be the perfect host/ess

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a VERY Basic Bar|  1 2  

You’ve decided to throw a housewarming party, in your stylish new digs, and realize that you’ve got nothing more to offer your friends than 6-packs of Bud Light. Clearly it’s time to expand your drink offerings … but faced with a plethora of choices at the liquor store, how do you know which bottles to buy, when your experience with mixed drinks has been thus far limited to rum and cokes?

The key is to find the right balance of variety, quality, and value. Having the following ingredients on hand will allow you to make many of the more common mixed drinks, among them margaritas, martinis, and the like. Buy a little at a time—a bottle of vodka this week, a bottle of gin next, and you’ll barely notice your wallet’s lighter. Keep your bar small but sensibly stocked, and you’ll look like a generous host/hostess without having to spend grotesque sums of cash.

Were money no object, of course, we’d all only ever offer our guests the very best of liquors, but that hardly ever being the case for anyone I know, I offer recommendations for affordably-priced, reasonably good-quality liquors. 
white wine
Chardonnay. Refrigerate.
red wine
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Shiraz.
Absolut, Finlandia, Stolichnaya. Freeze.
rum, light
Bacardi Silver or Havana Club.
Ideally, look for something that's 100% blue agave -- Sauza Hornitos is reasonably-priced and good. Especially important if you're doing shots -- you can get away with the cheaper stuff for mixing. 
There’s no sense drinking a Martini made of cheap, dishwatery-tasting gin, so I’m willing to splurge a bit on this. Beefeater is a good, moderately-priced choice; Bombay Sapphire is more expensive but very tasty. Freeze if desired.
whiskey, blended Seagram’s VO Canadian or Seven Crown is a good choice, and cheap. Crown Royal is a bit pricier but also good.
vermouth, dry Martini & Rossi, Noilly-Prat, Cinzano.  Refrigerate after opening.
triple sec or Cointreau
dessert liqueur
Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua or the like.

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