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Build Your Own Whiskey Bar for $100

May 12, 2020

Buying cocktail ingredients for your home bar without a clear strategy can be a huge waste of time and money. A liquor cabinet should be full of possibilities for new cocktail creations, not dead-ends.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over building a home bar that leads to endless combinations of compatible ingredients, plus all the essential liqueurs required for the classics. I’ve finally figured out a clear path to whiskey-bar-nirvana, and now, you too, can head to Total Wine & More, spend just $100, and have all the ingredients you need for the best damn whiskey cocktails known to mankind.

I've outlined the 9 essential whiskey cocktails that you can make with this shopping list and I've provided substitutions for ingredients whenever possible. This is a starting point and we will release follow up shopping lists to keep your bar evolving. The recipes at the bottom include both single serving measurements as well as 750ml proportions, so you can take your new creations to-go.

Now, let’s get to it!

The Classics

These 3 recipes require the most essential ingredients for starting your bar. They are whiskey-forward and if you’ve never tried making ‘em, stick to this first section until you dial in your preferences. I like to think of numbers 1 and 2 as campfire classics, and the 3rd is now my go-to favorite for happy hour. $54 for all the ingredients in this section.

              1. 1. Manhattan - Rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, cherry
          1.  
          2. 2. Old Fashioned - Bourbon, bitters, orange or lemon peel, simple syrup
          3.  
          4. 3. Whiskey Sour - Rye, Angostura bitters, egg white, lemon juice, simple syrup

Easy Street

This 2nd section, I’m calling “Easy Street”. These cocktails walk on the sweet side and they require only household ingredients to concoct. They are often synonymous with warm weather and long Summer afternoons spent outdoors. No additional liqueurs needed.

              1. 4. Mint Julep - Bourbon, mint, simple syrup
          1.  
          2. 5. Kentucky Mule - Bourbon, ginger beer, lime, mint
          3.  
          4. 6. Brown Derby - Bourbon, grapefruit juice, simple syrup

The Elevated Collection

This final section was my inspiration for making this list in the first place. These cocktails are easily found on craft cocktail menus in hipster enclaves, like a barrel-aged boulevardier, or in the cities where the cocktail never went out of style, like New Orleans and the Sazerac. The last addition to this list, the Carajillo, is a new High Camp favorite, and gained its popularity in the heights of Mexico City.

              1. 7. Sazerac - Rye, absinthe, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon peel
          1.  
          2. 8. Boulevardier -Rye, Campari, sweet vermouth, lemon peel
          3.  
          4. 9. Carajillo - Bourbon, Licor 43, espresso, simple syrup

Honorable Mentions

These 3 cocktails didn’t make this particular shopping list, but if you already have all the ingredients above and you want a few more whiskey cocktails to check out, I’d suggest starting with these ones. We will be building out this shopping list (stay tuned for part II) to keep evolving your bar.

  • • Brooklyn - Rye, dry vermouth, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Amer Picon
  •  
  • • Toronto - Whiskey, Fernet-Branca, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, orange peel
  •  
  • • Vieux Carré - Rye, cognac, Benedictine, sweet or Antica vermouth, Angostura bitters

The Shopping List

This shopping list includes both the bar specialty items and fresh items that you can find at any local grocery store.

The first half of this shopping list will allow you to make the first 6 cocktails on this list for just $54 dollars, and the items from section 3 each require an additional specialty liqueur in its recipe.

I’ve only provided prices for the liquor specialty items.

Specialty Bar Items

(Best found at a liquor store)

  • • Rye, bourbon, or whiskey ($14-$49)
  • • 375ml sweet vermouth ($8)
  • • Angostura bitters ($9)
  • • Luxardo cherries ($23)
  • • Peychaud's bitters ($6)
  • • Absinthe 50ml- 200ml ($8-$22)
  • • 375ml Licor 43 ($14) ~ substitute: Galliano L'Autentico or Tuaca (Amaretto also works)
  • • Campari ($22- $25) ~ substitute: Gran Classico, Aperol, Leopold Bros. Aperitivo, Luxardo Bitter
  •  

Fresh Ingredients

(Easy to find at any grocery store)

  • • Simple syrup (Substitute: Honey, Maple Syrup, Agave Nectar)
  • • 2 Lemons, 1 limes, 1 orange, and 1 grapefruit
  • • Egg white
  • • Mint
  • • Ginger beer
  • • Espresso ~ substitute: Kahlua
  •  

THE CLASSICS

Manhattan

Rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, cherry

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/17oz

Sweet Vermouth

1oz/8.5oz

Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes/ 12 Dashes

Luxardo Cherry

Garnish

  1. Directions: Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled tumbler. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry. 

Old Fashioned

Bourbon, bitters, orange or lemon peel, simple syrup

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/22.5oz

Simple Syrup

0.25oz/3oz

Angostura Bitters

3 Dashes/ 12 Dashes

Lemon or Orange Peel

Garnish

  1. Directions: Muddle the bitters and sugar in a chilled rocks glass, Pour whiskey over a single large ice cube, stir, and garnish with a lemon peel. Fruitier variations include muddling a brandied cherry and/ or an orange slice along with the syrup and bitters, and garnish with an orange peel.

Whiskey Sour

Rye, Angostura bitters, egg white, lemon juice, simple syrup

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/13.5oz

Lemon Juice

0.75oz/5oz

Simple Syrup

0.5oz/3.5oz

Egg White

1 egg/4 eggs

Angostura Bitters

3 Dashes/ 12 Dashes

  1. Directions: Fill a rocks glass with ice and set aside. Add rye, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white to an empty cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until the mixture becomes light and frothy. Pour into the tumbler and top with bitters.

EASY STREET

Mint Julep

Bourbon, mint, simple syrup

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/22.5oz

Simple Syrup

0.25oz/3oz

Mint

2 Sprigs/5 Sprigs

  1. Directions: Muddle 1st mint sprig and simple syrup together in a rocks glass. Add bourbon and fill the tumbler halfway up with crushed ice, stir for 10 seconds. Add more crushed ice until a cone is formed above the rim of your glass. Garnish with a 2nd sprig of mint.

Kentucky Mule

Bourbon, ginger beer, lime, mint

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/11oz

Lime Juice

0.5oz/3oz

Ginger Beer

2oz/11oz

Mint

Garnish with 1 sprig

  1. Directions: Add bourbon and lime juice to a copper tumbler. Fill with ice, top with ginger beer. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Brown Derby

Rye, grapefruit Juice, simple syrup

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/14.5oz

Fresh Grapefruit Juice

1oz/7.5oz

Simple Syrup

0.5oz/3.5oz

  1. Directions: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds (use 1:1 honey:water mixture for this simple syrup, if available). Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a grapefruit twist or wedge.
  2.  
  3. Pro Tip: Add a little Cayenne for some heat.

THE ELEVATED COLLECTION

Sazerac

Rye, absinthe, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon peel

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/25oz

Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes/ 8 Dashes

Peychaud's Bitters

3 Dashes/ 12 Dashes

Sugar Cube

1 cube/4 cubes

Lemon Peel

Garnish

  1. Directions: Rinse or spray a chilled rocks glass with absinthe, set aside. In a mixing glass, muddle the sugar and bitters. Add rye, stir with ice. Strain into the rocks glass. Twist lemon peel over the drinking surface to release its oils or stir it into the drink as a garnish.
  2.  
  3. Pro Tip: A little cognac or orange liqueur can add a delicious twist.

Boulevardier

Rye, Campari, sweet vermouth, lemon peel

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

2oz/12oz

Campari

1oz/6.5oz

Sweet Vermouth

1oz/6.5oz

Lemon Peel

Garnish

  1. Directions: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with 1 large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon peel.
  2.  
  3. See substitutions for Campari in shopping list section.

Carajillo

Bourbon, Licor 43, espresso, simple syrup

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye or Bourbon

1oz/6oz

Licor 43

1oz/6oz

Espresso

2oz/12oz

Simple Syrup

0.5oz/3oz

 

  1. Directions:
  2. Hot: Combine bourbon, Licor 43, simple syrup & top with piping hot espresso.
  3.  
  4. Iced: Combine all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice.

  5.  
  6. See substitutions for Licor 43 & Espresso in shopping list section.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brooklyn

Rye, dry vermouth, Amer Picon, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye

2oz/16oz

Dry Vermouth

0.75oz/6oz

Maraschino Liqueur

0.25oz/2oz

Amer Picon

0.25oz/2oz

  1. Directions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Optional Luxardo cherry garnish.

 

~ substitute a little orange zest + amaro in place of the Amer Picon, its an orange peel flavored liqueur. 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters can also do the trick.

Toronto

Rye, Fernet-Branca, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, orange peel

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye

2oz/18oz

Fernet-Branca

0.5oz/2.5oz

Simple Syrup

0.25oz/2.5oz

Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes/ 8 Dashes

Orange Peel

Garnish

  1. Directions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with orange peel.

Vieux Carre

Rye, cognac, Benedictine, sweet or Antica vermouth, Angostura bitters

Single/Firelight 750ml

Rye

1oz/8.5oz

Cognac or Brandy

1oz/8.5oz

Sweet Vermouth

0.75oz/6.5oz

Benedictine

0.25oz/2oz

Angostura Bitters

2 Dashes/ 8 Dashes

Peychaud's Bitters

2 Dashes/ 8 Dashes

Orange Peel

Garnish

  1. Directions: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with orange peel.

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