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The bottle-by-bottle guide to building your home bar photos

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  • item item Lemons and Limes
  • Real talk: Few things are more important to a home bar than fresh citrus. Every time you hit the store, re-up on lemons and limes.

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    Seltzer Takes the sting out of high-proof booze, while adding a little kick of carbonation. Totally necessary for highballs, spritzers and rickeys of all sorts.

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  • Bitters Change a drink without changing its recipe.
  • Light Rum Even if you're not crazy about PiГ±a Coladas, you need rum on hand to pull off a Mojito (with mint, lime sugar, and seltzer) or a Cuba Libre (just add Coke and lime.)

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    French Vermouth

    Most martinis call for dry, French vermouth. Some Manhattans do, too. And if you want to be able to make either drink “Perfect” (half sweet, half dry vermouth) you better have both on hand.

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    Gin. Every bar has gin. This is not up for debate.

    Vodka Even if you haven't been able to stomach vodka since college (and, hey, you're not alone) you're still going to need a bottle in your bar to please the ridiculous number of vodka-soda drinkers in your life.

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  • Tonic For G&T's, bro.
  • Rye whiskey
  • Rye was all but dead a couple of decades ago, right up until a handful of brilliant bartenders simultaneously realized that this spicy, peppery grain makes for a better Manhattan than bourbon, which is sweeter. Follow suit.

    Italian Vermouth

    Speaking ofВ those Manhattans: sweet, italian vermouth is key. But buy your vermouth in half-sizes-it goes bad like any wine, and unless you're the world's most pretentious lush, you won't go through a full-sized bottle very quickly.

  • Got all that? Start buying these…
  • Blended Scotch
  • Blended scotch can ruin your nightВ (and the next morning)В if it's not well-made, but a good bottleВ and a little bit of iceВ makes for a perfectly approachable nightcap.

    Peaty Scotch

    Scotch from the Islay region has a distinctive smoky quality that some people love (and others absolutely hate). If you're in the latter camp, move along. But if you've got the taste for the stuff, you should splurge on an interesting or limited bottling from a distillery you trust. Most advise drinking it neat, but we're big fans of mixing it up.

    Dark Rum There are some things that only a Dark 'n'В Stormy can fix, and for that, you need dark rum.

    Mezcal Think of mezcal as the scotch to tequila's irish whiskey: it's smokier, more intense, and generally made in smaller batches. (Technically, tequila is a type of mezcal, and they're both distilled from agave.) Sub it in for tequila to throw a curveball in any margarita, or challenge your friends to try it straight. Practice makes perfect.

    Bourbon This is America. You have to have a bottle of bourbon. And no, it does not have to come from Kentucky.

    Absinthe Look, not every bar needs a bottle of absinthe, but how are you supposed to rinse a Sazerac glass without it?

    Single Malt whiskey

    For whiskey lovers who hate peatiness: A straight-up single malt will taste more like the oak that matured it than the fire that toasted the grain.

    Ginger beer

    Again: you've got to be prepared for those Dark 'n' Stormy cravings.

    Campari or Gran Classico Campari's got the market cornered when it comes to bitter Italian liqueurs, but we like Gran Classico just as much in a Negroni or Americano.

    Triple Sec Keeping a bottle of orange liquer-like Cointreau or Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao- might seem esoteric, but it's the only way to make a margarita without sacrificing your integrity.

    Oranges Complete the citrus trifecta by buying a few oranges with your lemons and limes. Now go make yourself a properly garnished Old-Fashioned, to celebrate.

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