6 Liquors You Need to Have at Home

6 Liquors You Need to Have at Home

When you’re planning to set up your home bar, the sky’s the limit. While not everyone is into complex cocktails or is a fan of liquors, if you’re planning to host some guests, you’d want to make sure they feel at home. Offering their favorite drink is a great way to do so.

Starting off can be quite overwhelming, and we understand that not everyone has the luxury to buy an entire array of liquors in one go. However, getting a basic set of liquors can be a good starting point. With time, you’ll start to understand what kind of drinks you and your guests prefer. So, let’s get you started!

1. Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee Whiskey is a type of whiskey that’s similar to bourbon in many ways but distinct in its unique production process and geographic origin — it must be produced in Tennessee. The mash bill, like bourbon, must be at least 51% corn. 

If you’re a whiskey enthusiast, you might enjoy Tennessee Whiskey in various ways — served neat, on the rocks, or as a component in a flavorful cocktail. A noteworthy place to experience this is Pigeon Forge. It’s not just a city, it’s a spirit-crafted haven in the Tennessee mountains. Here, the true essence of Tennessee Whiskey is embraced and showcased.

If you crave a distinctive whiskey experience, visit the Pigeon Forge restaurant Junction 35 Spirits. This isn’t merely a restaurant — it’s Tennessee’s inaugural distillery. Imagine this: you’re relishing a hand-mixed cocktail containing Tennessee Whiskey directly sourced and distilled on-site, complemented by some delicious, slow-cooked BBQ. This perfectly encapsulates the charm and tradition of Tennessee Whiskey.

2. Bourbon

Now, let’s shift focus to bourbon, a flavorful American whiskey that’s rich in historical roots. It’s created from a grain mix, predominantly corn-based — making up at least 51%. Bourbon gets its unique profile from aging in brand-new charred oak barrels. While there’s no mandatory aging period, to earn the label of “straight” bourbon, it requires a minimum of two years.

Bourbon imparts a distinct sweetness, owing to its corn base and the caramelized sugars from the charred barrels. It’s used in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, and Whiskey Sour. For someone setting up a home bar, a versatile and popular bourbon like Bulleit Bourbon or Maker’s Mark would be a fantastic choice. Both are renowned for their smooth, slightly sweet flavor profiles that blend well in cocktails and are also enjoyable neat or on the rocks.

3. Rye Whiskey

Rye whiskey, like bourbon, has its roots in America, with the primary difference being that it’s made predominantly from rye grain (at least 51%, as stipulated by law). This results in a spicier and more assertive flavor compared to bourbon.

American Rye Whiskey must also be aged in new charred oak barrels, but there’s a notable variant from Canada, often referred to as Canadian Whisky or simply Rye, which can be softer and smoother due to different regulations and production techniques.

In cocktails, rye whiskey brings a complexity and spice-forward character, breathing new life into classics like the Old Fashioned. Rittenhouse Rye is a highly recommended brand due to its quality and affordability.

4. Gin

You might have heard of someone who ‘hates gin,’ but they probably haven’t given it a fair shake. Gin is a cocktail legend and features in several iconic drinks. From the classic martini and Tom Collins to the French 75 and the humble Gin and Tonic, gin is a must-have on your home bar.

Gin making is a blend of science and art, and the quality of a gin relies heavily on the ingredients and the distillation process. The must-have botanical in gin is juniper berry, but other botanicals like citrus peel, angelica root, coriander, and a selection of herbs and spices contribute to the gin’s distinctive flavor. If you’re starting out, try Beefeater London Dry Gin. It’s a classic, reasonably priced, and a reliable choice.

5. Vodka

Vodka is a favorite for many, especially if you’re watching your calories or simply enjoying a spirit without a strong flavor. Contrary to popular belief, vodka isn’t just made from wheat, but also potato and corn. Each type has its unique texture and smoothness. For example, potato vodka is often preferred in cocktails because of its lack of biting, alcoholic taste. Tito’s, a corn vodka, is great for those on a gluten-free diet.

While vodka may not share the same cocktail fame as gin, it still takes center stage in iconic drinks like the vodka martini, Cosmopolitan, Moscow Mule, and White Russian. If you’ve only ever tasted cheap vodka, give yourself a treat and find a quality bottle that’s perfect for your vodka soda or Espresso Martini.

6. Rum

Originating from sugar cane, rum has several intriguing variations. These include light or white rums, dark rums, gold rums, and spiced rums. If you’re new to rum, a bottle of white rum might be your best bet. It’s a vital ingredient in many cocktails like the Daiquiri, Mojito, and Piña Colada.

In contrast, dark rum offers a sophisticated sipping experience akin to whiskey. You’ll find it contributing to the richness of cocktails such as the Dark ‘n’ Stormy and the quintessential Mai Tai. If you’re not sure where to start, Bacardi Superior for light rum and Appleton Estate for dark rum are commendable options.


Now, the liquor is pretty great. You can enjoy them before or after dinner, and they help kickstart your digestion. While you don’t need to hoard all the liquors in your local store, gaining an understanding of your tastes will guide your selections. Begin with a few basics and progressively add to your collection with spirits that resonate with you and your guests.

Scott Hamlin
Scott is the editor-in-chief of Spice Market New York. He is also an author and publisher of his own craft.