Top 15 Bottles for the Ultimate Home Bar / Cocktail Party

Rometti, Home Bar

I recently held a large cocktail party with an open bar and was overwhelmed at the prospect of getting all the famed cocktails covered, and while I over spent in the process I now see sticking to the classic categories of alcohol can be truly versatile.  One disclaimer, I have some preferred brands based on my own experience, do what works for you, and your budget. If anything this could be a good guide to get you on your way.  Also build this up over time.  I once had a collection of 20+ vodkas i bought slowly over the course of a year, when a New Years Party was in the works I had quite the ultimate vodka tasting (not recommend by the way unless you have Excedrin on hand).  That said, have fun with it, try a few key cocktails at a time and build up your core ingredients and special recipes.  You can even work through our Happy Hour Tuesday  section of our blog to get some great cocktail ideas, most of which you can make using this list.

Once you make your grocery list, please share your best and or worst cocktail bar experience!

Here are the must haves / Top 15 Bottles for the Ultimate Home Bar or Cocktail Party:

  1. Ketel One (Vodka)  $24
  2. Highland Park 12 yr (Single Malt Scotch)  $45
  3. Macallan 12 yr. (Single Malt Scotch) $90
  4. Beefeater (Dry Gin) $16
  5. Bombay Sapphire (Gin) $30
  6. Wild Turkey (Bourbon) $18
  7. Cazadores Blanco (Tequila) $20
  8. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum (Dark Rum) $16
  9. Havana Club (Anejo Rum) $15
  10. Rometti Limoncello (Lemon Liqueur)  $24
  11. Cointreu (Orange Liqueur)  $35
  12. Grand Marnier (Orange Liqueur)  $34
  13. Compari (Red Bitters)  $24
  14. Angosture (Bitters) $10
  15. Martini (Dry Vermouth) $10


Rometti, Simple_Syrup

Soda, Sprite, Tonic, Cola, Orange –Cranberry- Tomato- Pineapple Juice, homemade simple syrup.


Rometti, Lemons_Limes

Cocktail Olives, Limes, Lemons, Oranges, Other exotic fruits, Sugar, Salt, Pepper.

Rometti, Ketel_One_Vodka

Vodka: While true mixoglist will say vodka is an excuse to not be creative, I say if its good for Bond its good for me, thus I default to one of the better vodka’s out there Ketel One.

Rometti, Highland_Park_ScotchRometti, Macallan_12_ScotchScotch: This is the break the bank section of your bar set up however for any true enthusiast a nice singe malt is a must. I’ve included two in my top 15 selections for good reason. The Highland Park is a good value ($45 for a 12 yr) and it’s spice notes work well as part of creative cocktails such as a London Sour.  There are a lot of incredible scotches out there but you also need one neat, not to be messed with…Macallan is a very nice smooth all-around scotch.

Rometti, Bombay_Sapphire

Rometti Beefeater Bottle

Gin: I’ve also broken this up into two bottles as well, Beefeater is cheaper and works well in cocktails as it has a nice baseline in flavor without getting a lot of the floral notes. Bombay on the other hand is much more complex and is your default to a good classic gin martini.

Rometti, Wild Turkey Bourbon

Bourbon: Unless you’re set up in West Texas, Bourbon neat may not be your most popular request, however its imperative in many cocktails.  Wild Turkey is a great low cost option.

Rometti, Cazadores BlancoTequila:  There’s a lot of great sipper Tequila’s out there i.e 1942, however your average Margarita lover wont know the difference from Don John, to Don Julio.  I find that Cazadores is a great tasting tequila that can be used in many forms without Don Julio rolling in his grave.

Rometti, Sailor Jerry Spiced RumRum: is broken up into two bottles one a spiced rum, another Anejo or aged rum which carries a stronger flavor but generally smooth.  While I’ve added Havana Club to the list, for our US readers you wont find this on any shelves here, so Sailor Jerry’s is a great choice.

Rometti Limoncello Award winning Handmade Artisanal Limoncello 

Lemon Liqueur:  Rometti Limoncello lives two lives, one is a stand alone liqueur celebrated by great Italian heritage, the other one of the most versatile liqueurs for cocktails out there.  From adding a twist, or freshly squeezed lemons, or citrus.  Limoncello is the answer, and of course Rometti Limoncello is one of the best-handcrafted 100% natural limoncello’s you can find commercially in the US.

Rometti, Grand MarnierOrange Liqueur: Two of the best brands here are incredible compliments to cocktails, Cointreu and Grand Marnier.  Countreu is a great additive if you don’t want to over sweeten the cocktail while still giving it a nice citrus balance.  Grand Marnier on the other hand is about twice as sweet, so for the right combination this can smooth things out nicely.

Rometti, Angisture_Bitters

Rometti, Campari

Bitters: I think bitters are making a come back as the mixology trend is at its peak right now.  Compari is a red bitters one of the most traditionally used in Italy and is quite refreshing. Angosture is your true cocktail bitters and one of the best I’ve tried.

Rometti, Martini_Dry_Vermouth

Vermouth: While there are many choices here Martini is widely used, and is key for your Martini’s, Manhattans, Negroni among others.

Whats your best and or worst cocktail bar experience?


Wine Spotlight: Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2001

Rometti, Altesino Celler

 Rometti, Altesino BottleThis wine spotlight shines on a tremendous wine producer in Montalcino, Italy.  Altesino has long been one of Montalcino’s top producers.  Founded in 1972 Altesino has brought on a new era of top quality Brunello wines.

All Brunello di Montalcino wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown on the hillsides of Montalcino just 20 miles (30km) south of Siena. The word Brunello translates roughly as ‘little dark one’, and is the local vernacular name for Sangiovese Grosso, the large-berried form of Sangiovese which grows in the area.  You could say Sangiovese grapes have adapted well in the region…planted here impressively since 800 AD.

Rometti, Altesino Sign

Arriving in southern Tuscany’s Montalcino region you feel as if you have done just that, arrived as if there was nowhere else you should be.  The lush landscape of the spring is nothing short of heavenly, and the winter is quiet yet calming in its rustic brittle nature.  You could say its the hibernation of things to come as wine makers look to the harvest of the new year.  But work doesn’t stop on a cold December morning.  Rometti had the great pleasure of meeting up with Altesino’s General Manager Claudio Basla who started with Altesino from their very first vintage.  Basla is quite the joker, but one thing is curtain he is truly passionate about his wine.  He shared with us what makes their wine tick, and talked about what makes the Montalcino region one of the most prized places in the world to produce wine, as well as how Altesino is positioned very well to consistently be one of the great authorities in Italian wines.

Altesino's Claudio Basla (Center)

Altesino’s Claudio Basla (Center)

The Altesino estate covers approximately 80 hectares.  The vineyards consist of ~45 hectares, sub-divided into the “crus” of Altesino, Macina, Castelnuovo dell’Abate (in the district of Velona), Pianezzine and Montosoli.  Other than Sangiovese di Montalcino, the majority of the grapes grown (used to make Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino Palazzo Altesi), there is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (blended with Sangiovese di Montalcino to make Alte d’Altesi and Rosso di Altesino), Trebbiano and Malvasia (for Vin Santo) and Vermentino, Chardonnay and Viognier used to make Bianco di Altesino.

Rometti, Grape Cluster

Because the Altesino vineyard plots are spread out in parts of the region giving different exposures to the vine, how does this put you at an advantage?. “different winds and  temperatures, northern parts are protected by the winds, when there are hot vintages the north facing vinyards will give ideal production, in complicated vintages the south faceing vineyards can also deliver ideal productions.  There are merely different exposures, plots and microclimates.” says Basla.

Rometti, Altesino North Facing VineyardRometti, Altesino Barrel RoomWhat is it that makes Brunello’s stand out from other wines? “…the particularity of Brunello di Monatlcino is that there is compulsory longer aging.  At least two years in wood, then at their discretion they can continue to age in barrels, tanks, or bottles. Many factors such as vintage, size harvest, and capacity of barrels dictate the true aging process. This aging extends to four years prior to selling to the market.”

We later cracked a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino 2001 in the Siena’s Piazza del Campo after a great day of tasting.  The wine opened up nicely with a matured strawberry, and cherry notes, it later evolves with dark tones of chocolate, and light oak, perhaps hints of tobacco.  Once it rolls off your tongue your hit with some acidity but the tannins hold firm to a nice smooth velvet finish.

Altesino continues to produce some impressively elegant wines with 90+ ratings on their ’04, (WE 94) ’06 (SP 91, WE 90) ’07 (SP 92, WE 91).

Rometti, Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2001

Altesino – Brunello di Montalcino 2001

Rometti Score:  92

Wine Spectator: 90

Wine Enthusiast: 91


Altesino s.p.a. – societa’ agricola
Località Altesino, 54 53024 Montalcino (Siena)
Tel. 0577 806208
Fax 0577 806131

Wine Spotlight: Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997

Rometti is proud to introduce a new series called Wine Spotlight.  Many of our readers have enjoyed our Rometti Limoncello cocktails and the great cuisine recipes from all over the world, however no meal would be complete without some amazing vino.

This week’s Wine Spotlight is not just on an exceptional bottle of wine from the past but also about a winery / family that is consistently producing some incredible wine in California’s Napa Valley.   It was in 1993 that the Leonardini Family took control of the Whitehall Lane estate with a commitment to produce award-winning wines.  They have achieved nothing short of that, with Wine Spectator / Enthusiast ratings of 90+ consistently throughout the years.

It was about 10 years ago a family friend introduced me to a bottle of wine that truly put to the test my underdeveloped palate.  It was a bottle of 1997 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.   This vibrant dark ruby colored wine was aged for 28 months in French and American oak.  The nose explosively hits you with blackberry, raspberry, while the taste has great complexity.  The creamy smoky sweet oak develops with flavors of cherry, plum, along with lingering depths of seemingly limitless flavors. It is why this big and bold wine is one to remember.  1997 was the vintage of the century in California and in many parts of the world, it’s no wonder this bottle was ranked #3 on Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2000.  If you are able to find one, prepare to spend over $100 and be ready to drink.

Years since, my pallet has evolved and I’ve continued to enjoy Whitehall. I picked up a case of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (WS 90) in late 2010 hoping to hold, but bottles flew off the rack within 3 months, all in good company at least.

On your next trip to Napa, I urge you to drive north and find this gem in the valley.

Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1997

Rometti Score: 95

Wine Spectator: 91 Points

Wine Enthusiast: 90


Whitehall Lane Winery & Vineyard 

1563 South St. Helena Hwy St. Helena, CA 94574 Ph.800.963.9454

Top 10 Most Interesting Limoncello Facts

1.  Lemons are nature’s top source of citric acid, a life essential found in the cells of all living creatures. 2.  Limoncello is one of the most popular liqueurs in Italy. (Other popular liqueurs are Sambuca, Campari, Amaretto.) 3.  Christopher … Continue reading

Happy Hour Tuesday: Lemon Highlander

Rometti Lemon Highlander

Who would have ever thought that a sweet liqueur like Rometti Limoncello would divinely combine with the classy, smoky-flavored whisky in a drink called Lemon Highlander? Well, it does.

The recipe that I am about to guide you through involves two types of whiskies, Scotch and Drambuie. If you don’t know much about Scotch, you will be surprised to learn of its rich history and true glory of this liqueur which in a time of calamity, substituted brandy in the 1880s France, survived the Prohibition, the revolutions and became one of the most popular gentlemen’s drink in America.

The base for the Lemon Highlander is scotch. Scotch is the name used to identify a certain type of whisky that is made in Scotland, where, thanks to St Patrick, the Scottish became very proficient with the distillation process dating back to the fifth century AD!

Drambuie (its original name means “the drink that satisfies”) is a blend of Scotch whisky and is made in the Speyside and Highland regions of Scotland. It has a particular floral, full bodied, sweet taste, due to the infusion of blended Scotch with honey, herbs and spices. It pairs deliciously with limoncello and balances out the sharp, smoky flavor of Scotch whisky.

Cheers to a savoring, evergreen, old-fashioned drink with a modern twist.  This Lemon Highlander with its smooth flavor will surely satisfy your palate.


1/2 oz Rometti Limoncello

1 oz Scotch

1/2 oz Drambuie

Pour Rometti Limoncello, Scotch and Drambuie into an old-fashioned scotch glass over ice. Stir and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


image taken from

Rometti Limoncello, Old World Passion, New World Memories.

Now that we have grown up and have become, lawyers, designers, architects, teachers, bankers or any number of other careers,  we all share one aspect of our grown up life, nothing beats the taste of Mom’s cooking.

I grew up up in Italy where every day was considered a special occasion to sit down even if for only 30 minutes to have lunch or dinner with the family. Of course, at the time, I didn’t come to realize how precious that time was. I hadn’t travelled enough, or spent much time abroad to immerse myself in another culture to compare it with anything else I had seen.  It wasn’t until I moved to the United States did I start to experience the stress of long busy days, that time to just sit down and have dinner with all the people you cared about became rushed, and many times impossible. It made me understand why my Mom and Dad felt so strongly about our “special occasion” dinners or lunches.  It was a time to reflect on the day, and no mater how difficult or stressful it was we could laugh and turn the page.

I remember Sunday lunches vividly, our whole family would sit around a wooden craft table (that my Dad and Uncle built), and talk for hours, it would seem that lunch never really ended after we finished eating.  We still sat there, recalling memories of our childhoods, expressing our hopes for the future, and making each other’s own troubles feel so small they became irrelevant.  While talking we sipped home made Limoncello served in frosted shot glasses.  The summer months made this treat especially refreshing.

I was lucky enough to meet, years later, an inspiring man who came to appreciate of all of the traditions of my home country. He immediately fell in love with the colorful, surreal Italian landscape. It was during one of our trips to Tuscany, amazed by the rolling hills that inspired some of the most famous artists and artisans of our time, that we started thinking of a way to bring back a piece of Italy to the US, and relive all the great memories we shared.

In the memory of those rolling hills, and the joyful time we’ve shared around a table with our friends and family, and the irreplaceable good taste of my Mom’s cooking, we created Rometti a combination of our two last names that is based on hand crafted traditions that have been enjoyed in Italy for hundreds of years.

As my soon to be husband  says: “As an American I had never experienced any liqueur quite like Limoncello, and after my many trips to Italy I soon discovered the true joy, and celebration that comes with enjoying this refreshing complement to an afternoon or evening. Year’s later I find myself engaged to a wonderful Italian women who brought this old receipt to life here in the US for all to enjoy. Our goal is to create a memory for you and your family just as we have and will continue to do for years to come.”.

There may not ever be anything as good as your Mom’s cooking, but we sure hope that you will find our hand crafted products made with the same love and care that you would find in your most cherished moments around the dinner table, now and forever.

Cheers to old world passion, and new world memories.


Interesting New Spirits – As seen in Wine and Spirits Magazine

Firelit Coffee Liqueur
Firelit Coffee Liqueur, made in Alameda, California by St. George Spirits distiller Dave Smith and business partner Jeff Kessenjer. By blending aged and unaged grape brandy—usually chardonnay, zinfandel or syrah—cane sugar and cold-brewed coffee sourced from small roasters in the San Francisco Bay Area, they’ve created a coffee liqueur that drinks like a lightly sweetened cup of robust espresso.

—Lou Bustamante

Firelit, 30% abv., $50; Firelit Spirits, Alameda, CA (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

Tempus Fugit Créme de Cacao & Créme de Menthe
Meanwhile, Tempus Fugit has taken on crémes, sweeter liqueurs that have gotten a bad rap from all the vile-colored, artificially flavored versions on the market. Their Créme de Cacao is distilled from cacao beans and then macerated with more cacao and vanilla, giving the pleasantly sweet liqueur an intense, pure chocolate flavor. The Créme de Menthe, a blend of distilled botanicals and mint, makes for a deeply flavored, straw-hued spirit balanced toward the savory end of sweet. Combine both with a generous splash of cream for a seriously delicious Grasshopper.

—Lou Bustamante

Tempus Fugit Créme de Cacao & Créme de Menthe, 24 and 28% abv., $29.99 each; Tempus Fugit Spirits, Petaluma, CA (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

In Philadelphia, the creative minds at Art in the Age have created Rhuby, inspired by a tea the 18th century botanist John Bartman produced after Benjamin Franklin sent him rhubarb seeds. The spirit, like Bartman’s Garden Tea, combines the tart sweetness of the red stalks with carrots, beets, pink peppercorns and other unusual additions. It’s bright and tart, a spirit that almost demands fruit pie.

—Lou Bustamante

Rhuby, 40% abv., $32.99; Art in the Age, Philadelphia, PA (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

Rabarbaro Zucca
For those whose tastes run less sweet, there is a slew of newly available Italian bitter liqueurs. One of the most striking is Zucca Amaro, from the town of Saronno right outside of Milan, best known for amaretti cookies and amaretto liqueur. Rather than the almond notes of those specialties, Zucca Amaro is based on a Chinese variety of rhubarb. The opposite end of the spectrum from Rhuby, it’s smoky and spicy as a Chinese herbalist’s shop, dusty with ginseng and light menthol flavor. Amazingly light on bitterness despite its dark color, it mixes fantastically well with tonic water.

—Lou Bustamante

Rabarbaro Zucca, 16% abv., $29; Haus Alpenz USA, Manhasset, NY (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

Far less aggressive but just as interesting is Cardamaro, from Piedmont. With cardoons and thistle for flavor over a wine base, it’s fairly light (only 17 percent abv). There’s a hint of bitterness to contrast bright citrus and a remarkable amontillado Sherry-like flavor. With its herbal and vegetal flavors interlaced with spice and its delicate sweetness, it works equally well as an aperitivo or a digestivo.

—Lou Bustamante

Cardamaro, 17% abv., $24; Haus Alpenz USA, Manhasset, NY (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

Amaro Sibilla
From hilly Marche comes one of the most fascinating Italian bitter liqueurs: Amaro Sibilla. Distilled over wood fires and bittered by both gentian and cinchona, it has smokiness that registers as coffee and chocolate intensity combined with a brighter menthol note, ending on a lip-sticking dark honey flavor.

—Lou Bustamante

Amaro Sibilla, 34% abv., $55; Domaine Select Wine Estates, New York, NY (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

Leopold Bros. Fernet
Great amaros aren’t exclusive to Italy: Colorado also boasts one. Leopold Brothers, known for their small-batch whiskies, liqueurs and gin, have recently introduced Leopold Bros. Fernet, a fernet-style amaro. Instead of referencing any historical recipe, brothers Todd and Scott started with bitter aloe as their foundation and included ginger, dandelion, citrus, mint, cocoa, vanilla and fresh flowers among the botanicals. To add a particularly American signature, they added sarsaparilla root and sweetened it with molasses. Quite floral, it tastes like a lighter version of Italian fernets, with the bitterness in the mid-palate retreating into refreshing menthol flavor.

—Lou Bustamante

Leopold Bros. Fernet, 40% abv., $35; Leopold Bros., Denver, CO (reviewed W&S, 02/12)

St. George Terroir Gin (Mt. Tam edition)
St. George Spirits distiller Lance Winters has gone to great lengths to capture the essence of place in the new Mt. Tam edition of his gin, harvesting wild juniper berries, California bay laurel, coastal sage and Douglas fir tips from the forests of Marin. The addition of wok-roasted spices and citrus peels serves to establish a traditional gin foundation for what drinks and feels like a foggy stroll through the redwood groves. If you’re feeling rugged, add some ice and nothing more; if not, enjoy it with seltzer or ginger ale to avoid clear-cutting the flavors.

—Lou Bustamante

St. George Spirits, Alameda, CA; $36/750ml, (reviewed W&S, 12/11)

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3
Previously only available at The Balvenie Distillery in Speyside, Scotland, Tun 1401 Single Malt Whisky by master blender David Stewart has made it way to the US in limited quantities. The hand-picked selection of The Balvenie rarest whiskies—some going as far back as the 1960s—are combined and rested for four months in the wooden blending tank named Tun 1401. The resulting single-malt whisky is deeply spiced with plenty of brown sugar flavor, menthol-like salinity and a richness that makes it smooth straight out of the bottle despite the high alcohol.

—Lou Bustamante

(50% alcohol by volume), William Grant & Sons USA, NY; $250/750ml, (reviewed W&S,12/11)

Suntory Hakushu Japanese Whisky
With a trio of whiskies already available in the US—the Yamazaki 12 and 18 years, and the blended Hibiki—Suntory’s fourth release is the first single malt made entirely from the company’s Hakushu distillery. Located deep in the forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake, in southern Japan, the distillery ages this 12-year-old whisky in a combination of used American oak barrels, Sherry butts and Japanese oak barrels. The finished product is distinctively crisp and lightly smoky, with a pleasant fragrance from the Japanese wood.

—Lou Bustamante

Skyy Spirits, NY; $65/750ml, (reviewed W&S, 12/11)

Great King St. Artist’s Blend
Single-malt drinkers often frown on blended Scotch whiskies, but Master blender John Glaser of Compass Box aims to change that with Great King St., a new series of blended Scotch whisk-ies. His first release, Artist’s Blend, is about half Highland and Speyside single malts combined with aged Lowland grain whisky; then it settles into an array of new French oak casks, first-fill American barrels and ex-Sherry butts before going into the bottle at a potent 43 percent ABV. The end result is rich, round and fruity with hints of toasty oak, vanilla and spice. It’s designed to be enjoyed straight, but it also works well with a little sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters for a classic Rob Roy.

—Lou Bustamante

Compass Box USA, Manhasset, NY; $45/750ml, (reviewed W&S, 12/11)

Brugal Rum 1888
When fifth generation distiller Gustavo Ortega Zeller set out to create an elegant expression of his family’s rum, he took a page from Scotch producers and used a combination of American oak and Sherry barrels to age the molasses-based spirit. Blended from 5- to 14-year-old casks, the 1888 is almost ruby amber in color and filled with caramel, dried fruit, spice and toasty flavors that make this drink like a fine brandy.

—Lou Bustamante

Rémy Cointreau USA, New York, NY; $49/750ml, (reviewed W&S, 12/11)