15 Essential Spirits Under $50 to Stock Your Home Bar

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.

You'll need a solid rye whiskey to make the classic Sazerac cocktail.EXPAND
You'll need a solid rye whiskey to make the classic Sazerac cocktail.
Tim Sackton/Flickr

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

Farmer's Organic is made from sustainably farmed grain.EXPAND
Farmer's Organic is made from sustainably farmed grain.

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

A Sidecar, made with cognac, lemon, and Triple sec, let's the Claude Chatelier VSOP shine.EXPAND
A Sidecar, made with cognac, lemon, and Triple sec, let's the Claude Chatelier VSOP shine.
Jax House/Flickr

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

Once added to your home bar, bitters will become an essential part of cocktail-making.EXPAND
Once added to your home bar, bitters will become an essential part of cocktail-making.
Graeme Maclean/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

This Italian spirit will offers warm vanilla notes.
This Italian spirit will offers warm vanilla notes.

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

Whether you like them shaken or stirred, martinis require a good dry vermouth.
Whether you like them shaken or stirred, martinis require a good dry vermouth.
THOR/Flickr

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

10 Cane rum, made in Trinidad, is made from fresh sugar cane juice and blended with aged molasses rum.
10 Cane rum, made in Trinidad, is made from fresh sugar cane juice and blended with aged molasses rum.

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

Absente, an anise liqueur, is a "verte" absinthe.
Absente, an anise liqueur, is a "verte" absinthe.
Michel Ngilen/Flickr

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: $3

A solid orange liqueur is guaranteed to up your mai tai game.EXPAND
A solid orange liqueur is guaranteed to up your mai tai game.

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

Maestro Dobel Diamond is a blended tequila made from a mix of reposado, anejo, and extra anejo tequilas.
Maestro Dobel Diamond is a blended tequila made from a mix of reposado, anejo, and extra anejo tequilas.

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

You'll find a bottle of Luxardo behind every great bar — including your own.EXPAND
You'll find a bottle of Luxardo behind every great bar — including your own.

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

It's bourbon or bust when it comes to making an authentic mint julep.
It's bourbon or bust when it comes to making an authentic mint julep.

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

Get to know another agave spirit: mezcal.
Get to know another agave spirit: mezcal.

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

Made with star anise, Juniper berry, musk yarrow, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, and more, Galliano is a sweet herbal liqueur.EXPAND
Made with star anise, Juniper berry, musk yarrow, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, and more, Galliano is a sweet herbal liqueur.

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

This bitter apéritif is an essential part of the popular Negroni.EXPAND
This bitter apéritif is an essential part of the popular Negroni.

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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