How to stock your liquor cabinet on the cheap

It's Friday night. A few friends and I are debating whether or not to go to the college bars down the street to get a drink when my friend Steve chimes in that his apartment is just up the way, and says, with his chest slightly puffed, “I have a fully stocked liquor cabinet — something for everyone.”

Steve obviously likes to keep his apartment ready for impromptu entertaining. There's ample seating, surround sound, and yes, a bar separate from the kitchen that's almost equal in size. Behind the bar he keeps bottles upon bottles of spirits, all lit from underneath. He puts on some Miles Davis and takes his spot behind the bar.

“What are you having?” he asks me.

“What kinds of whiskey do you have?”

“Makers Mark.”

“What else?” I ask, expecting somewhere in the umpteen bottles to be a second choice.

“Nope. That's the one. That's my whiskey.”

Steve takes the strategy of stocking his home bar with one of absolutely everything in hopes to appeal to every taste. Just looking over the bottles on the shelf, I don't doubt that his liquor cabinet (which is less of a cabinet and more of a display rack) must have neared the $1,000 range. I wondered if there wasn't a more cost-effective way to stock a home liquor cabinet.

Economize and Personalize

Jeremy Coffey, sommelier at Sofia Wine Bar in New York City and home mixologist (his fiancée gave him that second title, even though he rarely goes much more intricate than a gin martini, an olive if you're lucky) says the key is to economize and personalize. “No one likes to be a home mixologist, not even mixologists,” he says. “It's just too much work.” Jeremy says that your liquor cabinet should be a reflection of your taste — quite simply, what you drink. When company comes over for a cocktail, let them try one of your favorite drinks.

To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, we'll use Jeremy's liquor cabinet. He lives with his fiancée and neither of them like vodka drinks, so why have vodka in the house? He divides his purchasing needs into whiskeys and clear spirits. He'll have a whiskey on hand, a gin, and his fiancée's favorite tequila. He usually keeps a rye, especially during the winter months and substitutes that out for a more summery liquor when the temperature shifts. He makes his own bitters and likes to sink a drop of port into mixed drinks instead of vermouth. Let's look at the cost:

  • Whiskeys: $48
  • Scotch or bourbon : $28. Jeremy recommends Pig's Nose, which he describes as “very soft and not at all grainy.” For a slightly cheaper option, try the Elijah Craig 12-year, which costs around $24 a bottle.
  • Rye: $20. He's a fan of Rittenhouse 100. Why keep a rye on hand? Manhattans and hot toddies. Rye is a winter crop, and it's sure to warm you head to toe.
  • Clear spirits: $37
  • Gin: $22. Jeremy's gin-of-choice is Bombay Sapphire: — lemony, crisp and many of layers of taste.
  • Tequila: $15. Try Sauza 100 Anos Reposado Tequila — 100% agave, organic, delicious, and cheap!

Jeremy gets a cheap bottle of port for around $10 and makes his own bitters. Going from an empty cabinet to fully stocked costs Jeremy about $180. He doesn't consider the what-ifs or impromptu hellos essential considerations for his liquor purchases.

What about planned events? Instead of putting out a couple of bottles of wine and hoping that people bring more, what can you make for a small gathering without your guests drinking away your last paycheck?

Have them sip on one of the following:

French 79

  • 1/3 Canton Ginger Liquor — $26
    1/3 Gin — I have a friend who swears by Gordon's London Dry Gin, which you can pick up for around $12 a bottle.
  • 1/3 Simple syrup — Simple (and basically free) to make yourself
  • Champagne topper — Let's use a cheap bottle of cava instead for around $10.

With that, 10—15 people would be happily in drink for under $50. Have it be your cocktail of the night; let them supply the wine.

Rye Manhattan. Try it with a tawny port. This one is a winter favorite of Jeremy's and has quickly found its way into my calmer Friday nights.

  • 2 parts rye whiskey
  • 1 part port
  • Dash of homemade bitters

Garnish it with an orange twist, and warm yourself from the inside. After one of these, I can save money by turning the heat off.

Jeremy also recommends any good old-fashioned party drink. He says that not many people complain with a splash of rum in their punch or a decent, well-made sweet and sour mix for margaritas. You can get the store-bought stuff for cheap, but if you have any inclination, a little bit of time and just slightly more cash can yield a better drink. Here's the punch I had a recent party (and consumed enough vitamin C to keep me scurvy-free for decades):

Homemade Fruit Punch

  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 fresh peaches, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup fresh mango, sliced
  • 32 ounces 100% juice. (You can pick your poison here. I really like the R.W. Knudsen juices.)
  • 4 liters club soda
  • Agave syrup to taste
  • A pour of rum (or whatever suits your fancy)

As Jeremy advises, remember to stock your liquor cabinet not for breadth of options but for individuality. Try not to fall victim to the thought that you need to please all tastes and get over the marketing that tries to make us think we need to buy the top shelf liquor to shake up a decent cocktail.

What are some of your favorite party drinks either from hosting or attending? How do you economize when it comes to entertaining?

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Brandon
Brandon
8 years ago

Great article. I like the combination of the overall tip with some practical suggestions.
We often try to theme the night, and tie the drink into that. So for example, if we are having sushi, then we stock up on some saki. Another good thing for a large group in winter is mulled apple cider. Relatively easy to make with a bit of rum and brandy, and if you do it in the crock pot, it leaves your whole place smelling wonderful.

MC
MC
8 years ago

There went the idea of productivity for the day! 🙂

Janice
Janice
8 years ago
Reply to  MC

ha!

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

Since hard liquor doesn’t go bad (I think), you can build up quite a collection over time. I know my sister loves Southern Comfort, so I picked up the most economically-priced bottle before she came to visit. My dad likes Cutty, so I picked up a bottle before he first came to visit. Now I have both on hand whenever they wish to visit, which means they will last for years – and the entire collection is that much more flexible for other visitors. The drawback is I now have to move them with me.

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I was actually wondering if hard liquor goes bad. We save and serve it like it doesn’t and no one’s ever complained. So while I think it may be a good idea to start with your own tastes, in a couple of years you’ll have a fully stocked cabinet anyway. At least I hope so. I’m pretty sure the Irish Whiskey my brother in law was drinking at our last gathering is at least 7 years old. 😉

Chase
Chase
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Doesn’t go bad. Don’t leave the caps off overnight because the alcohol can evaporate out. Otherwise it’s fine. Unlike wine, liquor won’t turn into vinegar or anything like that.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Just *don’t store it near mothballs*. Trust me.

Brian @ Progressive Transformation
Brian @ Progressive Transformation
8 years ago

Johnny Black please. Unless you have some blue, that would be nice too.

Chad
Chad
8 years ago

Black Label is the only thing I have left in my cabinet. I can’t seem to get rid of it. I prefer Glenlivet.

I like the idea of saving money, but because liquor is always associated with celebrations in our house, it’s not the place we go cheap.

YJ
YJ
8 years ago
Reply to  Chad

Oh Chad,

I will gladly take the Johnny off your hands if you live in NJ or NYC. I love Black Label.

Chase
Chase
8 years ago

Nothing wrong with these selections, but the only real tip here was to buy cheap liquor.

Anyone ever try those scotches? I didn’t know they made scotch that cheap. I thought the bottom was dewars at like $45 / liter.

Triple E
Triple E
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

Ugh, yeah, whiskey (especially scotch!) is the one place you don’t want to cheap out. That said, if you can find Macallan Cask Strength or 12 year on a decent sale, or any number of the Glens in the 10-12 year range, it’s still in the 50-60 area.

That said, it doesn’t go bad and you don’t drink much at a time since you don’t mix it. A friend showed me the math once — his whiskey habit was actually cheaper than my craft beer habit in the long run.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Chase

If it’s scotch it’s whisky not whiskey (“whiskey” being either Irish or American, i.e. bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey). Anyway there are perfectly delicious blended whiskys that cost a lot less than single malts, no need to spend $60 on a bottle! Ballantine’s, J&B, Johnny Walker red, etc., are fine specimens under $20 a bottle. If you’re going to add ice and water/club soda or make scotch cocktails you might as well drink blended whisky and save yourself the bloodletting. And it’s great quality booze, regardless. Drinking single malts in snifter glasses is another story altogether and is akin to wine… Read more »

SB @ One Cent At A Time
SB @ One Cent At A Time
8 years ago

If you ask the best way to reduce liquor cost, the answer is stop drinking. Not that hard, just be a social drinker and buy on demand, if you absolutely can’t stop.

olga
olga
8 years ago

That was my idea.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

No fun.

Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I don’t need alcohol to have tons of fun.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

I don’t need to go waterskiing to have fun, either, but that doesn’t mean that the best way to save money on waterskiing is to give up the sport entirely.

csdx
csdx
8 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

I don’t think the suggestion was to give it up entirely, but rather keep it as a social event rather than an everyday thing. So rather than keeping and maintaining a flotilla of jetskis, only get or rent them when you’re actually planing to go out.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago

And the best way to reduce your cost of living is to die, but that’s really not the point of the whole endeavor.

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago

does that factor in the cost to die?

frugalportland
frugalportland
8 years ago

boom!

SB @ One cent at a time
SB @ One cent at a time
8 years ago

I never imagined such a over pouring reaction to my comment. Love it! Jet skiing, dying ..great analogies friends! Important factor here is, what makes you happier and what does good to you? A bottle of wine makes you happy or having a bar at home makes you happy. Or, even not drinking at all makes you happy. Just yesterday we saw JD’s analysis on his microwave..do the similar analysis on your home grown liquor bar, and see. If having a bar makes you get rich slowly, then have it. If putting an end to drinking makes you get rich… Read more »

Laura+Z
Laura+Z
8 years ago

But being unprepared for a spontaneous evening of drinking can have a cost as well. The cost to go to a bar in my area is much higher, even with everyone buying their own drinks.

That said, I normally only have wine, whiskey and something bubbly for surprise special occasions.

javier
javier
8 years ago

I don’t drink now, but when I used to I never drink in my own. Always with somebody else, almost never at my place. Seven months ago I bought a bottle of Laphroaig (Islay Scotch), I haven’t opened it yet, not becuase I don’t drink, just because I haven’t had the opportunity. I don’t drink because the next day my stomach hurts. Or at least is what I tell people. The fact is that I was thinking about leaving it months ago (just my best friend knows it) and an unhappy stomach one day gave an excuse. The reduction in… Read more »

Ricko
Ricko
8 years ago
Reply to  javier

If you can call that living…
🙂

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Ricko

Why do people assume that if you don’t drink you aren’t “living”? My decision not to drink is no reflection on anyone else — it’s just what works for my health.

I don’t get why drinkers are so judgmental of non-drinkers.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  Ricko

If you MUST drink to enjoy yourself, you need to ask yourself some very serious questions about the role of alcohol in your life, and ask others who love you about the role of alcohol in your life. Most likely you do have an alcohol problem in that event.

javier
javier
8 years ago
Reply to  Ricko

I don’t call leaving the following: Spending the saturdays/sundays at home with hangover. I like to enjoy the 24hours of the day. I can go out and the next day be execising or whatever activity I choose. Spending the night with somebody that doesn’t please you. Needing alcohol to approach somebody you like, I go straight, other people won’t do even drunk. In general needing alcohol to have an excuse for what you want to do. Being fat, alcohol has tons of calories. I am not at all a fitness nuts, but since I don’t drink I’m loosing weight. Getting… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I’ve been making hot buttered rums all winter with $7 rum from Trader Joe’s. Ridiculously cheap. And if you’re adding butter, sugar and spices you probably can’t tell the difference between their stuff and a Zacapa Centenario XO (well, you probably can, but is it worth the difference? Depends on your income.) Speaking of ports, TJs also has $7 port (snort) which isn’t anything great but it’s… drinkable, ha ha ha. $7! They have a $10 scotch I haven’t dared try yet, but I might, for laughs (and their single malt is like $20). Regardless, I get my (very large)… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I envy you–TJ’s in Massachusetts doesn’t sell alcohol at all due to Byzantine blue laws.

Jean
Jean
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Our TJ’s in OH sells wine & beer, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen liquor – sad!

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Yep. In NC only place you can buy liquor is at the ABC stores.

Joe
Joe
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

Not true, said byzantine blue laws actually limit the chains to three locations that sell beer and wine. Those three are Cambridge Brookline and Framingham. I have actually found that TJs has a better (to me) German wine selection than most wine stores, they actually have a red!!!! (Dornfelder no less!) We discovered that we really like Dornfelder (its a grape type) when visiting winery’s there, and most places only have German white wines (Spätlese if I am lucky). We have found two German wines there that we actually buy by the case now, they’re super cheap (almost as cheap… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Thank you! I (happily) stand corrected.

frugalportland
frugalportland
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

dang you must be in California! Booze at Trader Joe’s — now that would be something.

kms98kms
kms98kms
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I was going to say that the TJ’s in Brookline does but then I realized that we were talking about the stuff that requires driving out of one’s way to pick up…got to love blue laws…

Grad Student
Grad Student
8 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

The blue laws mean only a couple can sell booze. You can get TJ’s booze at their Cambridge location on Mem Drive (first East Coast store).

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I live in Washington and can’t WAIT to be able to buy liquor at grocery stores/Costco. It’s coming in June of this year. Woo hoo!

Emmy
Emmy
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Haha, I live in Portland and have the weird urge to cross the border just to buy booze.

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I can vouch for the TJ’s port. I remember buying it thinking it would not possibly be drinkable, but it is actually fine! Esp. if you’re mixing but ok even if not.

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Oh, and for those of you counting states, TJs in DC and VA sell alcohol but MD does not.

Brian
Brian
8 years ago

My trick for the holiday parties was to serve sidecars. A side car is 1 part brandy, 1 part triple sec and 1 part lime juice.

I was in Phoenix and had a lime tree….juiced all of the leftover fruit in November (free), 1 bottle of brandy was $7, 1 bottle of triple sec was $5. So, $12 for a large pitcher of a strong beverage.

TinaPete
TinaPete
8 years ago

Excellent post. Please share bitters recipe.

Elijah
Elijah
8 years ago

Elijah Craig is not scotch! It is bourbon! There is a huge difference!

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

Costco! In many (most?) states, due to state law regulating the sale of liquor, you don’t even have to have a membership in order to buy alcohol at the discounted member pricing. Also, the Costco brands of liquor actually are top notch brands but labeled specifically for Costco. Some employees may not be educated about membership not being required, so if you get one of them, speak with a manager.

Triple E
Triple E
8 years ago

A post I can get behind! — Liquor does not go bad. Spirits will eventually dissipate out of the bottle over time, and the higher the alcohol, the faster. Note that unless your house is running constantly over 100F you probably won’t notice. Note that I’m not sure on some pre-mixed things with cream in them (pre-made White Russians, etc.) Outside of that, though, the reason liquor exists is that water wasn’t safe and distilled stuff was. It held without refrigeration. — This will be different depending on where you live, but look for sales where possible. It doesn’t go… Read more »

Courtney
Courtney
8 years ago
Reply to  Triple E

“Check when you’re traveling internationally.” We buy most of our “stock-up” liquor at about a 20-25% discount when we go on our cruises. Hubs got a bottle of JW Blue last year for $164. And since we cruised out of Maryland and drove to the pier, we didn’t have to worry about checked bags and fees.

Amy
Amy
8 years ago
Reply to  Triple E

I live in MD too and agree with you on their alcohol law ‘stupidity’. Whenever I drive to Alexandria or out of state, I try to stop by a trader joes to stock up for wine or other specialty items I can’t find in my neck of the woods. I haven’t figured out a way to snag good deals on the hard stuff yet though.

Sonja
Sonja
8 years ago

We generally have the ‘no strong alcohol’-rule for parties. Wine and beer that’s what you’ll get. Then again, that’s the culture here. It’s considered rude to ask for a different drink at a party.

Chris
Chris
8 years ago

FYI…

Elijah Craig is bourbon, not scotch.

Ellisa
Ellisa
8 years ago

We keep the ingredients for Long Islands on hand (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, triple sec, sweet and sour…all mid range, all great for a variety of mixed drinks), plus Crown Royal (hubby’s favorite), and a few liqueurs/schnapps for shots and mixed drinks. Just about anything can be made from these ingredients. We find that when we host parties, people with a specific preference (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker, etc) will often bring their drink of choice, so we don’t worry about stocking up on all those different liquors. If we are doing a theme night, we may make a… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Ellisa

Yeah, people with a preference bring their own. My problem isn’t stocking up – we buy for what we’re making, and use it up – but getting people to drink or take home the little bits of bottles left in the cupboard.

I think that must be regional, though – I’m having a party this weekend and the problem is getting people to NOT bring food because there won’t be table space.

Laura+in+Cancun
Laura+in+Cancun
8 years ago

I’m not sure how things are done elsewhere, but here in Mexico the guests all chip in for the drinks (and sometimes the food, depending on the nature of the party). When we host a party at our house, we’ll meet up with friends at the store beforehand and decide together what bottles we want to buy. Then again here we don’t really decide to have a party at our house then invite people… what happens is the group of friends will agree that they want to have a house party, then collectively decide whose house they want to use… Read more »

Kevin Meyers
Kevin Meyers
8 years ago

If you have access to a Costco that sells liquor, they have by far the best prices on hard liquor. You usually have to buy a big giant bottle, but as one of the above posters mentioned, the stuff doesn’t go bad – I have had a bottle of Ketel One in my liquor cabinet for about 4-5 years now, because I’m not a vodka guy, but I enjoy having it available to offer guests. Wine is not mentioned in this post – but you can’t go wrong with Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw wine. It’s not great – but definitely… Read more »

Jake
Jake
8 years ago

Scotch can go bad over time: if the bottle is nearly empty (lots of air, little scotch in the bottle), the scotch can oxidize and the taste can get a bit funky. You can buy nitrogen or CO2 injectors for this scenario – replace the potentially oxidizing air with something relatively inert (sounds like a great marketing scheme to me. Or others recommend that once you empty a bottle past the 25% or so mark, you sprint to finish it (e.g., put in your flask, dedicate you efforts to that specific bottle vs. spreading the love around your collection). This… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

I tend to blow my budget on semi-obscure aperitifs and digestive such as Lillet, various amaros, and my real favorite, Bonal Gentian Quina.

These can get expensive but they really add to the meal–

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

I know we are talking about liquor but an expensive drink for cold winter days that you can make for a party; spiced wine.

cathleen
cathleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

As a wino, er, oenophile, “spiced wine” are two words that do not belong together. Ever 🙂

Robbo
Robbo
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

We so enjoyed the gluwein at a xmas market in Stuttgart. I got a recipe and made it for a winter bonfire party, and it was a huge success.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

Ironically even though my husband is a bartender, other than odd bottles we have purchased so guests would have their favorite drink on hand, don’t keep a liquor cabinet. After Christmas I did buy a case of wine for a 20% discount (mixed case) and that has been very enjoyable to have on hand. My husband is a beer drinker (mostly microbrews). Someone needs to do a cost analysis, but I can believe drinking multiple bottles of high end beer is actually more expensive than drinking hard alcohol. But there’s no accounting for taste.

bbains
bbains
8 years ago

Great article. I think Jeremy’s advice is spot on. My feeling, and most of my friend’s agree, is that the host is providing the venue. He/she should be responsible for a small baseline of booze and an appetizer/snack to get things rolling. Each guest brings a drink and dish that they like. A little for them and a little for everyone else. Mix together vigorously, put on some good music, and have a great time.

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago

If you have hard alcohol in your cabinet that you don’t particularly care for and is taking up space that could be utilized by something you do like, why not do something with it? Some ideas might be: -Use crappy vodka to make kahlua (mix with coffee, vanilla extract and sugar) -Infuse with fruit or spices for a month and mix with a sugar syrup to make a cordial (I just made a divine ginger liquor) -Make your own extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.) Less wasted space and you have something delicious and unique on hand. We occasionally add some of… Read more »

Jamie
Jamie
8 years ago

Has nobody mentioned brandy? Brandy is my favorite wintertime drink, and you can get a large cheap bottle for about $15-$20. I don’t know many people that hate hot drinks made with brandy, so I find that it’s a good one to have around!

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago

It’s not a secret that I love me some Scotch. I have a “library” of the stuff. My secret for spending less is to watch for sales at the liquor stores. No rocket science, I know, but it makes a difference. I stop by the liquor store every few months, and I look to see what’s on sale. If there’s a significant price cut (from $50 to $40 per bottle, for instance), I buy a bottle or two of whatever is on sale. This lets me explore different Scotches while saving a bit of money. I’ve written about saving money… Read more »

frugalportland
frugalportland
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

in Oregon, spirits don’t go on sale. They’re regulated state-wide. That said, the Costco in Vancouver is going to be SLAMMED in June when WA laws change!

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago
Reply to  frugalportland

???

They do go on sale! The prices may be the same in every liquor store, but you can absolutely get Scotch for lower prices sometimes. Or am I bring tricked somehow?

Liz
Liz
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

State-regulated liquor still goes on sale; at least in Virginia it does. I would assume that it does in other states as well. I’m betting the Oregon ABC site would have an inventory list and sale prices.

Steve
Steve
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Liquor goes on sale in WA too, despite the fact that not only are the prices controlled by the state, but the stores are state run as well. (Mostly, and as frugalportland said, the law is on its way out already)

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It goes on sale – my husband visits regularly like you do. Same sale everywhere, so the only reason to pick one liquor store over another is service & selection. 🙂
And if you’re from CA, even the sale prices will make you cry! We miss TJ’s liquor and look forward to Vancouver Costco in June. 🙂

Liz
Liz
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Et voila…I clearly have too much time on my hands at work today. http://www.olcc.state.or.us/pdfs/monthly_specials.pdf

jim
jim
8 years ago
Reply to  frugalportland

I would not expect liquor prices in WA to drop down to CA price levels. Liquor taxes in WA are still much higher than CA. Removing the state ran liquor stores will drop prices a lot due to better efficiency, but the higher WA state liquor taxes remain. e.g. if a bottle costs $22 in CA thats $2 tax and $20 in booze. The same bottle might have cost $36 in WA in a liquor store, but $8 of that was tax. So you may still pay $28 in WA versus $22 in CA. Of course $28 is a lot… Read more »

cmadler
cmadler
8 years ago

The suggestion to stock what you drink is spot-on.

On any given day, we’re likely to have 3-5 different kinds of beer, 3-5 bourbons, maybe rum, maybe vodka, probably brandy, infrequently tequila, and peppermint superschnapps in the winter.

What we don’t have is gin (blech), wine (might have a few relatively inexpensive bottles lying around, but not much and not expensive), rye whiskey (though some of the bourbons I usually stock are relatively high-rye), fortified wines (vermouth, sherry, port, etc.), tonic, and liqueurs (except for infrequent bottles of Kahlua, Bailey’s, and Triple sec).

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  cmadler

That’s a lot of drinking for any given day!

cmadler
cmadler
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

Stocked! We’re likely to have stocked! 🙂

We do tend to turn over our “inventory” reasonably steadily, though. I think the oldest is a bottle (now about 1/3 left) of Serbian (?) plum (?) brandy I picked up five years ago. Though as others have commented, most booze doesn’t go bad.

Ru
Ru
8 years ago

Has anyone had success buying booze at auction? There are auctions in London that advertise in the Evening Standard and list, among other lots, crates of champagne and scotch. I’ve often wondered if it’s worth going and seeing if I could snag a crate (taking it home on the bus could be interesting!). My favourite cocktail is the strawberry bellini- strawberry purée in a flute of champagne. Not a very budget friendly drink! You have reminded me that I owe my mother a bottle of Bombay Sapphire as part of the G&T set I put her together for Christmas. I… Read more »

Just Jan
Just Jan
8 years ago

Good post! I would add that in my area, CVS and Rite Aid frequently have liqour coupons/rebate forms in their Sunday ads. The secret is that these are manufacturer coupons/rebates with expirations beyond the circular dates. I’ve been able to use them in combination with sales at BevMo to get Captain Morgan or Bombay gin less than $10 per 750ml bottle. Just be ready to pull the trigger on purchasing multiple (4-6) bottles at once to get the full value of the coupon or rebate. Also, this winter I tried my hand at homemade liqueurs. The BevMo guy suggested I… Read more »

Kristen E
Kristen E
8 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this! 🙂 I especially appreciate the party drink recipes. My husband and I rarely drink at home, so we keep very little in the cabinet, but when we DO drink we like the good stuff. I think we currently have Glenlivet, Bombay Sapphire, and Knob Creek in the cabinet and I always worry about the cost when we have to replace a bottle. But using those good spirits in a punch or cocktail recipe makes so much sense! 🙂

John | Married (with Debt)
John | Married (with Debt)
8 years ago

My problem is that I can’t get a bottle to last longer than the night I buy it. I don’t entertain a whole lot and it usually is more fun to hit the store that night with friends rather than try to have everything on hand that someone may prefer.

Carol in Mpls
Carol in Mpls
8 years ago

Timely, as I just hosted my book club, and we all just drink wine. So it’s a few reds and a few whites and keep it simple. Other than wine or beer, I have some other favorites: a great recipe for Sangria that is nice in summertime; a Kir occasionally; and a Kahlua and cream for some quiet sipping. The Sangria and Kir are nice for party times, and use less expensive wine (but not the super el cheapo stuff). Some vodka cocktails as well. I wish I could get rid of the stuff I don’t drink in a garage… Read more »

bethh
bethh
8 years ago

This is awesome, thank you! Now I guess I need to throw a party to whittle down my bottles of miscellaneous booze I bought or infused over the last couple of years. Anyone know what to do with cherry-infused brandy? nocino? zwack? amaro?

MelodyO
MelodyO
8 years ago

Ha ha, $180 is probably our ANNUAL total outlay for booze. I need to start drinking more!

honeybee
honeybee
8 years ago

Use bars to discover what you like to drink, then go buy it and make it at home, for a quarter of the price. For the comparative price you can even afford to get fancy with it when it’s just you at home. Since scaling up our cabinet, we’ve scaled down our drinking-out and recouped the cost. (Did we SAVE money? Maybe a bit in the long run, but mostly we’re able to drink expensive cocktails on the cheap.) I recommend the OXO cocktail shaker for home use. It has a really nice tight fit and doesn’t leak. The keys… Read more »

honeybee
honeybee
8 years ago

I also recommend Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin as a very inexpensive bottle. Excellent quality for an inexpensive wine, and we’ve found most people really like the flavour. We usually get it with a case discount and it works out to about $6-7 per bottle. That way when we go out to friends’ houses, our wine host gift is cheaper. (But JD already posted about this a while ago. :))

Rhonda
Rhonda
8 years ago

As a reformed cocktail nerd, my biggest prob is the different liqueurs and such I felt I just NEEDED, then moving them all from apartment to apartment. (Let’s not even start on the absinthe & accessories) cherry-infused brandy? Brandied cherries or milkshakes nocino & zwack? Teach your Jaegermeister friends a lesson? 🙂 amaro? mmmm, Averna after dinner. When I have people over, they take one look at the amount of bottles, then drink what I make them. One of the good parts about living in Seattle is we have a LOT of good places to go, and we all make… Read more »

honeybee
honeybee
8 years ago
Reply to  Rhonda

Quote: I’ve sorted the bottles with less than a quarter amount in each bottle, set them on my counter with a liqueur glass, and have one shot every night. It will save me moving several bottles

Way to fight the Scourge of Stuff!!

Triple E
Triple E
8 years ago
Reply to  honeybee

I wanna party with you!

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  honeybee

That’s awesome!
I find that I have to do the same with treats – if they’re not on the counter I’ll foget about them till they go bad.

Sean H
Sean H
8 years ago

I used to be more of a social drinker, but not so much anymore. On the other hand, Jeremy seems to be people pleaser, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He wants people to feel comfortable when they enter into his bachelor pad. There is a Jeremy in every social circle. Although, a liquor cabinet can get pretty expensive. Here is a possible alternative. As friends of his, perhaps bring over your favorite liquor and stock it in his cabinet so anytime you come over, you have your favortie drink at your disposal. Thanks Tim.

Jenn
Jenn
8 years ago

I think this was a great article. Just because people are trying to watch their spending, doesn’t mean they want to give up having fun or socializing. This article also made me smile, because I live around the corner from Sofia, and the guys there REALLY know their wines, and I would assume their cocktails. As a former bartender myself, I hate poorly mixed drinks, and cheap tasting ones at that. I love ideas for great cocktails at a great price. A night out in my neighborhood, even at a “cheap spot” could easily set me back $50+ bucks. For… Read more »

Carolyn
Carolyn
8 years ago

I had a party a few months back that finished off my vodka, tequila, whisky and rum! I don’t drink these often, but I do use them to cook. Because of that reason I feel like I need to buy better brands. Can you cook with cheaper brands without regretting it? I almost feel as if I need a cheap and expensive version of each. One to cook with and one to serve to my guests (don’t tell them!!)

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  Carolyn

ouch! So you give your guests the cheap liquor and you cook with the fancy stuff?? What kind of recipes require liquor beyond vodka sauce? I have always heard of cooking with cheap wine … never the other way around.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

You would be surprised! I have a cookbook of booze recipes someone sent me (which is funny because I can’t drink…)

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

tiramisu, baba au rhum, and a bunch of other desserts have liquor in it. also, anything you want to set aflame: crepes for example (iv’e actually set ice cream on fire– it was amazing). and there are versions of stuff like coq au vin or boef bourguignon that require bandy/cognac. and then there’s bourbon marinades for steak that are to kill for. i wouldn’t cook with something i wouldn’t drink (and neither should you), but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. grand marnier as dessert fuel however is exquisite and it’s not cheap. worth it though. ah, try marinating… Read more »

Bella
Bella
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Every time you post – I think – I would like to eat at his house 🙂

bethh
bethh
8 years ago
Reply to  Carolyn

My semi-informed two cents: if you’re baking the liquor in (like in a cake) you can use less-expensive booze. If it’s a finishing touch (like a dribble across the top, or incorporated into whipped cream) I might use the slightly-nicer stuff. But really, you might do best to find a decent midrange ($20/bottle?) booze and use it in both cases. Heaven forbid your friends see you bypass the good stuff and pull out the plastic jug o’ vodka!

Amber
Amber
8 years ago

and FYI Tim – the answer to ‘should we go to the college bar?’ – if you are no longer in college – is always, alway, always, NO.

If you are in college, it is still no, but everyone is too drunk to figure that out.

Harm
Harm
8 years ago

Well, whatever you want, but I can amuse myself
without drinking. I don’t like the taste, that
helps….more than that, I don’t like what it
does to my mind and emotions, AND it’s too
expensive.

John Bartal
John Bartal
8 years ago

I can really appreciate this article. Being on a budget myself, I can’t always afford the top shelf liquor. Not being able to afford that liquor doesn’t keep me from making some pretty tasty concoctions for the friends that come to visit. Top shelf isn’t a necessity and, as Tim pointed out, neither is catering to everyone’s specific tastes. With a liquor shelf as well stocked as the ones mentioned here, I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find someone that couldn’t find a drink they’d enjoy. Thanks for the article!

Scott
Scott
8 years ago

“To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, we’ll use Jeremy’s liquor cabinet. He lives with his fiancée and neither of them like vodka drinks, so why have vodka in the house?”

If you don’t have Vodka in your makeshift Home-Bar, you will most definitely not please everyone.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Scott

Yeah, vodka should be pretty much a staple. There is a significant subset of people who want a mixed drink but feel whiskey or gin is too strong tasting (I’m not one of them). But you don’t have to buy Stoli. Think about what restaurants stock for their non-top shelf vodkas, aim there.

Bella
Bella
8 years ago

I’m so glad that our cicle of friends has an implicit – bring what you like to drink policy.
Honestly – we are all grownups, have particular tastes and no one expects anyone else to stock their particular favorite drink.
that said – when we throw a party, we like to have a batch of home brew on tap, some inexpensive but decent wines (cupcake or yellowtail) and then we only stock mixers that we like or people have stocked for us.

Kelly@FinancialTips
8 years ago

When my roommates and I are having people over, we will get a variety of different cheap things to drinks. We know that if people want a specific kind of alcohol, they’ll bring it themselves, and since we’re still in college no one will really complaint about the low quality liquor-Hey! its still liquor!. But when we don’t have plans of having anyone over, we’ll get a couple nice bottles of wine to sip on throughout the week, or a good bottle of vodka we can share only with each other for the weekend. Spend the money on the nice… Read more »

lucille
lucille
8 years ago

I don’t drink liquour (can’t stand the taste and it upsets my stomach). But, I love being the host that has everything, and to be honest, from a purely aesthetic view I love the way the bottles look, particularly the higher scale brands….doesn’t hurt that it goes with my pirate themed kitchen 🙂 I just moved into my house and would like to start a liquor cabinet (no more than 30 bottles) with the good stuff (the few times I do drink liquor, that’s the stuff that tends to not make me ill). I agree that liquor is something that… Read more »

lucille
lucille
8 years ago
Reply to  lucille

Oh, and I would hide the extra specials if I’m having a larger gathering (more than 5 drinking people). No sense saving for the Patron if someone with indiscriminate taste is looking for anything to mix with the OJ! Umm, yeah, we won’t be making the hunch punch with that.

B Smith
B Smith
8 years ago

I find that you can find “off brands” that are better than name brands at 1/3 the price. For example, I use Xalico as my mixing tequila, and I have several top shelf brands that cost less that the cheapest Jose Cuervo or Sueaza.

Shari~Rain into Rainbows
Shari~Rain into Rainbows
8 years ago

We are able to (relatively) inexpensively stock our bar in two ways: 1) We’re military, so able to shop in the Class Six store. This represents a significant savings. 2) We get the Sunday paper, not just for coupons, but for the frequent liquor rebates offered. While liquor companies typically don’t put sales on their liquors, they DO put out rebates, often for $5 or more off per bottle of spirits. There are usually a variety of items that can be used to get the cash back, and we’ll find something that appeals to us to add to our collection.… Read more »

beautiful globe drinks cabinet
beautiful globe drinks cabinet
5 years ago

Thats great idea for home liquor bar stock. I found all the tips interesting and would love to make my own liquor cabinet that must attractive to have everything and cost effective too. Loved the post..!!

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