From martinis to sazeracs, there is a wide variety of cocktails and drinks that people love to enjoy at home within the comfort of their own bar. Of course, every quality drink needs the proper ingredients. Here is a list of liquors that no proper home bartender would be caught dead without.
This Kentucky classic is known for its oaky taste with hints of vanilla and caramel.
Popular bourbon mixers:
- Old fashions
- Mint juleps
- Top shelf: Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style
- Budget choice: Jim Beam
Distilled from potatoes, this Western European favorite is known for its subtlety and ability to be mixed into a wide variety of drinks.
Popular Vodka mixers:
- Moscow Mules
- Top shelf: Absolut Vodka
- Budget choice: Tito’s Handmade Vodka
An incredibly diverse drink hailing from Scotland, this liquor has many different kinds of tastes depending on the brand.
Popular Whiskey mixers:
- Irish coffee
- Whiskey sours
- Top shelf: Johnnie Walker
- Budget choice: Jameson Irish Whiskey
A favorite among pirates and landlubbers alike, this liquor is known for its sweet, toasted sugary taste.
Popular rum mixers:
- Cuba Libres
- Top shelf: Bacardi
- Budget choice: Plantation
Known for its potency, this spirit usually boasts a taste made from different herbs and spices, typically juniper.
Popular gin mixers:
- Gin fizzes
- Top shelf: Hendrick’s
- Budget choice: Gordon’s London Dry Gin
With an agave taste and enjoyed by all since 1666, this liquor makes a perfect pairing with Taco Tuesdays.
Popular tequila mixers:
- Tequila sunrises
- Mexican mules
- Top shelf: Silver Patron
- Budget choice: Mi Campo Reposado
Hailing from France, this spirit is known for its flowery taste, with a fruity zest.
Popular brandy mixers:
- Tom & Jerrys
- Brandy Daisy
- Top shelf: Remy Martin 1738
- Budget choice: Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy
This liquor of Scottish origin is known for its malty taste.
Popular scotch mixers:
- Smoky martinis
- Rob Roys
- Scotch & Sodas
- Top shelf: Balvenie 21 Yr Port Wood Scotch Single Malt
- Budget choice: Glenlivet 12 Yr Scotch Single Malt
Liquors vs Liqueurs
The difference between these isn’t just the fact that the latter sounds fancier. Simply put, liquor is sweet, while liqueur is not. Even though sugar is sometimes used in the fermenting process with liquor, the flavor doesn’t stick around. Liqueurs are a staple for any home bar, and below are some of the most popular.
- Grand Marnier
Originating from France, this liqueur is known for its taste similar to orange-flavored brandy. The flavor itself is darker in classification, with hints of vanilla and oak.
- Between the Sheets
Top shelf: Cuvee Du Centenaire
Budget choice: Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
Substitution: Cointreau, but expect the flavor profile to change
Translating to “a little bitter” in Italian, this liqueur is made from apricot pits with variations by brand by including different spices.
Popular amaretto mixers:
- Amaretto Sours
- Alabama Summers
- Italian Sunsets
Top shelf: Disaronno Originale
Budget choice: Amaretto di Amore
Substitution: almond extract or orgeat Italian soda syrup
- Bailey’s Irish Cream
A hug in a mug, this Green Isle favorite is a combination of Irish whiskey, cream, and chocolate. This makes the perfect recipe for anyone who wants a kick to their favorite coffee or chocolate dessert. The liqueur is also available in a variety of flavors, from apple pie to strawberries and cream.
- White Russians
Top shelf: Bailey’s Irish Cream Original
Budget choice: Bailey’s Almande
Substitute: Check out this great recipe!
Another Italian addition, this dark red liqueur is considered an apéritif and is known for its bitter taste.
Popular Campari mixers:
- Venitian blushes
Top shelf: Campari Aperitivo
Budget choice: Knight Gabriello
Substitute: Aperol or pomegranate juice with few drops of bitters
A triple sec liqueur known for its orange flavor, Cointreau is an ingredient of many widely-known cocktails, such as margaritas and cosmopolitans. This makes it a necessity for any home bar under construction. Not only is it used for drinks, but it can also be used as glazing for different foods like chicken wings
- White Lady
- Cointreau Spritz’s
Top shelf: itself for triple sec
Budget choice: DeKuyper
Substitute: Any other triple sec/orange liquor.
This liqueur truly needs no introduction, as it is considered the number-one-selling coffee liqueur in the world. It is known for its sweetness, but don’t confuse it with just coffee, as it will get you feeling tipsy faster than beer or wine.
- White Russians
- Black Russians
- Brave Bulls
Top shelf: Cafelua
Budget choice: Tia Maria
Substitute: Any other coffee liqueur. Also, check out this great recipe for making imitation Kahlúa!
This Italian liqueur is known for its lack of color and is often flavored with anise and licorice.
- Flaming Lamborghinis
- Sambuca L’Arancia
- Black Martinis
Top shelf: Romana Sambuca
Budget choice: Knight Gabriello
Substitute: Ouzo, Anesone, Roiano
- St. Germain
Known for its subtle taste, this liqueur is flavored with elderflowers, with sweet and floral notes.
- French Gimlets
- Elderflower Spritz
- French Tarts
Top shelf: St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Budget choice: St. Elderflower
Substitute: Elderflower syrup, Grand Marnier, rose or violet liqueur for another flavor profile
This is the first in its league when it comes to hazelnut liqueurs, with a lush and toasty flavor, including hints of vanilla and white chocolate among other herbal flavors.
- Frangelico Iced Coffees
- Satin Angels
Top shelf: Frangelico Liqueurs
Budget choice: DeKuyper Hazelnut
Substitute: Praline liqueur, for a sweet and nutty taste.
Famous for its potency, this liqueur is a combination of its native plants, green anise, sweet fennel, and other different herbs. The taste can range from smooth to spicy.
- Death in the Afternoon
- La Louisiane
- Corpse Reviver No. 2
Top shelf: Lucid Absinthe Superieure
Budget choice: Cristiani, Parnasse edition
Substitute: Pastis, anisette, anise extract
You should now be well equipped with the best liquors and liqueurs possible in order to make your home bar one that the neighbors are sure to be jealous of. Don’t be afraid to get creative and invent a signature cocktail of your own. As always, drink responsibly!