How to Host Happy Hour for Less

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Be your own bartender with a top-notch, five-bottle home bar that lets you make pretty much any popular cocktail and costs only $100. We'll drink to that!

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Five spirits experts share the bottles that deliver the best bang for your Benjamin. Try these pro picks to make your living room the best bar in town!

Rum

Plantation 3 Stars White Rum ($18 for 750 ml)

“This is one of my favorite white rums for any budget. An aged blend of Caribbean rums, it adds hints of tropical fruit to any drink, especially a daiquiri.” —Blair Reynolds, owner of bar and restaurant Hale Pele in Portland, OR 

Another great pick

Boozy Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum will wake up a mai tai—or any tiki drink.($19 for 750 ml)

Gin

Citadelle Gin ($25 for 750 ml)

“Leave it to the French to come up with a delightfully flavorful gin. (No wonder: it’s made with nearly 20 herbs, roots, spices and flowers.) It pairs particularly well with citrus. One Tom Collins, please.” —Paul Clarke, author of The Cocktail Chronicles 

Another great pick 

Juniper-heavy Gordon’s London Dry Gin is a steal, and ideal in a gin and tonic. ($13 for 750 ml)

Tequila

Pueblo Viejo Blanco ($18 for 750 ml)

“This blanco tequila (which isn’t aged) is distilled in a traditional way. It has a citrusy, earthy flavor that shines in a margarita.” —Courtenay Greenleaf, corporate beverage director at Rosa Mexicano restaurants 

Another great pick 

Spicy Cimarrón Blanco offers fresh agave flavor. ($20 for 750 ml)

Vodka

Tito's Handmade Vodka ($21 for 750 ml)

“Corn-based Tito’s is one of the most bright- tasting, clean vodkas around—which is why it’s so delicious on the rocks or in a martini. I also love that it’s from Austin, my hometown.” —Christina Cabrera, bar consultant at San Francisco’s Barbarossa Lounge 

Another great pick

Crisp Gruven Handcrafted Vodka, made from wheat and rye, is a cocktail go-to. ($11 for 750 ml)

Bourbon

W. L. Weller Special Reserve ($18 for 750 ml)

“I don’t make cocktails with anything I wouldn’t drink on its own. This bourbon has a sophisticated sweetness balanced by a fiery kick, which makes it great neat and in a mixed drink.” —Michael Neff, bar director at NYC’s Holiday Cocktail Lounge 

Another great pick 

Aged in charred oak barrels, Jim Beam Black is just as complex as pricier bourbons. ($22 for 750 ml)

By Joshua M. Bernstein; Photography by Aaron Dyer