In the $300 range, a person can really open themselves up to the entire foundation of cocktailing. But it’s still important to focus one’s efforts. This list is designed to aid in the completion of a basic education in cocktailing. Combined with the $150 list, these tools and ingredients enable you to make virtually any classic cocktail of your choosing, as well as a number of more modern selections.
A standard Boston shaker should do the trick.
At this point, you’ll want both a Hawthorne strainer and a small, basket strainer with a handle. Shaking cocktails is tricky business. The longer you shake, the colder they get. But ice breaks down and drowns drinks. Double-straining is an effective way to avoid tragedy.
The possibilities are endless, and it really depends on what you’re going for. But in the name of versatility, St. Germain and Maraschino have you pretty well covered.
If you already have a bottle of rye, buy bourbon. Or vice versa. In this price range, you can really start learning the differences between different types of whiskey. Same species, different animal altogether. If whiskey isn’t your thing, stop with a rye and a bourbon. But if you know you’ve got a special place on your palate for the stuff, there’s no harm in picking up an extra bottle or two. See our American Whiskey Guide to help you pick the perfect whiskey for your liquor cabinet.
There are a lot more styles of gin than London Dry. They even make some in the States. But if cocktailing is something you’re really into, look for Old Tom. Old Tom is a style of gin more common in the States (and therefore cocktailing) before Prohibition. Don’t worry, it’s supposed to be brown. Try Ransom Old Tom Gin.
When it comes to the classics, spirits are largely interchangeable. An Old Fashioned, for instance, can be made with virtually anything, but the originals typically called for whiskey, gin or brandy. Distilled from grapes, brandy is often lost on the modern cocktailing scene. But it’s by no means forgotten. In fact, the stuff works pretty much anywhere whiskey does. Except in the state of Kentucky, probably. Read more about brandy.
Normally, you wouldn’t want a bottle this expensive working within any budget. But you can’t make a Sazerac without absinthe. And if you can’t make a Sazerac, not many people are coming to your party. Those that do are leaving early. Read more about absinthe.
Your Favorite Hooch
If you’re new to cocktailing, but know enough to see that your favorite ingredient isn’t on this list, I say go for it. If you’re a rum drinker (I am), get yourself an Añejo, something dark at least (there’s hardly a thing better than a rum Old Fashioned). Or grab a bottle of tequila or vodka.
Fruit, Herbs, Etc.
Since you’re shaking cocktails now, fruits and such become much more important. So think of the flavors you like in your food and drink. Go nuts. Unless you’re allergic. Get mint and cucumber for your gin, lemons and oranges for your whiskey. And remember to use you nose. Highlight elements you enjoy most.
With this list, fledgling bartenders can really begin sinking their teeth into the craft.