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!

>> Jump to Shopping List <<

>> Jump to Recipes <<

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. Manhattan - Rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, cherry
2. Old Fashioned - Bourbon, bitters, orange or lemon peel, simple syrup
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.

4. Mint Julep - Bourbon, mint, simple syrup
5. Kentucky Mule - Bourbon, ginger beer, lime, mint
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.

7. Sazerac - Rye, absinthe, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon peel
8. Boulevardier -Rye, Campari, sweet vermouth, lemon peel
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 Recipes

1. Manhattan - rye, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, cherry

  • 2oz/ 17oz rye or bourbon
  • 1oz/ 8.5oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes/ 12 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: Luxardo cherry

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


2. Old Fashioned - bourbon, bitters, orange or lemon peel, simple syrup

  • 2oz/ 22.5oz rye or bourbon
  • .25oz/ 3oz simple syrup
  • 3 dashes/ 12 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: lemon or orange peel

Traditional: 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.

 

3. Whiskey Sour - rye, Angostura bitters, egg white, lemon juice, simple syrup

  • 2oz/ 13.5 rye or bourbon
  • .75oz/ 5oz lemon juice
  • .5oz/ 3.5oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white/ 4 egg whites
  • 3 dashes/ 12 dashes Angostura bitters

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.


4. Mint Julep - mint, simple syrup

  • 2oz/ 22.5oz bourbon or rye
  • .25oz/ 3oz simple syrup
  • 2 mint sprigs/ 5 mint sprigs

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.


5. Kentucky Mule - ginger beer, lime, mint

  • 2oz/ 11oz bourbon or rye
  • .5oz/ 3oz lime juice
  • 2oz/ 11oz ginger beer
  • Garnish: 1 mint sprig

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


6. Brown Derby - rye, grapefruit Juice, simple syrup

  • 2oz/ 14.5oz bourbon or rye
  • 1oz/ 7.5oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • .5oz/ 3.5oz simple syrup

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.


7. Sazerac* - rye, absinthe, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, lemon peel
absinthe Rinse / .5oz absinthe

  • 2oz/ 25oz rye or bourbon
  • 3 dashes/ 12 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 dashes/ 8 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube/ 4 sugar cubes
  • Garnish: lemon peel

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.


8. Boulevardier** - Rye, Campari, sweet vermouth, lemon peel

  • 2oz/ 12oz rye or bourbon
  • 1oz/ 6.5oz Campari
  • 1oz/ 6.5oz sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: lemon peel

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.


9. Carajillo*** - bourbon, Licor 43, espresso, simple syrup

  • 1oz/ 6oz rye or bourbon
  • 1oz/ 6oz Licor 43
  • 2oz/ 12oz espresso
  • .5oz/ 3oz simple syrup

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

 

Honorable Mentions


Brooklyn - Rye, dry vermouth, Amer Picon, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

  • 2oz/ 16oz rye
  • .75oz/ 6oz dry vermouth
  • .25oz/ 2oz Maraschino liqueur
  • .25oz/ 2oz Amer Picon (or substitute 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters)

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


Toronto - Whiskey, Fernet-Branca, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, orange peel

  • 2oz/ 18oz rye
  • .5/ 5oz Fernet-Branca
  • .25oz/ 2.5oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes/ 8 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: orange peel

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

  • 1oz/ 8.5oz rye
  • 1oz/ 8.5oz Cognac or brandy (or substitute additional 1oz of rye)
  • .75oz/ 6.5oz sweet vermouth
  • .25oz/ 2oz Benedictine
  • 2 dashes/ 8 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes/ 8 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • Garnish: orange peel

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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