The Best Booze, Bitters and Bar Tools for the Ideal At-Home Drink
Think of it as a rite of passage. Most guys will simply pour whatever they have gathering frost in the freezer*, but a gentleman mixes legitimate cocktails from his bar. But this doesn't require a fancy piece of furniture—a simple tray will suffice—or even an immense amount of bottles. Build your bar with five base spirits and a few simple mixers. You'll churn out a surprising number of classics and discover a few new concoctions of your own. Herewith, a few brands that balance quality and cost.
Back Story: While both are distilled from molasses, mild white rums are ideal for traditional daiquiris, while darker rums, like DonQ's premium Gran Añejo—aged for up to 12 years in oak barrels—have a complexity that's suited for sipping. An important tip: make sure you're buying aged rum. DonQ is the best-selling rum in Puerto Rico and even their Cristal white rum is barrel-aged for a year before bottling.
Found In: Daiquiris, mojitos and Cuba Libres.
Brand: Stolichnaya, $26
Back Story: A definite crowd pleaser, vodka blends seamlessly with most mixers. Stoli was the first vodka imported into the US and the slightly spicy spirit remains the world's number one selling vodka. For a sweeter sip, try Grey Goose.
Found In: Martinis and well, what can't you make with vodka?
Brand: Leopold's Small Batch, $37
Back Story: Gin derives its flavor from such botanicals as juniper berries, coriander, licorice root and cassia bark. Leopold Bros. is a Denver distillery that creates small-batch gins with a less-piney, citrus-tinged finish. If a drier, English gin is more your thing, go with Tanqueray—still America's most popular imported gin.
Found In: Martinis, negronis and G&Ts, of course.
Brand: Bulleit, $22
Back Story: Declared by Congress as the official spirit of the United States, bourbon is best to have on hand for sipping neat or mixing up a masculine drink like an old fashioned. Bulleit is an insider's favorite with a sharp honey bite and an oaky finish.
Found In: Old fashioneds, Manhattans and whiskey sours.
Brand: Patron Silver, $39
Back Story: Look for 100 percent agave—the cactus-like plant from which the spirit is made—if it doesn't say so on the label, it's mixto (agave cut with sugar) and you don't want it. Keep a silver tequila like Patron on hand for margaritas, the most-consumed cocktail in America, and an aged reposado, like Cuervo Tradicional, for sipping or sunrises.
Found In: Margaritas, palomas and sunrises.
You can chill, but don't store, spirits in the freezer. They will thicken after a few months.
An interactive coast to coast map of the best American-made vodkas today.
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