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Cooking Q&A: Liquor Cabinet Basics?

Q.

What are the basics I should have in a liquor cabinet?

A.

You don’t have to run out and buy every type of liquor and liqueur to have a user-friendly inventory in your bar. The most important wine or liquor is the one you drink or mix most often. If you make a legendary margarita, you should never be stuck without tequila and triple sec. Or, if you’re an oenophile, stock an inexpensive “house” red or white wine. Vodka is the most neutral of the liquors, which means it’s the most versatile in terms of mixing. Throw in a bottle of Scotch or Irish whisky or bourbon, rum, and gin, and you’ve got the basics covered. To take your bar a step up, invest in Angostura bitters, dry (white) and sweet (red) vermouth, and one or two sweet, after-dinner sippers, like Grand Marnier or a 10-year port wine.

Nonalcoholic ingredients are equally important -- as mixers and for the nondrinkers. Depending on what you serve or drink regularly, you should have a good mix of the following: club soda, tonic water, cola, lemon-lime soda, grenadine, and fruit juices like cranberry, orange, and grapefruit. Top off your bar basics like you would a great cocktail: with great garnishes, including brandy-soaked or maraschino cherries, olives, cocktail onions, and coarse salt and fine sugar for coating the rims of glasses.

-- Colleen Rush

See More: Bar & Cocktails