There are six types of liquor that are the cornerstone of any good home bar: scotch, bourbon, vodka, gin, rum and tequila. Here are my picks for three brands in each category to consider:
Scotch: For mixed drinks you need a blended Scotch like Dewar’s that can also be consumed straight. The range of flavors in single malts is huge, so it is a challenge to satisfy everyone’s taste. My two picks would be Highland Park 12 Year old and Lagavulin 16 year old.
Bourbon: There are a wide range of great bourbons available these days, including a number from small craft distillers. My picks to stock a bar would be classics from Kentucky like Woodford Reserve and an Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage. For the third bottle lean to a sipping whiskey like a George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon or a craft-distilled product like a Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.
Rum: You will want to have silver rum for most mixed drinks. Brugal Especial from the Dominican Republic is a good choice. Appleton Estate Extra 12-Year-Old Rum from Jamaica is a flavorful rum for sipping or in a cocktail. And if you want to make a traditional Dark ‘n Stormy, you will need to stock Gosling’s Black Seal Rum.
Vodka: Tito’s Vodka from Texas and Blue Hen Vodka from Dogfish Head in Delaware are two vodkas perfect for martinis and mixed drinks. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka is a twist on the neutral spirit to mix with lemonade on a hot summer afternoon.
Gin: Personal taste in gin rules the day, but for my money the three that deserve space in your bar are Bluecoat American Dry Gin from Philadelphia, Rogue Spruce Gin from Oregon and Junipero from Anchor Distilling in San Francisco.
Tequila: This spirit comes in three levels, blanco, reposado and añejo. You should have one of each: Patrón Silver, Gran Centenario and Sauza Tres Generaciones Añejo.
Rick Lyke is a Charlotte-based beverage writer and marketing executive.