Few people deliberately set out to buy all the wines, beers, spirits and liqueurs they'll ever need to stock an encyclopedic home bar. Instead, home bars evolve. Buying quality is always a good idea, but you needn't splurge on everything. By all means, spring for a fine bottle when you want a superlative tasting experience. But when you're mixing punch for a party, a less-expensive bottling will do, since other ingredients mask the liquor's subtleties.

  • Liquors

    Wines

    Essentials:

    Dry white and red
    Sparkling
    Dry vermouth
    Sweet vermouth

    Extras:
    Madeira
    Port
    Sherry
    Wine varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chablis, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir

  • Liquors Beers

    Essentials:

    Domestic lager
    Smaller selection of locally made microbrews


    Extras:
    Domestic and/or imported:
    Ales
    Lambics
    Porters
    Stouts
    Wheat beers
  • Liquors

    Spirits

    Essentials:

    Canadian whiskey
    Bourbon
    Rye
    Gin
    Irish whiskey
    Rum
    Scotch
    Tequila
    Vodka

    Extras:
    2 to 3 styles of bitters
    Select and unusual bottlings of:
    Brandy
    Gin
    Mescal
    Rum
    Tequila
    Vodka
    Whiskey

  • Liquors Liqueurs

    Essentials:

    Anisette
    Apricot brandy
    Benedictine
    Crème de cacao (white and dark)
    Crème de cassis
    Crème de menthe
    Irish cream liqueur
    Kahlua
    Maraschino
    Sambuca
    Southern Comfort
    Triple sec

    Extras:
    B&B
    Brandy (blackberry, cherry, peach, pear, strawberry)
    Chambord
    Chartreuse
    Cointreau
    Crème de bananes
    Crème de noyaux
    Curaçao (white and blue)
    Drambuie
    Frangelico
    Galliano
    Grand Marnier
    Irish Mist
    Jägermeister
    Midori
    Ouzo
    Schnapps (peach, peppermint)
    Sloe gin
    Tia Maria
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Guides, The Bar Guide, by Ray Foley (Time-Life Books, 1999).