A great ready-to-serve punch and plenty of wine or beer will keep your guests happy when you throw a big party, but there are occasions – usually smaller gatherings – when you should take drink requests. To do so, you'll need more than a half handle of cheap vodka and a bottle of your favorite scotch. That's why you should stock up on ingredients for classic cocktails: an old-fashioned, a martini, a mojito. Draw the line at green apple schnapps – no one needs an appletini – but make sure your home bar has enough booze, bitters, and garnish to keep your company satisfied.
Here is a simplified shopping list.
Always stock tequila for margaritas, but just check to be sure the label says 100 percent agave. Casa Noble Reposado ($45-$50), made from all blue agave, then aged for a year in French white oak is a solid start. If you're a tequila connoisseur, you should have a few bottles, plus a mezcal, tequila's smoky cousin. This list of the world's best tequilas is a great place to start. And that ritual of lime and salt to knock it down? Suitable for the cheap stuff, but this deserves more respect.