How To Stock Your Liquor Cabinet

United Airline’s in plane magazine Hemispheres has some great food writing every now and then. In the March ’07 issue had a great article from Bill Marsano, a James Beard winner, on how to stock your home bar. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find it online… luckily for you I will summarize what he has to say.

The Post also just published a great article and list on the essentials.


  • Grey Goose is a leader in this group
  • Absolut is a standard
  • Smirnoff is a steal for the price
  • The following allow for fun comparisons: Level (Absolut’s upscale brand), Belvedere (rye based) vs. Chopin (potato based) and both from the same distiller
  • For some new flavored Vodkas, try: Grey Goose Pear, Absolut Pear, Van Gogh’s Espresso, herb infused Herb’s Organic, Peral or Van Gogh’s Pomegranate and Aquavit’s White Cranberry


  • There are some good blended Scotchs out there, try: Chivas Regal, The Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker (from Black to Blue), upper-echelon Dewar’s, and “the ever suprising” White Horse
  • For single-malt Bill suggests stocking your friend’s favorite, then yours and finally any good ones you have missed. Here are the standard: The Glenlivet, The Macallan, Bowmore, Glenmorangie, and Glenfiddich
  • For edginess try: Jura, The Glenrothes, Springbank, Strathisla, Ardbeg, Scapa, Edradour (from Scotland’s smallest distillery), and the fierce Talisker, “which is like bottled magma”
  • For contrast, try something from Ireland: Bushmill or Black Bush, 16 or 21 years


  • Bombay and Beefeater are the standard bearers. Plymouth offer tons of bang for the buck (as a side note it just won a NY Times tasting).
  • New entries include: Miller’s from England mixed with glacial water from Iceland. From Scotland,  Blackwood’s and Hendrick’s
  • For flavored gins try: Tanqueray Rangpur, made with a Bangladeshi citrus
  • There are also some new “craft-distiller” American gins: Junipero, Distiller’s No. 6, Cascade Mountain, Crater Lake, No. 209, Sarticious and Rogue Spruce

North American Whiskey


  • From Kentucky
  • Four Roses, a “dowdy name but is a fine old standard”
  • Better known are: Wild Turkey, Knob Creek, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, and Maker’s Mark

Tennessee Whiskey

  • Very similar to Bourbon, only its one state away and charcoal-filtered.
  • Only two remain: Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel “Buy Both”


  • “It’s the classic whiskey for a classic cocktail, the Manhattan”
  • Wild Turkey and Old Overholt are admirable
  • Old Potrero from Fritz Maytag (from the Maytags, and maker of Anchor Steam and Maytag Blue)

Canadian Whiskey

  • “Same ingredients, different style”
  • Standards: Crown Royal, V.O., Canadian Club, and Canadian Mist


  • For mixing: Bacardi and Cruzan
  • For sipping: Appleton, Barbancourt, and Clement, Pyrat, 10 Cane, Sea Wynde, Gosling’s, and Mount Gay
  • For Cachaca: Aqua Luca, Boca Loca, and Leblon


  • For margaritas: Jose Cuervo, solid and well priced
  • Super premium sippers: Corzo, Patron, Frida Kahlo, Don Eduardo and Chinaco
  • “Stock both young (clear) and dark ( aged) tequilas, but forget oro or ‘gold’, whose bronze blush has been Max Factored in via caramel coloring”
  • Don’t forget mezcal: Scorpion or single village Del Maguey


  • Standard snifters: Remy Martin and Hennessy
  • For rarer choices try: Delamain, Hine, Pierre, Ferrand and Gabriel & Andreu
  • For Armagnac try: Loubere, Laressingle, Ragnaud and Samalens


  • For sweet red get Martini & Rossi, especially for Manhattans
  • For dry white get Noilly Prat for martinis

Cordials and Liqueurs

  • Benedictine, B&B, Cointreau, DiSaronno, citrus vanilla Tuaca, cola-based Redcliff
  • Flavors: coffee (Starbucks, Kahlua, Tia Maria), chocolate (Vermeer, Godiva), cream (Amerula, Bailey’s)

Fruit and Mixers

  • Buy garnish fruits the day before use
  • Olives, marcaschino cherries and pearl onions do not last forever
  • Don’t forget Worcestershire sauce and bitters

13 thoughts on “How To Stock Your Liquor Cabinet

  1. First off, Patron should never be consumed. It is a sad excuse for tequila.

    Second, Tito’s Vodka is a great vodka, too.

    Finally, nice post :D

  2. While most famous brands are famous because they’re good or cheap, it is not always the case. Grey Goose is a prime example. I know many serious vodka drinkers who say Grey Goose is really no better than Smirnoff or Finlandia, it’s just horribly overpriced because it’s from France. Belvedere is fantastic, as is Ketel One, at least in my opinion.

    As far as gins, a piece of advice, never buy any gin which you could describe as having “Bang for your buck.” There is nothing worse than bad gin, and nothing better than good gin. If you haven’t tried Hendrick’s, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s very smooth with notes of cucumber and rose. In fact, it’s the only gin I’ll drink anymore. It ruined Tanqueray for me.

  3. “Yes a lot of it is just big name brands, but thereâ??s a reason those name brands are big and popular. Either theyâ??re good or theyâ??re cheap.”

    Or they have good advertising. Lukusova is a better vodka(nice mellow potato flavor without unpleasant burn) than Smirnoff, Absolute, and I’d say even Grey Goose but is hardly ever mentioned. It’s also quite inexpensive.

  4. Informative blog.This blog will definitey help those who want to do survey on types and brands of liquor. A lot of people donot know all these brands. So thank you for your information. I will recommend Chivas Regal both 12 and 18.And this Chivas Regal can be paired with Cigar from .

  5. Tanqueray, people, Tanqueray! If you have a bottle, the correct spelling is on the label.
    Ryan, Famous Grouse have produced a blended malt but I doubt you ever tasted such a great whisky – I think you refer to the standard blend of malt and grain (something of a benchmark and the best selling whisky in Scotland). Perhaps a good American comparison would be Jim Beam?
    Europe certainly does have buffalo (and Bison – they’re different) – the Americas only have Bison (and ignorant cowboys…). The colour (that’s how you spell it) of Zubrowka is from the herb and not the piss! Even self-respecting Polish Navy Officers don’t pass (sorry) that one around…
    No list is going to be exhaustive and everyone can add their favourites (yes, that’s the correct spelling as well) but only the well-heeled can afford to be this well-oiled. I like the suggestion that you should stock your best friends’ favourite malt over your own but find that life’s too damn short to buy the same whisky twice. Try and expand your mind.

  6. I think this is a pretty good list. Yes a lot of it is just big name brands, but there’s a reason those name brands are big and popular. Either they’re good or they’re cheap.

    As for rum, “Flor de Cana” is a great sipping rum, and “Mount Gay” is a great cheap shooting/mixing rum.

    also, Jim; you’re a dick. Impugning someone’s self respect because they don’t agree with your drink choices? That’s low. Have some self respect. jerk.

  7. Johnnie Walker Red Label with its distinctive and exuberant flavors was created to be drank as a long drink — a favorite choice for every day celebrations.A very sensitive taste that might be a bit harder to catch, great for it price of course would be my choice anytime of the day.

  8. I’m not trying to be insulting, but I think you are doing everyone who is surfing the internet and actually trying to learn something about alcohol a disservice. This is all wrong, all of it…I don’t know what else to say.

    • Some of the suggestions are good… some maybe a little dated. I took most of it from a ’07 article. I am more than happy to swap out things if people have better suggestions. Let me know what needs correcting! I want to make this the best list possible.

    • I agree that it is ALL wrong. It is really just taking the top brands and saying to buy those. You obviously dont realize those airline magazines are all ads. There are no real articles in them.

      For tequila, for example, Jose Cuervo is disgusting even in a drink. Educate people to buy something cost competitive, but with 100% agave. No where is Jim Beam mentioned. For gin, you dont mention Tangqueray as a standard? For vodka, Titos is the best, and most cost effective, vodka out there.

      Dont just copy someone else’s shoddy work and put your name on it. Have some self respect.

  9. Really can’t understand why anyone in their right mind lists Famous Grouse as a decent Whisky it’s a cheap blended malt and I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone but an enemy.

  10. If you can find it, add Zubrowka ( for an herb vodka. Rumored to have the yellow color because the piece of bison grass in each bottle was whizzed on by a European buffalo (Europe had buffalo? who knew?). Actually, the color initially came from the herbs added to cover up the harsh taste from its poor quality. Centuries later, it is now much higher quality and a wonderful sipping vodka. The Polish Navy officers who introduced me to it were taken aback when I did this – they said they had to shoot it, but trust me, it tastes too good to just toss down your neck.

    As for bourbon, you have to add Blantons Single Barrel to your list. Just go with the orginal. They also sell a Silver and a Gold but I would stay away, at least you have a chance to taste first. I found the Silver a bit harsh, but only after I bought a bottle. The original is the smoothest bourbon I have ever savored.

    Finally, don’t waste money on Johnny Walker Blue Label. I tried a glass once, intrigued by a whiskey that costs over $100 a bottle. Hugely disappointing.

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