Home bartending is an expensive hobby. Very rewarding (and delicious), but expensive. However, there’s a way to stock your home bar and ball on a budget if you’re just starting out and $200 should do the trick.
Depending on where you live $200 can get you started out with a good variety of bottles (spirits, bitters, liqueurs), and the essential tools needed to craft a damn good drink. Also depending on where you live, you might be reading this and thinking “Elliott, $200 can only get me from my apartment to the liquor store”… looking at you San Francisco.
Now, when I was starting out in the world of home bartending I remember walking into the liquor store (Total Wine) and spending $200 on a bunch of spirits and liqueurs I knew nothing about. I’ve learned a few things since then, so if I were to go back to the beginning and do it all over again this is how I would spend my money.
Just know before diving into the list that everyone has different taste preferences. If you’re solely looking to stock your bar cart with vodka and gin because you only like vodka and gin drinks, then this is probably not the list for you. I’m taking the approach of someone who wants to learn how to make a variety of cocktail classics, and who wants to build their home bar starting with the fundamentals.
***Prices are based on the Total Wine liquor store located in Tempe, Arizona.
- Old Grand Dad Bourbon Whiskey – $13.49
- Old Overholt Rye Whiskey – $11.99
- Beefeater Gin – $14.49
- Legado Reposado Tequila – $13.99 (or another low cost 100% agave tequila brand)
- Bacardi Superior Silver Rum – $9.49
LIQUEURS AND OTHER GOODS
- Dolin Sweet Vermouth – $15.99
- Campari – $26.99 (Campari can be a bit harsh to start out with. Definitely an acquired taste, so if you want to ease into the world of bitter, start with Aperol…it’s much more forgiving and amazing come time to brunch).
- Aperol – $21.99 (Use this in place of Campari to save moola)
- Cointreau – $26.99
So, depending on whether you go with Campari or Aperol, your total cost comes out to roughly $145 or $150 without tax. Factoring in sales tax of roughly $10-12 you’re looking at $160 spent on some damn good bottles. With this selection of spirits/liqueurs, you can make quite a few cocktail classics like an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Negroni, Margarita, Gin Sour, Whiskey Sour, Boulevardier, Daiquiri, and more.
Plus, you should be left with about $40 for some basic home bartending tools. Here are some of the tools you’ll need to purchase.
- Cocktail shaker – $14.90
- Mixing Glass – $14.99 (a pint glass works well as a mixing glass too)
- Julep Strainer – $7.47
- Bar Spoon – $5.99
- Hawthorne Strainer – $6.99
- Jigger – $8.99
- Mesh Strainer – $9.99
Bar Tools Total Damage should be about $67 (tax excluded). If you minus the mixing glass and the julep strainer, your cost is about $45 (tax excluded). I mention this because the mixing glass and julep strainer aren’t the most necessary to start out with. In the beginning, I just used a pint glass to mix my stirred cocktails. I also just used the Hawthorne strainer/mesh strainer.
OK, so if you get EVERYTHING listed here, you’re looking at a rough total cost of $230. Obviously, it’s a wee bit over budget, which should give you insight into how
tightly I run my budget.
If you leave out the couple of home bartending tools I suggested, then you should be sitting right around $200 for a pretty awesome stocked home bar.
To reiterate my earlier statement, this is what I would do if I could go back to the beginning. Ask two home bartenders the same question, and you’ll more than likely get two different answers based on their preferences (which is the beauty to this world). It’s yours to create!
If you’re a well-seasoned home bartender/cocktail enthusiast, and you could go back to the beginning, what would you stock your home bar with to start out?
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