodka selection, as well as the liqueurs, non-alcoholic mixers, and garnishes that go with these drinks. You can expand your drinks collection to include, say, whiskey as your tastes change or expand.

Remember, too, that there’s no one-size-fits-all rule when building your collection of liquors and liqueurs – your bar, your rules!

The Basic Liquors

There are six base liquors that every bar should have since these are the foundation, if you will, for most cocktails. Get at least one bottle of each of these liquors and then add one or two more of your favorite base liquor so you don’t run out. At the very least, you can easily whip up a vodka cocktail when it suits your mood today and then make a tequila, brandy or rum cocktail tomorrow.


Due to its clean, crisp and transparent flavor, vodka like Absolut is used most for cocktails than any other distilled spirits. Keep in mind that with several brands of vodka, it’s often best to stock one or two bottles of a budget-friendly brand and a top-shelf brand. The former is a good choice for Bloody Mary and screwdriver while the latter is the best for vodka martinis.

Tip: Add a bottle or two of flavored vodkas with favorites being vanilla and citrus.


London dry gin is a good starter for your bar although you may want to skip it if you aren’t a fan of gin. But if you like gin and tonic or dry martinis, then it’s a must.


While tequila can be enjoyed on its own, many people prefer it in margaritas because of the more palatable and refreshing taste. We recommend blanco tequila, a versatile type, as well as reposado, a slightly aged tequila. You may also want to add a bottle of more polished and refined tequila with a smoother taste, which will elevate your margarita from the ho-hum to the wow.


There should be two types of rum in your bar, at least. First, a light rum is a must for most cocktails from mojito to daiquiri so it’s considered as the workhorse rum. Second, a dark or spiced rum is a great secondary rum, especially for tropical and tiki cocktails.


With so many whiskey types in the market, it can be complicated and tricky to choose the best type for your bar. You have to choose based on your personal style although there are certain must-have whiskeys for cocktails.  Your best bets are Canadian whisky, which are ultra-smooth, and bourbon with its robust flavor. Add rye whiskey for its spicy taste, Irish whisky for its versatility, and scotch whiskey for its sophistication.


Keep a bottle of brandy handy although it isn’t as essential as the other five on this list. At the very least, you will have a brandy for your classic cocktails.

The Basic Liqueurs

These are added to the base liquors as flavorings as well as to make the cocktails more palatable and pleasurable to drink. These come in a wide range of flavors from the fruity to the creamy and, thus, these can be mixed and matched to make your own drink.

As with base liquors, you don’t have to buy everything in stock. As you read the recipes for your favorite cocktails, you will see many liqueurs being used more than others, such as in the list below. You can add other liqueurs as you expand your tastes in cocktails.

  • Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua, is essential for cocktails like white Russians
  • Amaretto is an almond-flavored liqueur mixed with casual and sophisticated cocktails
  • Irish cream liqueur is useful for many cocktails requiring a creamy texture; Bailey’s is a good start
  • Dry and sweet vermouth are a must for martinis
  • Orange liqueur comes in several varieties including triple sec, curacao, and Grand Marnier

You can also add secondary liqueurs to your bar, if you’re the type who want more variety. These include Benedictine, a sweet flavored honey and herb liqueur; crème de cacao; Chambord, a raspberry-flavored liqueur; and crème de menthe, a clear or green minty liqueur.

If you’re a social drinker only, a single bottle of every liquor and liqueur on this list will last for several weeks, if not months. You can then stock only as many bottle as you can consume, especially since moderation is always recommended when it comes to alcohol consumption.