View Full Version : Stocking a bar with bourbon and other American whiskeys

12-02-2004, 20:38
In 2002 we converted part of our downstairs family room to a bar. Prior to this I would normally have several basic bourbons always on hand (Makerís Mark, Wild Turkey 101, Jim Beam Black, etc.) then another five or six other brands that I would rotate in an attempt to try the many different bourbons out there. I had never tried to accumulate a lot of bottles at any one time. As I finished one brand I would often move on and try another brand or bottling. However, my thinking changed after we built the bar. I started to look at it from a point a view of what a bourbon enthusiast like myself would expect or like to see at a well stocked bar.

Obviously, now for space, financial, and wife reasons I canít go out and buy a bottle of every type of bourbon. So I developed certain perimeters. I even have developed a menu somewhat like you see at the taverns that carry many different brands of beer.

First, I settled on three super premium collections that I would try to always on hand. The three I chose where the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon Collection (Bookers, Bakerís, Basil Haydenís, and Knob Creek), Wild Turkey Selections (Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel, Rare Breed, and Russellís Reserve) and the Buffalo Trace Antique Whiskey Collection (Eagle Rare 17 yr, George T. Stagg, and Sazarac Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey 18 yr.).

Second, I have used my old rotation method that allows me to offer five or six (OK I am at 9 at the moment) assortment of other premium small batch and single barrel products.

Third, I have what I call the Distillerís Selection. Here I have chosen seven whiskeys from seven different distilleries that represent one of their basic premium bottling. These are the whiskeys that can be found in the $15-$20 range. Included in this category are:

Brand - Distiller

Buffalo Trace - Buffalo Trace
Elijah Craig 12 yr - Heaven Hill
Four Roses - Four Roses
Jack Daniels Black - Brown Foreman
Jim Beam Black - Jim Beam
Makerís Mark - Makerís Mark
Wild Turkey 101 - Wild Turkey

Fourth, I have an assortment of other whiskeys that I happen to have on hand. These will rotate however Jim Beam White and Old Forester 1.75L bottles are usually under the bar for those wanting bourbon and coke or a shot of whiskey with their beer.

Five, I display the better stuff. If I have a signed bottle it will be on the shelf but I would have an unsigned bottle that I could open in the cabinet. The idea is that if friends want to try one they see you can offer it to them.

Six, Remember if you start from the premise that it is a bar then you may want to have something you personally do not enjoy. For example I am not a real fan of Jack Daniels but a bar would not be complete without it because for many people Jack Daniels is what they think of if they think of whiskey.

Seven, Restocking requires that you start looking for a replacement bottle once you open the one on the shelf unless its part of your rotation stock.

Eight, Have a good time!

12-02-2004, 20:51
Hi Forbes, that's some great advice on stocking a bar, and it's always nice to hear from folks about their bourbon adventures.

My wife actually just built a bar in what was an unfinished room in the basement of the house we just bought. We put up six shelves behind the bar, and so far I've got three of them dedicated to whiskey (bourbon, scotch and Tennessee whiskey so far).

I'm jealous that you can manage to keep the Antique Collection in stock at all times. I've scored my first Antique Collection find from the state next door (New Hampshire, Sazerac rye). I do a little internal dance of happiness every time I think about it - the bottle should be available for pickup on Monday.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing, and it sounds like any bourbon afficionado who visits you is in for a rare treat. Two other bourbons you may want to keep in stock (if you can) are Blanton's and Rock Hill Farms. Both pricey, but both are excellent (I just got a bottle of RHF recently, and I've had one pour of Blanton's in a restaurant before - still working on finding a bottle).



12-03-2004, 05:49

I just got lucky with the Stagg. We stopped off at the Liquor Barn in Louisville on the way to this years Bourbon Festival. They had just got a truck in so I was able to pick up several bottles of the Stagg. Between business trips to Louisville or family trips to the Chicago area we have generally been able to find the Eagle Rare 17yr. and the Sazarac. I do agree that these will be the hardest to keep in "stock".

By the way I loved the line, "I do a little internal dance of happiness...". Classic line!


12-03-2004, 12:19
For my bar, I opted to divide it in half, half bourbon and half everything else. The bourbons speak for themselves but I also try to have an assorment of the other 'major' liquors ranging from best selling to premiums. An example is my tequilas: Jose Cuervo Gold, Sauza Commemoritivo, Herradura Reposido, and Gran Centennario Anejo. Rums: Bacardi Dark, Captain Morgan, Captain Morgan Special Reserve and Pyrat Planter's Gold XO.

My idea is to have a fully functioning bar for guests that drop by to be able to enjoy whatever they may drink (within reason) if they haven't been enlightened yet to bourbon. The funny thing is that I have as many Irish bottlings as Scotch. I may have to change that as I learn more about scotches but for now I only have what I have found to be less than objectionable in that category. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

12-03-2004, 21:00

I like your approach. I probably emphasize the bourbon too much. Youíre correct a well stocked bar must also take into account the tastes of non-bourbon drinkers. Even some of us bourbon drinkers like a cold beer or for that matter a diet coke from time to time.

We keep all the standard options under the bar Ė Irish whiskey, scotch whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, gin, schnapps, etc. We just donít have near the selection for these other types of liquor.

We have a refrigerator under the bar to keep the beer and sodas cold. My wife drinks Busch Light so we will have that as well as a couple of other brands for other tastes. I always feel at the minimum you need to have both a light and non-light beer available to offer.

I pick the bourbons we stock, however, how do I stock this other stuff? A friend down the street likes Miller Lite and his wife likes wine coolers, when my sister comes down she drinks peppermint schnapps, my wifeís mother likes rum and cokes made with Bacardi, the kids have their favorite types of sodas, etc. The point is that we try to stock what our friends and family would like to drink.


12-03-2004, 23:26
Oh I forgot to mention beers and wines didn't I? Sorry but I keep a mid sized refridgerator full of beer and liqueurs that normally are served cold such as Jagermeister and Ouzo. My normally stocked domestic beers are Bud Light, Miller light, MGD regular, and Michelob Amber Bock for my friends that visit most often and have a favorite, the remains of four and six packs of domestic microbrews I try occasionally, and for imports I keep Fosters, Guinness (BRILLIANT!), and an assortment of Czech Republic beers for my favorite Aunt who lived in Prague for two years (Pilsner Urqueli, Lev Lion Dark, Staropremen, and my personal favorite Czechvar).
For wines I only keep a few, a standard no frills white zin, a couple of my favorite spatleses, a couple of merlots and occasionally a Missouri made Norton. Not too extravagent but then I don't get too many wine afficionados.
I try to keep as many multi purpose mixers as possible for the occasional cocktail: OJ, cranberry juice, sour mix, margurita mix, etc.
Now if I could only get people to visit more often.

Hey, I just remembered that this is my 500th post. WOOHOO!