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15 Essential Spirits Under $50 to Stock Your Home Bar

Home bars don't need to have everything-- here's a good place to start.
Home bars don't need to have everything-- here's a good place to start.
Rob Ireton/Flickr

If you're looking to start or just beef up your home bar, it can be pretty tricky to know which spirits and liqueurs will get you the most bang for your buck. Without going low on the liquor shelf, we've assembled a list of fifteen recommendations under $50 that will keep you experimenting and mixing up a variety of classic and modern cocktails at home without completely breaking the bank. While it isn't a complete list, leaving off a multitude of cordials and even some more basics spirits, it's a good place for any home bartender to get started with classic recipes. Unfortunately, you're on your own when it comes to the syrups, citrus, and herbs.

See Also: The Only Glasses You Need for Your Bar

Rye Whiskey What You Need It For: Sazerac, Manhattan, Vieux Carré Which Brand to Buy: Rittenhouse Bonded How Much It Costs: $25

Gin What You Need It For: Gin Gimlet, Singapore Sling, Tom Collins Which Brand to Buy: Farmer's Organic How Much It Costs: $33

Cognac adds richness to classic cocktails.
Cognac adds richness to classic cocktails.
cyclonebill/Flickr

Cognac What You Need It For: Sidecar, Vieux Carré, Champagne Cocktail Which Brand to Buy: Claude Chatelier VSOP How Much It Costs: $25  

Bitters are relatively cheap per bottle, so it's best to buy a few kinds to try out.
Bitters are relatively cheap per bottle, so it's best to buy a few kinds to try out.
_gee_/Flickr

Bitters What You Need It For: Almost any drink can benefit from a drop of bitters so you should probably buy a couple of different bottles. Which Brand to Buy: Peychaud's, Angostura (This gets complicated because bitters are really variable, bringing out different tasting elements depending on the style you use.) How Much It Costs: $6, $8

Get depth from your drinks by adding sweet vermouth.
Get depth from your drinks by adding sweet vermouth.
Urban Mixer/Flickr

Sweet Vermouth What You Need It For: The Derby, Americano, Rob Roy Which Brand to Buy: Carpano Antica How Much It Costs: $33

Dry Vermouth What You Need It For: Martini, Gibson, Yale Which Brand to Buy: Dolin Vermouth How Much It Costs: $15  

Light/White Rum What You Need It For: Daiquiri, Mojito, Cuba Libre Which Brand to Buy: 10 Cane How Much It Costs: $26

Absinthe What You Need It For: Sazerac, Suissesse, Any "Improved" Cocktail such as the Improved Holland Gin Cocktail Which Brand to Buy: Absente How Much It Costs: $39

Orange Liqueur What You Need It For: Mai Tai, TNT, Margarita (although a Triple Sec is customarily used in this one) Which Brand to Buy: Drillaud Orange Liqueur How Much It Costs: $15  

Tequila is handy for more than margaritas and shots.
Tequila is handy for more than margaritas and shots.
/Flickr

Tequila What You Need It For: Margarita, Paloma, El Diablo Which Brand to Buy: Maestro Dobel Diamond How Much It Costs: $30

Luxardo is pretty much synonymous with maraschino liqueur.
Luxardo is pretty much synonymous with maraschino liqueur.
oropeza/Flickr

Maraschino Liqueur What You Need It For: Martinez, Hemmingway Daiquiri, Aviation Which Brand to Buy: Luxardo How Much It Costs: $31

Copper City Bourbon is a great way to represent locally on your liquor shelf.
Copper City Bourbon is a great way to represent locally on your liquor shelf.
Courtesy of Arizona Distilling Co.

Bourbon Whiskey What You Need It For: Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep Which Brand to Buy: Arizona Distilling Co. Copper City How Much It Costs: $44  

Mezcal What You Need It For: Use it as the spirit base substitute for your favorite drinks for a smoky, exciting change of pace. Also, cool points for having a bottle of mezcal. Which Brand to Buy: Del Maguey How Much It Costs: $44

Galliano What You Need It For: Harvey Wallbanger (though it's infinitely more fun to just walk up to a bar and say it), Yellow Bird, Milano Cocktail Which Brand to Buy: Galliano How Much It Costs: $36

Campari What You Need It For: Negroni, Americano, Cocktail Maison Which Brand to Buy: Campari How Much It Costs: $21

Since everything on the list will cost you about $450, it's best to build up your bar slowly and remember how expensive all of these spirits can be, even at mid-level, next time you're bummed about paying $10 or more for a craft cocktail at your favorite bar.

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