Easy, tasty and cheap!
Being a home bartender is super expensive. We buy bottles we need for single cocktails just to try them once. But what if you’ve tried over 200 cocktails already? Then you might have a bit of an idea of the ideal small sized cocktail bar at home.
I had 60+ bottles at my peak, but since a year or two I have been trying to keep it down a bit. I’ve been trying to perfect some simple recipes and trying to find recipes that are easy to make for after work, after school, or to enjoy with friends. So let’s start with some bottles and finish with some recipes.
Quality of Ingredients
Since we’re only going to choose 5 bottles, I will suggest that you try to spend a little bit more on each bottle to increase the overall quality of your cocktails. A bottle of Plantation 3 star rum is much better than Captain Morgan silver rum and it costs just a few bucks more.
The quality of your secondaries also matters. Freshly squeezed orange juice or lime juice tastes much better to some. Experiment with it a bit and try to find the perfect ingredients for you.
Some ratios for cocktails recipes might not suit you. Some like a 1:1:1 Negroni while others prefer more Campari or more gin. The same with simple syrup in Daiquiris or the hot sauce in Bloody Maries. Experiment and find your perfect serve.
Vodka is a neutral spirit made from all kinds of materials. Grain, potatoes, grapes and sometimes even other things. It sits at around 40% ABV.
It is also a great base for a lot of simple cocktails. From the simple vodka cranberry to vodka sodas and Moscow Mules. And because of that I think it has earned its place within this list.
If this was a “single bottle bar” article, the list would now be complete. There are simply too many cocktails that use solely vodka and get their flavor from secondary ingredients such as juices.
2. Light Rum
Light, silver or lightly aged rum is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane molasses. And while I was contemplating between either light or dark rum I chose light rum as a more volatile rum. I suggest using a lightly aged rum. Mosly aged for three years. It has a bit more flavor and is more well-rounded while still being colorless.
Light rum is used in many simple tropical cocktails such as the Daiquiri, Mojito, Bacardi and Cuba Libre and works just as well as a mixer with cola. It can also be used in simple tiki cocktails such as the Pieces of Eight and the Panorama Punch.
If you’d like to add an extra bottle, go for aged rum such as Plantation 5 year or El Dorado 5. It opens up the possibility for more complex tiki cocktails such as the Mai Tai and more tasty classics like a Daiquiri with dark rum.
3. London Dry Gin
Gin is a spirit distilled from all sorts of ingredients. Unlike vodka, it has more flavors by distilling through ingredients such as juniper berries, cucumber, citrus zest and peppercorns among others.
Gin is ideal for the classic and refreshing Gin and Tonic, Gimlet, Clover Club and Bees Knees just to name a few.
There’s also botanical gin which is London Dry gin with more ‘botanical’ flavors which is also very nice. An example is Bombay Sapphire London Dry Botanical Gin.
Whiskey, an aged spirit from America is used in a few essential cocktails as well. Most notably the Whiskey Sour and Old Fashioned. However, it is also great to drink neat or on the rocks on those days when you’re just too lazy to get up and shake a drink.
While I was actually deciding against putting this on the list, I think that a great daily sipper is a great addition. The other contester was dark rum which might add more recipes, but since most of those are tiki drinks they are very complex and require many more secondary ingredients which is something I’d like to avoid in this list.
Next up is the final ingredient which I have put a lot of thought into considering complexity of recipes, available recipes with that ingredient and taste.
After hard thinking, this is the fifth bottle. A dasher bottle of Angostura Bitters. You’d use at most 3 dashes of this stuff in your drinks, but it opens up the way for so many recipes using all the bottles above. I have my bottle of Angostura since a year or two. It’s still just as tasty as it is above 40% ABV it won’t go bad and because you use so little, you won’t ever run out.
Angostura Bitters pave the way to a 6th Street Swizzle, Old Fashioned, Bin & Gitters and more. Try a dash of it in your favorite cocktail or a dash in soupes or stews (they actually advertise that).
Let’s send you on your way with a few recipes to try using the bottles above. If we assume you have almost every secondary ingredient you can make more than 130 recipes already according to Mixel.
A tropical classic. Very easy to make, very tasty, and perfect to experiment with. Try altering the ratio’s, adding spiced simple syrup or a different rum.
2.25oz Light Rum
1.25oz Lime Juice
0.75oz Simple SyrupShake with ice and garnish with a lime wedge.
Pour into a cocktail glass.
A very simple vodka and juice recipe. Tasty and super easy to make. Build it in the glass and stir if you’re lazy or just shake it as the recipe suggests.
6oz Cranberry Juice
1.5oz Pineapple JuiceShake with ice and garnish with a lime wheel.
Pour into a highball glass with ice.
Pieces of Eight
A simple tiki drink you can quickly make if you have a blender available.
0.5oz Lime Juice
1.5oz Lemon Juice
1.5oz Passion Fruit Syrup
1.5oz Light RumBlend with 0.5 cup of ice until smooth.
Pour into a glass or tiki mug.
The easiest of easy cocktails. Invented by miners who stirred the drink using their screwdriver to increase morale during breaks or after work.
4oz Orange JuicePour ingredients in a highball glass with ice and stir to combine.
Garnish with an orange wheel.
Easy to make, perfect for warm or cold weather. Truly Russian but born in Manhatten.
1tsp Lime Juice
4oz Ginger BeerCombine ingredients in a mule cup or highball glass and stir to combine. Garnish with lime or a mint sprig.
Easy to make, easy to drink. Great to drink with the fireplace running.
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 sugar cubePlace sugar cube in glass and soak in the bitters. Muddle until the sugar is dissolved and add whiskey and ice. Garnish with an orange twist and a cherry.
Sweet and strong.
0.5oz Lemon Juice
0.5oz Raspberry Syrup
Egg white (optional. Tasteless but enhances mouthfeeling)Dry-shake ingredients without ice for 10 seconds (if adding egg white). Add ice and shake again until cold.Strain into a cocktail glass.
Having a well-balanced and stocked home-bar can be expensive and tricky, but this list hopefully encourages you to start without breaking the bank.
From here on out you can expand, check what you like and what you do not like and grow from there.
Thank you for reading and have a great day.