There's a lot of good advice here. A very important thing is to know your audience. Who are you serving for? What are their tastes? What is your budget, to a dollar figure? Basically, drinkers come in two types: -I want something sweet or easy to drink. Often younger drinkers, more women than men. They enjoy things like Jack & Coke, vodka tonics, cosmopolitans, etc. -I want something sophisticated or obscure. Tend to be older drinkers, may or may not be pretentious about what they want. They like scotch, bourbon, chartreuse and drinks like the Negroni. The first group you can satisfy with having vodka and white rum on hand at the bare minimum. Getting inexpensive and unembarassing spirits is the way to go here, since they're going into things. Buy handles of liquor if you have some money to invest in, since it's a bit cheaper per ounce. The second group you can cater to by having a good gin on hand. Bombay, Tanqueray and Gordon's are all fine to serve and aren't too expensive. Alternately, you can get bourbon; Wild Turkey is pretty good for the money, and if you want to step up a little, Maker's Mark and Knob Creek are good calls too. This is all bounded by how much money you want to pour into it. Remember that you're a host, serving people drinks. Thus, they're not going to be picky about free booze. As long as you're serving a decent spirit, people won't get bent out about you not having tequila. If you're stocking a bar on a budget, avoid buying scotch. You'll spend too much for a bottle that will gather dust. Learn how to make five simple drinks that are enjoyable and you'll be set. Also, I haven't seen it mentioned here but stock some nice local brews and some decent, sparkling wine. Nothing sets off an evening like popping some bubbly! You'll get a good sense of what you need to buy in the second round, based on what was popular the first time through. If you're serving to younger women, then having Cointreau and Kahlua might be the way to expand the bar. If you're serving to older guys, then getting some rye and Canadian will be good. And finally, my golden rule for bar stocking: It is always better to purchase better quality spirits than purchasing a greater variety of lesser quality spirits.