With the holidays just around the corner, now is the perfect time to take inventory of your home bar. If you’re hosting an event, be it an informal Friendsgiving or a festive Christmas cocktail hour, make sure you have a selection of the most common spirits: vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, and rum. However, buying a bunch of alcohol can add up—especially if your friends and family members are heavy drinkers. Instead of spending an arm and a leg on expensive spirits, stock up on affordable but good-quality bottles. Avoid big brands like Bacardi or Smirnoff; instead, opt for smaller producers that focus on authentic flavors. Wondering which bottles offer the best bang for your buck? Here are 13 super spirits that are less than $20.
Tito's is my house vodka. It's made in Austin, and it's smooth, refreshing, and easy to drink. It's excellent in juice-based concoctions like the cosmopolitan, but it also holds up on its own in an icy martini.
Thanks to aromatic botanicals like juniper berries, gin has more complexity than vodka. Use New Amsterdam to make a classic gin and tonic, or try it in an old-school cocktail like a last word or a bee's knees.
One of the coolest things about the Caribbean and parts of Latin America is that each country has its own rum. Flor de Caña is Nicaragua's national rum, and it's excellent for making daiquiris and mojitos.
Gosling's is Bermuda's national rum. Fans of the dark and stormy will recognize this caramel-colored rum with the seal on the label.
Cazador means hunter in Spanish, but you don't have to hunt for this silver tequila that makes a mean margarita. It's at every BevMo store. Be sure to use fresh-squeezed lime juice when making your margs!
Camarena is my house tequila, and the company's light gold, slightly aged reposado is lovely in a paloma or diablo.
Most whiskeys, scotches, and bourbons are over $20, but Jim Beam makes a Kentucky straight whiskey bourbon that's only $18. Use it to make old-fashioneds, Manhattans, or hot toddies.
You know Korbel as the sparkling wine house that makes large quantities of inexpensive bubbles, so you might be surprised to learn that the company also makes brandy. And it's quite good! Use this to make sidecars.
Limoncello is one of the liqueurs I like to always keep on hand. Add a drop to champagne or serve it chilled as an after-dinner shot.
Triple sec is one of the most inexpensive types of orange liquor. It's a common ingredient in many beverages, and if you're into making cocktails, you'll probably make good use of a bottle.
Vermouth is another liqueur I always keep chilled in my fridge. I use it to make martinis, but I also cook with it when a recipe requires white wine and I don't want to open a new bottle.
Red vermouth is a crucial ingredient in Manhattans, so if you plan on making them, get a bottle of Dolin.
Kahlúa is a coffee liqueur that makes excellent after-dinner beverages like White Russians. Add a splash to hot coffee, or brush chocolate cake layers with it to ensure that the cake is moist and delicious.
What bottles do you stock your bar with?