Originally Posted by kwilkinson
I know there's a lot of stuff I need to pick up for it to be a legit bar, but spreading it out over several paychecks will be good. Any specific suggestions? I'll be getting a dark rum and a decent tequila as well as a well gin and blended and single malt scotch.
Also would be interested in getting feedback on a classical cocktail book. Not PDT or Milk & Honey type cocktails, but the basics with recipes and histories.
Your tastes are a bit different from mine, so my recommendations are what I think you might like, not necessarily what I would generally recommend to someone building a bar.
My top recommendation is Ransom Old Tom Gin, a barrel-aged gin that tastes like a hybrid between whiskey and gin. Old Tom was the predominant gin in the mid-1800s, when classic cocktails were in their heyday. I don't know if Ransom's version is historically accurate, but I do know that it makes a killer Martinez, which I recall you like.
Speaking of the Martinez, you're going to need a maraschino liqueur. Luxardo and Maraska are the standards. You're also going to need a sweet vermouth. I like Dolin because it is readily available and comes in 375 mL bottles.
Once you have maraschino, you might as well buy a bottle of creme de violette so you can make the Aviation. Some people will tell you that you can make an Aviation without the violette. Don't listen to them. The drink is way too tart without it.
Judging by the bottles you bought, you would like a rye whiskey. I prefer rye to bourbon in Manhattans. Rye also makes a great cocktail mixed with equal parts Averna and Campari. Rittenhouse is a great workhouse that you should be able to get for around $20.
If you need another bottle of gin, look at Aviation, which is similar to Hendrick's in flavor profile.
I'm not much of a scotch drinker. I have JW Black, which seems like a perfectly adequate blended scotch.
As for bitters, you really only need three: Angostura (or a similar aromatic), Peychaud's, and an orange bitter. I also have Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters and The Bitter Truth celery bitters, both of which I like a lot.
For a classic cocktail book, you can't beat Dale DeGroff's The Craft of the Cocktail. It has more recipes, and goes in less depth on each cocktail, than The Essential Cocktail.