It’s hard to build a well stocked bar when you’re starting from nothing. There’s the necessary bottles that you need to start with—gin, whiskey, rum, tequila, vodka and maybe sweet and dry vermouth—but what then? If you have the basics and are itching for some new additions, here are six unexpected but ultra-versatile bottles that every home bartender needs to own.
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Génépy Des Alpes ($31)
This French herbal liqueur is similar to Chartreuse, but lower in ABV and less than half the price. Génépy is a flower similar to chamomile that’s indigenous to the Alps, and the main flavoring agent in this liqueur. On the palate, the spirit is herbal, grassy and sweet, with undertones of mint and lavender. While few Americans know of this spirit's existence (or how to to use it), the liquor works in just about every drink under the sun. Especially delicious in brunch staples like the Ramos Gin Fizz (swap in Génépy for simple syrup), or mixed with fresh orange juice and egg whites, Génépy also works wonders in hot chocolate, as a substitute for absinthe, or in shaken, sour cocktails. While it’s a little sweet to imbibe on its own, we like to drink the spirit as an aperitif with a splash of sparkling wine (or with beer) and a twist.
Ancho Reyes Verde ($37)
We were already devoted fans of Ancho Reyes’s original ancho chile-infused liqueur, but then they released the Verde. Now, we’re team green all the way. Spicy, fresh and vibrant, Ancho Reyes Verde has become our go-to liqueur. This cocktail workhorse makes everything bolder, from a Margarita (skip the triple sec) to a Paloma to a Michelada (just pour Ancho Verde into a beer, squeeze a lime and voilà). It’s even good simply mixed with soda water. Not only will you find yourself mixing random cocktails you never even thought to make, you’ll find the bottle empty before you even realized you were running low.
St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram ($43)
Originally made in Jamaica, this amazingly pungent liqueur all but disappeared from U.S. shelves until spirits importer Haus Alpenz brought it back. To make allspice dram, producers infuse rum with allspice berries (or pimento berries, as they’re known in the Caribbean) and sweeten it with raw sugar. Funky, spicy and floral, this spirit has many uses behind the bar. Not only is it an absolute must for tiki drinks, the spirit is the backbone of the underrated classic, the Lion’s Tail, and an essential ingredient in many traditional punches like the Wassail Punch.
Made for amaro lovers by one of the oldest and largest rum and bitters companies in the world, Amaro Di Angostura is an absolute must-have bottle for your home bar. It shares the flavor profile of its older sibling, Angostura bitters, but is less bracing, pungent and bitter. With a bright sweetness, rich depth and a round, lasting finish, Amaro Di Angostura is extremely quaffable. We use it in punches, swizzels, Sangria, tiki classics and Manhattans. Heck, it’s so universal that you can even cook with it—try pouring it onto some vanilla ice cream for a seriously delicious dessert.
Infused with elderflowers, this French liqueur is a ubiquitous cocktail enhancer. Bold and floral, with a nectar-of-the-gods-esque quality and a honeyed viscosity, St-Germain is just flat out delicious. You can add a splash to a Gin & Tonic, use it instead of simple syrup in a rhum agricole Daiquiri, mix up an aperitif with seltzer, or pair it with Champagne for a decadent alternative to a Mimosa. One thing is for certain: If you buy a bottle of St-Germain, you will find a use for it.
One of our most beloved cocktail ingredients, celery bitters are bright, vegetal and citrusy. A few dashes make drinks more interesting and give them an unexpected twist. You can use them in Bloody Marys, tequila or mezcal cocktails, Gin & Tonics, Vodka Sodas or in a Dirty Martini instead of olive brine. We dash them into soda water at the office and use them to spike our happy hour beer—they work well in just about any drink that you can think of.