Your guide to building a quarantine liquor cabinet

It’s 7 p.m. on day 182 of quarantine, and you need a drink. You’ve decided you’re staying in, so you go to your home bar. You’re out of your favorite spirit! “I should have stocked up better,” you think. You go to the liquor store or hop on a liquor store website to place a curbside order. You’re looking to buy some tasty, versatile spirits and ingredients, but you don’t want to break the bank. Where should you start? For answers, we turned to some of our favorite local bartenders and asked about their home bar essentials and what they’ve been making with them.

Jordan Stiles
Bartender, Billie-Jean

“I’m a whiskey drinker, so I always try to have some kind of top-tier whiskey, bitters and some type of citrus. That’s all you really need for a good spirit. I’m partial to Bone Snapper right now – it’s what we use at Billie-Jean. It’s a really nice, tasty, full-bodied whiskey that’s affordable as well. I usually just go for a Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned. Right now, we’ve just been drinking a lot of beer,” she said, laughing.

Meredith Barry
Beverage consultant manager, Angad Arts Hotel

“I have to have a Negroni. It’s my favorite cocktail. I also feel like all of those components are super flexible in multiple different drinks. The great thing about the components of the Negroni is that [it’s like] a river: From the ocean it starts to go out and spreads into a million little, tiny canals. You can go from [the] Negroni to an Americano to vermouth on the rocks or Campari and soda. With gin, if you have tonic or soda in the house, it’s perfect for summer. Go local – get the 1220 Origin Gin. It’s super affordable, great botanicals and you’re supporting St. Louis.”

Ron Walters
Bar manager, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.

“If I’m mixing a cocktail, like a whiskey sour or a whiskey smash, it’ll be the entry-level Four Roses. If I’m sipping whiskey, the Four Roses Small Batch Select. I’m lucky enough to still have a few bottles of Blanton’s [bourbon]. As far as the gin, I try to keep it simple with three or four ingredients: gin, fresh lemon and lime juice, and a dash of bitters. If you like tonic, you can put a hit of tonic on that – you can top it with one of your favorite flavors of club soda, whether that be grapefruit, strawberry, watermelon, lime. I like the extra carbonation to cut the lemon and lime juice.”

Sasha Alms
Bartender, Vino Gallery

“Always whiskey. Vermouth is great to have around because it’s a great mixer or a great sipper on ice. You’re always going to have friends that are into vodka — even a classic vodka martini is good. … Anybody can make a Manhattan with whiskey and vermouth. You can always make an Old-Fashioned. You need bitters – always keep a bottle of bitters. Using fresh ingredients is the key. With tequila you can always make [a] margarita – for a basic margarita, you don’t even need triple sec, just tequila and lime.”

Kelsey Shelton

“I think Green Chartreuse has made me feel a little bit happier in life. It’s one of those bougie things that you have where even if you’re doing something simple, like a spirit plus rock, having a splash of Green Chartreuse … it makes the world a lot better. The Last Word is probably my favorite cocktail, so some gin, some Chartreuse, a little bit of cherry. That’s like my fruity cocktail, but I like to do pretty simple drinks.
I just want to say, a spirit and a rock, and add bitters. Nobletons Duckett Golden Rhum is truly a unique gem we have in Missouri. Pinckney Bend’s vodka isn’t your standard flavorless vodka. When you’re at a restaurant, everything’s like 1½ [ounces], but I do 2¼ at home with ice, and then throw a splash of seltzer or club soda, and my favorite bitters. If I want to get super fancy, I’ll add a bit of lemon or lime, just to have a bit of a layer to it. Keeping it simple is the best, especially right now, when we’re all so stressed out about the world. But you’re drinking at home with your friends – why are you worried about a recipe?”

Matt Grant
Bartender, The Royale Food & Spirits and Taco Circus

“I find the easiest way to get a lot for a little is whiskey; my go-to is Four Roses, because it’s the best bang for your buck. I keep a bottle of Campari around and also some vermouth, so that way you can make Boulevardiers and things like that. If you want to branch out, all you have to do is get one bottle of something, and with those bases you can make 10 different interesting cocktails. If I have Fernet, I like to do Fanciullis – it’s almost a take on a Negroni: bourbon, vermouth, Fernet and bitters.”

Bartender-recommended bottles 

1220 Origin Gin
Bone Snapper Rye
Fernet Branca
Four Roses Bourbon
Nobletons Duckett Golden Rhum
Pinckney Bend American Vodka

All bottles available at The Wine & Cheese Place, various locations, 314.447.9463,