The Basic (Budget) Bar
Inspired by Gabi’s $50 Pantry, I decided to offer a budget friendly home bartender version I call the basic budget bar. You my find that you already have some of the items I mention, or stock the spirits I suggest; so $65-$70 is a rough estimate based on the average cost of buying some of these basics.
- Shaker Tin and Strainer $12
Next time you go to a bar, order an apple martini, or a cosmo, and watch the bartender make it. She’ll pour the ingredients into a pint glass and use the tin to shake the drink before straining into a glass. Like a knife and cutting board, a shaker set is the most basic cocktail making tool. Get yours at a restaurant supply store and you should pay no more than $12. Look for a plain stainless steel tin, and a strainer. Like the bartender, use it in conjunction with a pint glass. For a few bucks more you can opt for the all in one set that includes a fitted cover with built in strainer. You can find these at Target, BevMo, or my favorite shopping place: online.
While you’re at it, pick up a muddler ($4) and if you don’t already have one, a wine bottle opener ($4).
- Glassware $10 for 18
I spent a week going to various places trying to find nice cocktail and wine glasses for cheap. The big winner by far is IKEA. Whether you’re looking for a set or by the glass, check out the SVALKA line (less than $1 per glass). Target and Costco had some great deals if you’re willing to buy sets. My restaurant supply store had good prices per glass, but they only sell by the case. In the end you should buy according to the kinds of events you like to host. If you stay under $2.50 per glass, you’re doing well.
I have a SVALKA set from IKEA with 6 white wine, 6 red wine, and 6 highball glasses that I bought for $9.99. I’ll bring it out for parties, and with the regular glasses I have in my cupboard I can easily host a party of 25 people with out having to resort to plastic cups. If you do resort to plastic, follow my advice from the first post and buy clear, smaller cups, (about 10oz). They can be used for wine and cocktails, and will make your booze last longer.
Speaking of Booze…
The following list is based on the principle of buying few but versatile products. It’s really the only way to save money and still have a lot to offer.
- Vodka & Rum $11 for 750 ml.
The building blocks to so many cocktails, and the most versatile and useful spirits to have around. Check my first post for cost and brand buying guidelines. Either is good in a pinch, but I like having both.
- Brandy 11for 1 L
Not as versatile for making cocktails, but essential for making warm drinks like Hot Toddies and a variety of coffee and hot cocoa based drinks.
- Triple Sec $9 for 750 ml.
If you don’t have a bottle, drop everything, and go get one. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Seriously, I cannot overstate the usefulness of this cordial.
- Other Cordials $5-$12/ 750 ML
Buy these in small bottles. A little goes a long way. No more than two is necessary; so pick your favorite flavors. Some flavors I find useful are: peach, raspberry, melon, amaretto, sour apple.
That’s really about it. No need to buy anything perishable—get that the day of the party. And all other equipment can be easily improvised with what ever you already have in your kitchen. So get out there and stock up, then come back and look for upcoming recipes and advice based on this short list.