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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch