It’s that time of year when the most entertaining is being done so if you plan on having any guests over during the holiday season you will want to make sure you have a stocked bar. If you have no idea about booze, below are some of my go-to choices when stocking my own personal liquor cabinet, many of which are on sale right now at the LCBO! You can get a fully stocked bar for under $200 by going with these choices if you leave out the cognac and either the port or Tedeschi Amarone which isn’t bad! Could even be a great gift for someone! (NOTE: All prices are based on a 750ml bottle size):


TAG No. 5 Vodka – $25.30 – I am a big fan of TAG Vodka due to it’s price, simple classy bottle and taste. Furthermore it is made in Canada and I prefer to support Canadian products whenever possible. It doesn’t have a strong rubbing alcohol flavour found in many vodka’s, which makes it great for making vodka based drinks, instead of buying horrible tasting brands like Smirnoff ($24.45) or Absolut ($25.35) which spend millions on marketing, I prefer a brand that focuses more on the product itself. Alternatively, Iceberg ($24.75) is an excellent choice for a Canadian made vodka which has won many awards in competitions with high end brands like Grey Goose and Belvedere. (Currently on sale for $24.30 until Jan 1st, 2012)


Tanqueray Dry Gin – $26.85 – At $27 a bottle, I think Tanqueray is the best value for the product you receive. It doesn’t have an overly powering gin flavour and is great for making your favourite gin cocktail. The bottle itself also has a nice look of a premium product without paying premium prices. (Currently on sale for $24.85 until Jan 1st, 2012)


Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum – $28.35 – This is now my go-to rum of choice. It is excellent for mixing in drinks or even great on it’s own. With hints of vanilla in the flavour and a really cool looking bottle, it is a great choice to have around if your guests want a rum based drink. Other options for a good spiced rum are El Dorado’s 5 Year ($25.60) or Mount Gay Eclipse Rum ($28.85). (Currently on sale for $26.35 until Jan 1st, 2012)


Alberta Premium Whisky – $23.40 – Honestly, I don’t touch whisky, rye or scotch so I am probably the worst person to ask about these kinds of things. Rye makes me angry for some reason, which I hear from others that I am not the only one it does this to. What I can tell you from my bartending class is that Alberta Premium Whisky is cheap and one of the only 100% rye whisky’s. Several years ago it won many awards for best whisky in Canada, but hasn’t won anything in recent years. If you want to go more mainstream you could go with either Jack Daniels (whisky) or Canadian Club (rye). The main difference between scotch (Scotland), rye (Canada) & whisky (USA) is where it comes from, though there are some changes in the way it is produced and stored. For a few bucks more make it a bottle of Alberta Premium Dark Horse if you want a premium taste for under $30!


It doesn’t hurt to have a nice bottle of cognac lying around if you are really trying to impress someone. Unfortunately because Cognac prices are super-high in Canada I would save this for one of the things you grab on a cross border shopping spree. Look for a good VSOP cognac made by either Hennesey, Courvosier, or Remy Martin (the most recognized brands). They should run you about $50 at duty free.


Taylor Fladgate 10-Year Tawny Port – $34.95 – If you are going to go to the trouble of making an amazing meal, why not cap it off with something awesome to drink. At $35 this is something nice to have around to go with dessert or a cheese platter to impress your guests.



Barefoot Pinot Grigio (USA) -$9.95 – I’ll be honest, I don’t drink a lot of white wine, but when I do I tend to stick with Pinot Grigio’s for something nice and light on a warm summer day. I find the Barefoot Pinot Grigio is great value and goes down nicely.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (USA) – $18.95 – Found on many restaurant menus’ throughout the city, this is a decent bottle of white wine from the Vintage Essentials collection to impress your guests, without spending too much money. (Currently on sale for $16.95 until Jan 1st, 2012)


Fuzion Shiraz/Malbec (ARGENTINA) – $7.75 – This is my go-to wine if price is the #1 factor. At only $7 per bottle it is great to have lying around for cooking, days where you just want a glass or two but don’t want to waste a bottle, or to give to drunk people who want more wine that you don’t want to waste your good stuff on.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah (SOUTH AFRICA) – $14.95 – If I am looking for something decent under $15, this is a great option from the Vintage Essentials collection at the LCBO. (Currently on sale for $12.95 until Jan 1st, 2012)

Tedeschi Amarone (ITALY) – $39.95 – Want to really impress your guests or celebrating a special occasion? This is my favourite wine for that purpose. It’s expensive, but delicious!


Angostura Bitters – Bitters are essential to any cocktail recipe. By definition a cocktail is a sling (spirit, sugar, water) with bitters. Angostura is the most well known version and can be purchased in many grocery stores (though it may be hidden due to it’s alcohol content).

Simple Syrup – An essential ingredient to many drinks can easily be made at home. Simply dissolve 1 part sugar into 1 part water for the North American version, or 2 parts sugar to 1 part water for the European version.


Though it is not really included in your liqour cabinet I thought I would mention that it doesn’t hurt to have a few beers lying around if you have guests over. Right now one of my favourites is Molson M simply because it is micro-carbonated, which means it doesn’t leave you with that bloated feeling that most beers leave you with. Some other good options for a go-to beer are Alexander Keiths (a solid all-around beer that most people will drink) or Coor’s Light (for your health concious guests).