DIY

How To Stock A Home Bar With Decent Booze On A Serious Budget

With just a little planning and some smart budget-friendly shopping, you can be mixing fancy cocktails in the comfort of your own home and for less money than you think.
Author:
Publish date:
October 16, 2014
Tags:
Tags:
xoFood, booze

Sure, going out to the bar is a lot of fun, but it’s hard to beat the fun of bringing the party home with you. Or rather, starting it at home. But hosting impromptu parties is a whole lot more fun when you already have the beverages on hand. Lucky for you, with just a little planning and some smart budget-friendly shopping, you can be mixing fancy cocktails in no time -- all in the comfort of your own home and for less money than you think.

I typically buy mid-range liquor brands for mixed drinks, reserving higher-priced top shelf liquors (which I pick up at BevMo, Trader Joe’s or warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club) for drinking without mixers.

To stock your at-home bar on a budget, you’ll need:

Vodka, Gin, Light Rum: $12-$18 for 750 mL.

These are the building blocks to nearly every cocktail—and the most versatile spirits to have around, making them extremely cost-effective.

Recommended brands: Seagrams (vodka and gin) and Castillo (rum).

Brandy, Whiskey and Bourbon $13-16 for 1 L

Not as versatile for cocktail mixing, but essential for hot drinks like Hot Toddies and Irish Coffee.

Recommended Brands: Paul Masson (brandy), Evan Williams Black (whiskey/bourbon)

Triple Sec $6-9 for 1 L

If you’re going to buy a cordial, buy triple sec. Seriously. When it comes to mixed drinks, it is the single-most-used liqueur.

Recommended Brands: Aristocrat, Arrow, Hiram Walker

Other Cordials $5-$12/ 750 mL

Buy these in small bottles -- they’re typically very sweet and a little goes a long way. Some of the most popular flavors include peach, raspberry, melon, amaretto and sour apple. You may not use them often, but they’re great to have when the craving for a specialty cocktail hits.

Get to Mixin’

Now that you’re stocked, it’s time to start mixing. One of my favorite ways to save money when I throw a party is, rather than just setting out my entire booze collection and letting my guests make their own drinks (which almost always leads to overly-strong cocktails and tons of half-drunk bottles), I decide on a couple of signature drinks for the evening (if the party is in honor of someone or something, I’ll often name my signature cocktail after them or it).

I’ll mix up a few pitchers (or even one of those giant lemonade vats, with a spigot) ahead of time, and then replenish as needed during the party. Not only is this a nice way to personalize my gathering, it also helps me conserve booze.

When making basic cocktails, I follow this formula:

- 2 parts main liquor (ie: vodka, gin, rum, etc)

- 1 part cordial/liqueur

- 3 parts juice or other mixer

I pour it into a pitcher with ice, stir, add a fruit garnish, depending on the cocktail, and then serve. Obviously there are many other ways to mix cocktails, so the best thing to do is experiment! I love adding flavored simple syrups to cocktails, chopping or pummeling fresh fruit, and garnishing with fresh herbs.

Here are a few basic cocktails to get you started. Just mix up in a pitcher (or shake in a cocktail shaker, if you have one), and serve chilled, with or without rocks.

Classic Cosmopolitan

2 parts vodka

1 part triple sec

3 parts cranberry juice

lime garnish

Lemondrop Martini

2 parts vodka

1 part triple sec

3 parts lemon juice

sugar to taste

lemon garnish

White Russian

2 parts vodka

1 part Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur

3 parts whole milk or half-and-half

What are your favorite money-saving booze-buying tricks? Tell me in the comments!