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For those of you looking for something on the more sophisticated side you have my apologies. This blog unfortunately mirrors the author (yours truly.) Some of the humor is not for everyone but I liked it and it's my blog so there! My patrons sometimes ask me where I come up with some of this stuff. I am glad to tell them my mind is a lot like Canada. It is sometimes a bit cold, there are a few dark corners, some of it down right confusing and even a bit dirty but there is also a lot of neat stuff up there. So I hope you all enjoy this blog! ... Cheers!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tips to setting up a home bar on a budget.

The holidays are on the way and lots of home parties with friends and family come along with it. With the economy not being what it was and all the expenses of the holidays too I figure more than a few people would like to know how to set up a home bar without the big cost.

Our categories are pretty simple. You will want vodka and flavored vodka, gin, tequila, rum, scotch, whiskey, bourbon, schnapps and a few other liquors and cordials to round out the spirits. Keep in mind you won't have everything but at the same time you will have a very nice assortment to make many of the drinks I post on this blog as well as the basic favorites.

First up is vodka. A good tip here is that if you buy a cheaper vodka try running it a few times through a coffee filter. The more times you can do this the better the vodka becomes. The major difference between cheap vodka and expensive stuff is the impurities. Even better if you have a water filter like a Brita filter use that to do the job. Depending on your guest list you might want to have a better bottle on hand as well. Stolichnaya and Absolute are both moderately priced for those more sophisticated vodka drinkers. Flavored vodka has become big in the recent past and I use many of these in my martini's. A few flavors I would have on hand would be raspberry, vanilla, citron, and chocolate. Between these 3 you can make a good number of flavored martinis.

Now these 3 will really depend on the crowd you are expecting. For scotch I would go with a Dewar's or Cutty Sark however if you have a younger crowd you can probably get away with not having a scotch at all. Scotch is usually a drink enjoyed by the older demographic and really an acquired taste. For whiskey drinks like whiskey sours, Manhattans, and Singapore Slings I would see what it on sale in the "blended whiskey" section. Now even though it isn't whiskey or bourbon a bottle of Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort should both be invited to the party. When it comes to bourbon there are a few choices here. Wild Turkey 101 or Jim Beam are the more common choices.

Gin is pretty simple. Again take into consideration your guest list. If you have a few serious gin drinkers then a bottle of Tanguaray or Beefeater is a good bet. If you don't have any of these people attending and will be using the gin mostly for mixing with other spirits then check the bottom shelf at the liquor store.

Next up is rum. There are many kinds of rum and much like vodka now there are more than a few flavors. My suggestion is a light, dark, coconut and spiced rum. Bacardi is pretty well priced but there are many other good options. Meyers is the most common dark rum. Malibu is the most common however there are several lesser name brands that are just as good substitutes. In my experiences it is rare someone asks for a certain rum by name. So the cheaper stuff should fit the bill and be easier on your wallet.

Tequila is a pretty easy one to have on hand. Jose Cuervo is the biggest name in the business and Tequila can be expensive. Patron silver can run you a cool $55 and you don't want to be doling this out to people who could care less about the difference. Again here is where you must know your crowd. If you don't have serious tequila drinkers or just a bunch of young people who want to do tequila shots and care less about the flavor then I would go with a bottle of simple white tequila. There are many types of tequila and I am not trying to under sell or understate all the great agave nectar out there, but keep in mind we are trying to keep this on the less expensive side.

Alright now we need our schnapps. There are many different flavors out there so if you have a tropical theme to your party I would steer you towards banana, melon and strawberry. However baring a theme such as this I would have the following flavors on hand: melon, chocolate, cinnamon, apple, peach, butterscotch, creme de menthe and Razzmatazz. Triple Sec (an orange schnapps) is a must as well. Schnapps come in pretty much all one size and are for the most part fairly inexpensive. Look for coupons in this isle that are redeemable at the time of purchase.

Cordials and other essential ingredients to your bar are here. In this section I would have an Irish creme. Bailey's is the most common here but there are more than a few options that will work just fine. Chambord is a raspberry liqueur that is also a staple of a good bar, but if push comes to shove you could get away with Razzmatazz. A coffee liqueur such as Kalhua, Lemonchello (clear) and amaretto round out the list of alcohol.

So here is the list for the liquor/ package store... (* = type depends of crowd expectation.)
Vodka: *Non-flavored vodka, vanilla, citron, chocolate and raspberry.
Gin: * Possibly Tanguaray or Beefeater
Rum: Light, dark and coconut rum
Scotch (maybe omitted depending on crowd)
Blended whiskey,
bourbon, Southern Comfort
Jack Daniels
Tequila: white tequila, possibly another gold tequila depending on the crowd.
Schnapps: Triple Sec. melon, chocolate, cinnamon, sour apple, peach, butterscotch, creme de menthe and Razzmatazz.
Cordials, etc.: Irish creme, coffee liqueur, Chambord, amaretto, and Lemonchello

Now for all the other ingredients of the non-alcoholic nature...
Juices: Orange, Pineapple, cranberry, and grapefruit
Soda: Coke, Diet Coke, Tonic water, club soda and ginger ale
Fruit: Limes, lemon, orange, and cherries
Condiments: Concentrated coffee, olives in the juice, and sour mix

And now the equipment: a blender, bar spoon, a strainer and tin with strainer.

Now some final tips to keeping the bill to a dull roar:
1) When at the liquor store keep in mind the higher price spirits are on the shelves at or above eye level. So when looking for the less expensive look lower.
2) Keep an eye out for coupons redeemable at checkout. Many companies like to entice you with mail in rebates because so few people end up sending them in.
3) Whenever you can go with the lower end spirits. In the bar business we call this "well liquor."
4) Buy pint bottles for things you will not use much of.
5) plastic bottles are always less expensive than glass.

Alright now you are armed with enough knowledge to create a great little home bar. Cheers!

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