1. Simple syrup

Keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator. Sugar water is used in scores of sweetened cocktails. To make simple syrup, mix equal parts regular sugar and hot water and then cool; superfine sugar will dissolve immediately in room temperature water.

2. Vodka

Choose one of a decent quality. It shouldn’t come in a plastic bottle. Vodka’s the perfect staple because it can be mixed with everyday ingredients like club soda, or orange or cranberry juice.

3. Gin

Look for a London dry gin, which tends to be the best (Beefeater and Tanqueray are two classics). If you want a lower alcohol content, try Plymouth gin, which has a lower proof than most of its peers.

4. Dry vermouth

Making martinis is so easy and helps turn everything into a celebration. Vermouth is generally not that expensive. Try Noilly Prat dry vermouth.

5. Whiskey

Even more than with other alcohols, your choice of whiskey should really be determined by your personal taste. Do you like scotch or bourbon? If you’re using whiskey to make cocktails rather than to sip neat or on the rocks, Wild Turkey rye whiskey is great.

6. Rum
There are two kinds of rums: those that are meant to be sipped, like a fine scotch, and those that are meant to be used in mixed drinks like rum and Coke, or daiquiris. One that swings both ways is 10 Cane, which is of high enough quality to sip but inexpensive enough to mix.

7. Tequila
Tequila’s generally drunk either as a shot or in a margarita. Be careful not to use your very expensive sipping tequila in a margarita or you’ll find yourself with an empty bottle before you know it!

8. Angostura bitters
Bitters are a classic part of mixology and the key to a good Manhattan. You can find them in your supermarket along with other mixers.

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Excerpted from You Didn’t Hear It from Us: Two Bartenders Serve Women the Truth About Men, Making an Impression, and Getting What You Want by Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas. Copyright 2006 by Dushan Zaric and Jason Kosmas. Excerpted with permission by Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.