The Bar Essentials – Part 3: The Next Round (Spirits)

Alright, so we’ve looked at the very basic Bar Essentials and the Liqueurs that you need to stock up on. Today i’m covering the harder spirits (think your 35-40% abv alcohol) that should have a cozy spot on your home bar.


♦  Vanilla flavoured vodka

It’s nice to have a variety of vodka’s available as it is obviously pretty tasteless au natural. Some recipes are enhanced just that little bit with the inclusion of a different vodka. If it’s fruit based, try and match it by the dominant fruit flavour i.e. if it’s orange, use citron vodka or orange vodka. If it’s chocolate, coffee or cream based, try using vanilla or caramel. There are always exceptions to this rule, but if you don’t feel confident experimenting, it a good rule of thumb to use.

♦  Citron vodka

Bizarrely enough, Ikea has a nice lemon and elderflower spirit that I use for any recipe that calls for citron vodka. It’s works wonderfully. If i’m being completely honest, when I first bought it I assumed it was elderflower schnapps because it was called ‘SNAPS’. Serves me right for not reading the label! You know what they say about making assumptions…

♦  Dark Rum

♦  Spiced Rum

It’s common for rum based drinks to use more than one type of rum in a cocktail. I’ve seen a few that use 3!

♦  Coconut Rum

This is a slightly odd one to catagorise. Although it’s rum based, it’s not quite a ‘hard’ spirit but I thought it would be better off in this list than in the liqueurs. Everyone knows the brand Malibu, but to be honest unless you’re willing to shell out a bit more money for something like Koko Kanu you might as well just buy the off-brand version. Just don’t drink a whole bottle of it in one night like I did on a memorable occasion in University otherwise you probably won’t be able to look at it again for a few years.

♦  Apple Brandy

Calvados is my pick mainly because it’s easier to get a hold of. Applejack is another big label.

♦  Whiskey

♦  Bourbon

♦  Tequila

If I am completely honest, I hate tequila. No matter how little of it there is in a drink it always overpowers everything else and makes me feel ill. I will not be making tequila based drinks.

I also know little to nothing about whiskey or bourbon so although I think it’s worth having some, I doubt i’ll be making recommendations. Sorry guys!

♦  Sweet Vermouth

♦  Dry Vermouth

Essential for your martinis and the like. After all, if you’re not going to pretend you’re James Bond at least once, then really this whole exercise is pointless. (The Vesper Martini he orders in Casino Royale does not, in fact, use Vermouth. Sad panda.)

♦  Sloe Gin

Again, a slightly odd one – it’s most definitely a gin, but generally has a lower alcohol by volume percentage than traditional gin. However, the EU has stated that the minimum abv level for sloe gin to be called such is 25%, and often they are closer to 30% so I think they can join the rest on the bar as a hard spirit. You go, sloe gin. 

I think this pretty much sums up a good percentage of the hard spirits for your bar but, of course, if I have forgotten anything I will always update over time.

Next up on the Bar Essentials, i’ll be going through the classic and everday cocktails (your bog standard Vodka Martini, Cosmopolitan, Sex on the Beach etc) that are the essential drinks for you to know and make if you’re catering for larger numbers. Toodle-pip for now!

Thoughts, feedback or have your own recipe? Let us know here!