The Twelve Bottle Bar

The Bottles Essential for a Well-Rounded Bar

well-stocked bar cart
Reinasierra/ Twenty20

Twelve bottles is a strict limit for a bar. What should be included? What should be excluded? What is going to give the best variety in drinks? It is a challenge to limit any bar to twelve spirits; it would be significantly easier if fifteen were allowed, unfortunately, that luxury is not afforded.

Obviously, the main spirits (vodka, gin, rum, brandy, whiskey) need to be included. The choice from there is the brand. Accent liqueurs can be a challenge within themselves. The final decision should be primarily founded in how often is a certain liqueur used in the greatest number of cocktails, or cocktails where the liqueur can act as a substitute for another. After that list, it’s back to choosing a brand. With a well-stocked supply of essential mixers, this list can make at least 100 different cocktails.

The brands below are on our personal top choice list. From that list of favorites, the final brand choice was a matter of versatility and quality. Some brands are spectacular on their own but are not as mixable as others.

  1. Charbay Clear Vodka: Wholesome and honest vodka that is true to its roots and enhances any cocktail with clean style.
  2. Martin Miller's Gin: Features the crisp taste of refined gin without an overabundance of botanicals that can interfere with the flavors of a cocktail.
  3. Corazon Reposado Tequila: Smooth and flavorful are the distinct qualities of this aged tequila. It adds the expected tequila kick to cocktails in a spicy flourish.
  4. Jacques Cardin VSOP Cognac: A new personal discovery in the exploration of brandy. Notes of sweet vines fill this many-sided spirit, making it perfect in many classic cocktails.
  5. Leblon Cachaça: When used in place of light rum, this cachaça is a mixer’s paradise. It's lively, yet smooth, with a sugary sweetness that accents many of the sweet flavors found in cocktails made with rum.
  6. Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky: A smooth, sweet bourbon, it's a fine choice for an all-around whiskey that is versatile enough to handle both a Manhattan and an Old-Fashioned.
  7. Cointreau: Classically, a top pick for an orange liqueur. As a highly mixable and wonderfully flavored liqueur, it can not only be used in cocktails calling for it specifically but also as a replacement for any orange liqueur.
  8. Café Illy Coffee Liqueur: A good coffee liqueur is necessary for so many classic drinks that it's a shame not to include one. Café Illy is one of the top producers of espresso and it's no surprise that their attempt at a liqueur is stunning.
  9. Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira Liqueur: When thinking of amaretto, the word luscious comes to mind and that describes this bottle to a tee. Its delicate flavors enhance the characteristics of anything it is mixed with.
  10. Vya Extra Dry Vermouth: In any bar, you must be able to have a magnificent Martini and a marvelous Manhattan, thus the inclusion of both sweet and dry vermouth. Vya is an exceptional dry because it can stand on its own and if it can do that, it's worthy of being mixed with equally superior gins and vodkas.
  11. Cinzano Sweet Vermouth: As sweet vermouth goes this has everything one might expect. The infusion of this Italian bouquet is an exciting accent to many of the classics.
  12. Angostura Bitters: Within the limit of bottles in any bar, it is necessary and possible to stock one bitter. Although it was the most difficult decision, the universal choice is the classic Angostura Bitters to add punch to all those classic cocktails.

Cocktails From This Twelve Bottle Bar