The new cocktail culture that has taken the nation by storm is changing the way people feel about liquor, beer and wine. Sometimes when you watch TV you see all kinds of fancy cocktails and drinks that mixologists create seemingly out of thin air with new herbs, cordials and unique flavors. But at the end of the day you can make a complete bar at home and make 95% of your guests happy with a few basic items! Sometimes the simplest ways are best!

Vodka is the # 1 liquor in the world. Vodka is the perfect spirit for thousands of cocktails. The great thing about vodka is its mixability and adaptability. It can go in virtually anything and you can make drinks that will make all ages happy! If you have an older classic crowd, there is nothing more traditional than a good vodka Martini! Vodka, Dry vermouth, an olive or two and you are ready! Or if you have a younger crowd you can whip up some vodka lemonades, or vodka cranberry drinks.

The second component of any bar has to be whiskey. Here is where it gets a little trickier. There are many types of whiskey. Scotch, Bourbon, Rye, Blended, Canadian, Irish, and so on. If you can only have one type of whiskey in your bar, go with a good Canadian. Brands like Crown Royal or Canadian Club are high quality whiskey’s that are mixable and great in an old fashioned or manhattans, but also great in a basic Whisky Coke or 7-UP. For the whiskey purist in your crowd, CC is still a good well-constructed whisky that anyone will enjoy neat or on the rocks. All the other types of whiskey are awesome whiskeys and outstanding in their own right—but they are way more robust and you will have more flexibility with Canadian Whiskey.

The third item you need in any bar is rum. But you need two types. With the popularity of Captain Morgan and Coke as a cocktail, you have to have the Captain. But then have good straight rum, like Bacardi, which is way more versatile than Captain. Bacardi or any good Rum can be used in a myriad of drinks, like the Cuba Libre, Daiquiri’s, Pina Colada’s and so on. Rum has the sweeter profile that can make many a person happy. Rum always gets you in a tropical mood and hearkens the mind to the Caribbean Sea!

Living in Minnesota you have to have brandy in your repertoire. The upper Midwestern states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas drink more brandy per capita than virtually anywhere! Especially in the winter months, brandy is a welcome addition to any cocktail. Brandy Manhattans and Old Fashioneds are super popular for the classic cocktail crowd. Brandy adds a warming and slightly sweet flavor to all cocktails. Brands like E&J and Christian Brothers will do you just fine! Don’t forget the VSOP versions—the extra years of Barrel Aging make the VSOP a better and richer brandy!

During the summer, Gin is still king. There are few drinks more refreshing and satisfying than the Classic Gin and Tonic. Have a good English gin like Beefeater or Tanqueray. A twist of lime and a highball glass and you are good to go.

The sixth and most unique liquor to have is Tequila. Tequila is a must because the #1 cocktail in America is still the Margarita. Tequila is a must if you want to liven up the party. A round of Tequila shots is always a great party starter! Get the real 100% Agave tequila. You wont be sorry and your guests will love you when they see an authentic great Mexican import!

Of course every bar needs the mixers and accouterments. Make sure you have some Cola, 7-Up, Tonic Water, Club Soda, Orange and Cranberry juice, sweet and dry vermouth and Grand Marnier. Have these basic things and you will be able to make virtually any cocktail anyone can think of.

Only 6 bottles of liquor, a few mixers and you have a complete bar in your house! You will be the hero of your neighborhood. Enjoy in moderation and don’t be afraid to experiment! Cheers!!