Food & Dining: The Well-Stocked Bar Food & Dining

Brand Cost Why We Chose It Use to Make
Vodka Stolichnaya $18 for 750 ml Forget the trends; if you want a solid vodka, this Russian mainstay is it. Vodka "martini," Cosmopolitan, Moscow Mule
Bourbon Maker's Mark $22 for 750 ml It's good enough to satisfy even insufferable whiskey snobs. Manhattan, mint julep, old-fashioned; or sip alone
Rum Flor de Caña Extra Dry 4-Year-Old $15 for 750 m Flor de Caña's 7-year-old Grand Reserve is a favorite, but this younger light rum mixes well, too. Mojito, piña colada, Cuba Libre, daiquiri
Tequila Sauza Hornitos $30 for 750 ml This lightly aged, or reposado, tequila is made from 100 percent blue agave, unlike many in its price range. Margarita, tequila sunrise; or serve with limes and salt
Gin Tanqueray $16 for 750 ml Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg did not steer you wrong; this balanced gin is the nation's most popular for good reason. Martini, Negroni, Tom Collins, French 75
Brandy Laird's Applejack $15 for 750 ml Rather than blow the budget on a fine cognac or Armagnac, substitute this classic blend of apple brandy and neutral spirits. Applecar, Jack Rose

Cost Why We Chose It Use to Make
Benedictine $17 for 375 ml One of the world's oldest liqueurs, dating to 1510, it has a mysteriously earthy and honeyed flavor. Antibes, Queen Elizabeth (1½ ounces dry vermouth, ¾ ounce Benedictine, ¾ ounce lime juice); or sip as a digestif
Martini & Rossi Rosso $7 for 750 ml This Italian import is the gold standard for red sweet vermouths. Manhattan, Negroni; or drink by itself on the rocks with a twist
Angostura Bitters $6 for 4 oz This mix of herbs and spices from Trinidad pulls together the flavors in other spirits. Never substitute. Manhattan, dozens of other cocktails
Regan's Orange Bitters $3 for 10 oz Another great option, it's often called for in 19th- and early 20th-century cocktail books. Champagne cocktail, Fifty-Fifty; or add a dash or two to a glass of vermouth on the rocks
Cointreau $30 for 750 ml It's far superior to triple sec, with a smooth, natural orange taste. Margarita, Cosmopolitan, sidecar, hundreds of others
Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth $8 for 750 ml This French dry vermouth is the other piece of the essential pair of home-bar mixers. Martini, Fifty-Fifty
The Basic Bar Total: $187

Cost Why We Chose It Use to Make
Lillet Blanc $14 for 750 ml Its mix of white wine, citrus and botanicals evokes a summertime cafe table in Paris. Odd McIntosh, James Bond's Vesper martini; or drink on the rocks
Pernod $21 for 750 ml Developed as a substitute for absinthe when the French banned it in 1915, Pernod adds a striking anise-flavored complexity to cocktails. Monkey Gland; or mix with fresh grapefruit juice; or serve with water, a sugar cube and a few dashes of Angostura bitters
Campari $22 for 750 ml The famous, versatile Italian aperitif has a bitter, semisweet flavor and a bright red hue perfect for summer. Negroni, Milano-Torino (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth); or drink on the rocks with club soda
Gosling's Black Seal $17 for 750 ml This is the classic dark rum from Bermuda. Dark & Stormy, planter's punch
Martini & Rossi Bianco $7 for 750 ml The third, and too often ignored, style of vermouth available in the United States, with exquisite scents of thyme and oregano and flavors of cloves and vanilla. Manhattan Bianco; or drink on the rocks with a lemon twist

For a fully stocked summer home bar, always have these on hand:

  • Lots of ice
  • Fresh limes, lemons, grapefruits, oranges
  • Sparkling wine, such as a prosecco or spumante
  • Club soda
  • Tonic water
  • Grenadine
  • Cranberry juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Simple syrup
  • Olives
  • Maraschino cherries

NOTE: Prices are approximate, based on MacArthur Beverages, Calvert Woodley, Total Wine & More and Ace Beverage; REPORTED BY: Jason Wilson - The Washington Post; PHOTOS: Julia Ewan - The Washington Post, Spirts courtesy of Ace Beverage and MacArthur Beverages

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