Liquors: Pick your favorite to start, and then add others over time.
Whiskey, bourbon, rye
Rum (light or dark)
Tequila (white, gold, aged, extra-aged or ultra-aged)
Liqueurs: These add a secondary layer of flavor in many cocktails.
Vermouth (dry and sweet)
Orange-based liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
Herb-based spirits, such as Campari or Chartreuse
Sweet liqueurs, such as creme de cacao or Kahlua
Bitters: A dash of bitters accents and adds depth to a cocktail.
Aromatic bitters, such as classic Angostura or sweet, spicy Peychaud's
Artisan bitters, innovative flavors abound
Spicy & Savory Flavors: Easy to have on hand and most keep for a long time.
Hot sauces, such as Tabasco, green pepper sauce, Sriracha or other Asian chili sauces
Olive brine, pickle juice
Sweet & Sour Flavors: Personalize your cocktails with infused simple syrups, or make your own sour mix.
Sugar (granulated, brown, cane)
Simple syrup (plain or infused with herbs, spices or fruit)
Fruit Juices: Freshly squeeze your citrus fruits for maximum flavor.
Cranberry juice cocktail
Strong iced teas or tisanes
Carbonation: Buy sodas packaged in small bottles; a 2-liter bottle of soda may go flat between parties.
Garnishes: Precut slices or wedges of lemons and limes before the party, and have fun with inventive garnishes.
Star fruit, pineapple, apple
Fresh berries or currants
Fresh herbs, such as mint or basil
Olives, try different varieties or stuffed olives
Cocktail onions, for Gibsons
Celery, the quintessential Bloody Mary garnish
Sugar cubes, for Manhattans
Nutmeg, for grating on brandy Alexanders or eggnog
Fun swizzle sticks, cocktail straws, spears for fruit garnishes
Tools of the Trade: These tools are essential to any well-stocked bar.
Small cutting board
Hand-held fruit juicer