Iconic liquors every home bar needs

There was a point in my life when a bar stool was practically attached to my behind. And when you spend that much time in bars, you also spend a whole lot of money at bars. But hey, I was young, having fun, and a several-times-a-week bar tab over $100 was just a way of life. Now, aside from the fact that I have hermit-like tendencies and crowded places severely annoy me, I just cannot fathom spending $18 on a craft cocktail made with unicorn tears and organic, small-batch anything.

The solution? Stock your home bar at a fraction of the cost and make all the ridiculously complicated cocktails you want. Or just stick to the tried and true basics. Either way, a well-stocked liquor cabinet will save you tons of money in the long run. Here are the iconic bottles every home bar should have (not including the unicorn tears, which I'm sorry to say is actually a thing).

Campari

The gorgeous red color of Campari is reason enough to have a bottle on your bar. Aside from being pretty, this aperitif is also what gives the Negroni cocktail its distinct flavor. Campari is known for its bitter taste that comes from a secret ingredient list thought to be full of as many as 80 fruits and herbs. Mix up a Negroni and see what all the fuss is about: 1 part Campari, 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth.

Luxardo Maraschino

You know the jar of neon red maraschino cherries that's been in the back of your fridge for seven years? Luxardo Maraschino is nothing like that. (As a matter of fact, just go ahead and throw that jar away.) It's made from ripe Marasca cherries, a sour variety, and they impart a subtle bitter almond flavor and floral notes into the liqueur. If you're expecting a sugary sweet taste, you won't find it here.

Since you need to replace those cherries, do yourself a favor and get the real deal. Luxardo also makes the original Maraschino cherries, and they're a game-changer.

Disaronno (amaretto)

An amaretto sour ticks all the boxes — not too boozy, not too sweet, and goes down easy (a little too easy sometimes). Disaronno, a name synonymous with amaretto, is the Italian liqueur with that heavenly almond flavor. If a sour isn't your thing, amaretto and cream works, too.

Frangelico

Another Italian classic, Frangelico is known for both its distinct bottle and flavor. The bottle, which is shaped like a monk's habit, is a nod to the Christian monks who helped shape this liqueur 300 years ago. Along with its iconic hazelnut flavor, you'll also get hints of coffee, cocoa, and vanilla, which makes it a welcome addition to your cup of joe or hot chocolate.

Cointreau (triple sec)

Every home bar needs triple sec, and if it's in the budget, Cointreau is the way to go. This French orange liqueur, made with sweet and bitter orange peels, is used in so many different cocktail recipes your head will spin. Just get a bottle (even if it's not Cointreau).

Grand Marnier

Not to be confused with Cointreau, Grand Marnier is also a French orange liqueur, but with one notable difference: it is brandy-based. This blend of cognac and exotic oranges is often enjoyed on the rocks or neat to savor its flavor, but it's also what turns a regular ol' margarita into a Cadillac margarita.

Kahlúa

Kahlúa is one of those bottles that will probably get shoved to the back of the cabinet because you don't realize just how versatile it is. This Mexican liqueur, made with Arabica coffee and sugarcane rum, can be used in so many super-simple cocktails you'll be glad you have it. Try a white Russian (Kahlúa, vodka, and cream), a black Russian (Kahlúa and vodka), a Kahlúa sour (Kahlúa and sour mix), or just add a shot to your coffee.

Galliano

Galliano is an Italian herbal liqueur made with a staggering 30 Mediterranean herbs, spices, and plant extracts (the exact recipe is top secret). This sweet botanical blend gives off notes of vanilla and anise, and is what makes the classic Harvey Wallbanger cocktail sing. Try one yourself by combining 6 parts orange juice, 3 parts vodka, and 1 part Galliano.

Dolin (dry vermouth)

Though most of us probably have a bottle of vermouth in the depths of the liquor cabinet, chances are it's gone bad. Vermouth, a fortified wine infused with botanicals, actually needs to be stored in the fridge, so toss out the dusty one you bought 10 years ago and buy a fresh bottle of Dolin. After all, you can't be expected to make a proper dry martini without it.

Aperol

Aperol is sometimes compared to Campari for its herbal, fruity flavor, but this orange-scented aperitif is far less potent (only 11 percent alcohol) than its similarly-hued cousin. For those who prefer less bitter and more sweet, Aperol is for you. And once you try a classic Aperol spritz, there's no turning back: 3 parts Prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, 1 dash soda.

Drambuie

Made with aged Scotch whisky, herbs, spices, and heather honey, Drambuie offers a unique and complex flavor profile. Though this too is a secret recipe, common guesses at ingredients include saffron, anise, and nutmeg. The most recognizable cocktail made with Drambuie has to be the Rusty Nail, which is exactly as strong as it sounds. It's 1 part Drambuie and 1 part Scotch whisky, so sip slowly.  

Pernod Absinthe

This is not the hallucinogenic absinthe you read about of times past, though it is 68 percent alcohol (yes, that's 138 proof!), so hallucinations might not be off the table depending on how much you drink. Proceed with caution.

Pernod claims to be the original absinthe, and is known for it's licorice-like anise flavor. It's typically served with water and a sugar cube, which turns the clear liquid opalescent.  

Limoncello

Limoncello is a liqueur made from lemons of the Amalfi coast, and just happens to be quintessential after-dinner drink, Italian food or not. It's light, bright, and just the right blend of sweet and tart. Keep a bottle in the fridge (not the liquor cabinet) so it's always ready to drink, whether it's straight up or mixed with sparkling water.

Pimm's No. 1

If you're going to make the classic Pimm's cup, you're going to need Pimm's No. 1. This gin-based liqueur is full of botanical notes, thanks to herbs and citrus, and it pairs wonderfully with sparkling lemonade and tons of fruit (use cucumber, strawberries, and oranges, as desired) that make up the eponymous cocktail. Bonus: You'll get a serving of fruit during happy hour.

Maker's Mark (bourbon whisky)

With the old fashioned cocktail at the top of the popularity list, everyone needs a great bourbon on hand, and Maker's Mark fits the bill. It's been made in Kentucky since 1953, using red winter wheat instead of the typical rye for a sweet and balanced finish, and each 90-proof bottle is still hand-dipped in that iconic red wax.

Jameson (Irish whiskey)

If you're only pulling out the Irish whiskey for its yearly appearance at St. Patrick's Day parties, you're doing it wrong. Any well-stocked bar should have a good Irish whiskey, and it doesn't get much better than Jameson Original. It's triple distilled, aged for a minimum of four years, and has floral, spicy, and sweet notes. Pass the ice, please. 

Glenlivet (Scotch whisky)

For the Scotch drinkers, you'll want to have a great single malt on the bar — go with Glenlivet. The Glenlivet 12 is the "entry level" bottle from this producer, with notes of vanilla, grass, honey, and fruit, and a clean flavor. If you become a Scotch connoisseur after tasting the 12, and you just might, check out the more aged varieties. You're in for a treat.  

Tanqueray (gin)

If you're a lover of gins with a bold juniper flavor, Tanqueray is the bottle for you. This gin features four botanicals — juniper, coriander, angelica root, and licorice — to deliver that iconic taste that makes a good dry martini so memorable. 

El Dorado (rum)

You know that coconut rum we all did way too many shots of on spring break in Cancun? This is not that rum. You'll find hints of tropical fruit in El Dorado 12 Year Old rum, along with spice, honey, and dark sugar, but not in that cloyingly sweet way. And if you're planning to make mai tais, which you should, you'll be glad to have a non-coconutty rum on hand.

Ketel One (vodka)

Though vodkas like Grey Goose and Belvedere typically get all the glory, they don't always come through in the taste tests. Go for a vodka like Ketel One instead, which though typically less expensive, is known for its smoothness and doesn't have that harsh cheap vodka vibe.

Don Julio (tequila)

Please step away from the Cuervo Gold. Your margaritas deserve better (and so does your liquor cabinet) — like Don Julio blanco tequila, for instance. This silver tequila is made with 100 percent blue agave, and is clean and dry with notes of citrus. None of that overpowering flavor that makes all drinks taste the same (I'm looking at you, Jose). And bonus, even if you're not mixing this into cocktails, you'll like sipping straight, too.