Just starting out? Bar cart expert? Tell us what you think!
I'd vote vodka, bourbon, and gin.
vodka, rum gin
Whiskey, gin, and brandy. This keeps the whiskey lovers happy, the gluten-free people less paranoid, and appeals to a wide range of ages and palates (especially if the brandy's applejack). It's also easy to use any of these straight up or in either sweet or savory cocktails; they all have a lot of versatility. If you also stock a few homemade mixers or garnishes (ginger syrup, cherry bitters, preserved cherries, rosemary syrup, flavored vinegar), your guests will feel like royalty.
My first reaction is: what kind of piss-poor liquor cupboard only has three types of alcohol in it to begin with?! Holidays are already a total bummer....but I suppose that's not really the answer you were looking for. My second reaction is: a high quality bourbon for sipping, a medium-quality of bourbon for mixing, and a run-of-the-mill bourbon to use for cooking.....but I suppose that's also not really the answer you were looking for. My final reaction is: a dark (bourbon, scotch, whiskey, rum) a light (vodka, gin, light rum) and a cordial/port/sipping something or other to be used as an post over-indulging restorative!
Wow, that's a tough one. Only three? The simplest options are a quality vodka, such as elit by Stolichnaya; a solid bourbon, like Maker's Mark, and Hendrick's gin, plus assorted mixers such as tonic water, cranberry juice, orange juice, seltzer, ginger ale, cola, etc. That being said, what I like to do in addition to the basics is to feature some kind of not-too-sweet punch such as Amanda's 19th Century Roman Punch (http://www.food52.com/recipes...) which, like sharing a wine at dinner, allows the guests to share in and experience the same drink.
I can't do three - scotch, bourbon, rum, gin, vodka and brandy. That is five. And they should be good quality.
I can't do three either. Vodka, gin, scotch, and a good microbrew.
Vodka, some nice liqueurs, and sparkling wine...
I'm hoping most people will already have vodka/bourbon/gin/tequila etc. in their cardboard box in the dining room closet, I mean liquor cupboard. That said, for a rockin' good time, get a bottle of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, a bottle of St. Germaine, and a bottle of sweet vermouth. Cheers!
Can't believe we forgot tequila! Thanks for the reminder!