A night out with friends is among the first things we cut out of the budget when finances get tight. Even when you choose to stay home, you can still enjoy a great drink or two and there's no need to spend a fortune stocking your home bar, either.
With just a few essentials and a little planning, you can enjoy a nice variety of easy cocktails. It may even surprise you that some of the cheapest drinks are among the most popular drinks at the bar. Think of that money you've been wasting!
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Call it a vodka cranberry or a Cape Codder, either way, it is a simple drink that's tasty any time of day. A bottle of cranberry juice can be found for a few bucks and if you add that to a carefully chosen inexpensive bottle of vodka, you'll have Cape Codders for days at minimal cost.
Once you have those two drink ingredients you can add a little here and there to create new cocktails and continue saving money:
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For either, you basically need one distilled spirit—tequila or rum—with a budget-friendly liqueur here and there. Add a few fresh fruits that are in season (and at their lowest prices) or pick up the canned or frozen versions. You really can shake or blend these two drinks into any flavor you can imagine.
- Apple Margarita: Blended with Apple Pucker and apple juice
- Hawaiian Margarita: Blended with pineapple and strawberries.
- Golden Margarita: Shaken with extra lime and orange juices.
- Peach Margarita: Choose peach schnapps or fresh peaches.
- Banana Daiquiri: Toss a banana into that blender.
- Hemingway Daiquiri: Simply add maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice.
- Strawberry Daiquiri: Fresh or frozen will do just fine.
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Easy and luscious, the black Russian is one of the best drinks for a tight budget. With a few extras at hand, you can make any number of vodka drinks. Be sure to check your liquor store for coffee liqueurs that are cheaper than Kahlua. You may be able to save a few bucks there as well.
Build on that popular vodka and Kahlua base by serving up one of these drinks.
- Midnight Martini: Serve it "up" and add cinnamon syrup if you like.
- White Russian: Just add cream.
- Smith and Wesson: Keep the cream and add club soda or skip the vodka.
- Colorado Bulldog: Add cola to your white Russian.
- Dirty Bird: A shaken white Russian with a tequila option.
- Mudslide: Mix your white Russian with Irish cream.
- Sneaky Pete: Switch to whiskey and keep the cream.
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Vodka, lemon juice, and sugar combine for an elegant and low-cost drink. It's a fantastic cocktail and the zing of a freshly-made lemon drop martini is a pure pleasure in the flavor department.
Make a quick switch in the ingredients and you can enjoy a variety of vodka martinis without spending a fortune. They taste just as good as those $12 martinis you're ordering at the bar.
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- Apple Martini: Add a cheap green apple schnapps.
- Vodka Martini: Hold the lemon and pick up a bottle of dry vermouth.
- April Rain: Add lime to that vodka martini.
- Kiwi Martini: Grab a few of those cheap fruits at the market.
- Lilac Lemon Drop Martini: A homemade syrup is perfect during the lilac bloom.
- Tea Tini: Steep some sweet tea and adjust the drink to taste.
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Pick up a six-pack of ginger ale for a few bucks and grab a bottle of whiskey. With those, you can mix up the "highball" of all highballs for a few days. You're looking at $20 or less, depending on your whiskey of choice. When the budget is tight, that sounds pretty good for a week's worth of drinking!
Tall drinks will end up saving you the most money because they take longer to drink. Use any of these popular recipes to switch up your routine or simply add a splash of any juice you have in the fridge.
Also, remember as a true frugal drinker, measuring your whiskey ensures you're not overpouring and wasting money!
- Presbyterian: Add club soda as well.
- Horse's Neck: Switch to brandy or keep the whiskey. Whichever you choose, a lemon twist is essential.
- Jameson and Ginger: The ginger ale highball for Irish whiskey drinkers.
- John Collins: Lemon, syrup, and club soda will keep you refreshed.
- Old-Fashioned: Since you have whiskey, why not add an orange, cherry, and a bit of sugar?
- Gin Buck: Make the switch to gin when you're in the mood for something different.
Did you know that you can also make your own ginger ale? If you use it a lot, this might be a good way to save even more money.
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One way to save money in the bar is to invest in a soda maker or siphon and a few CO2 cartridges. With that one tool, you can make any soda drink you like and avoid wasting money on individual bottles of soda. A well-stocked bar and a little soda can take you from the gin Rickey to a myriad of other drinks at minimal cost:
- Gin Fizz: Give the gin and soda a different texture by adding an egg.
- Tom Collins: Go with lemon juice and make your own simple syrup for just a few pennies.
- Singapore Sling: Add an inexpensive cherry brandy.
- Whiskey Fizz: Choose your whiskey and add fresh lemon juice.
- Vodka Collins: It's a Tom Collins with vodka in case you run out of gin.
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A favorite for many drinkers, the gin and tonic can be as cheap or extravagant as you want to make it. You can find some great gins for around $15 and a six pack of small tonic water bottles will cost just a few dollars.
Once you have those two ingredients, you're on the way to a great variety of drinks. You can add a shot of flavored syrup or a random fruit juice to mix up your G&T routine as well. Just look in the fridge and see what you have to work with.
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Rum is one of the least expensive spirits and that makes the rum and Coke one of the cheapest drinks you can mix up. Pair a $10 bottle of rum with a $1 liter of cola and you have a drink that's as tasty as it is easy on the wallet.
With those two ingredients, you can switch it up a bit and mix up more cheap drinks:
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- Cuba Libre: Add fresh lime.
- Lounge Lizard: Go with a dark rum and add amaretto.
- Lime Cola: Hold the rum for an old-fashioned soda fountain drink.
- Trojan Horse: Pick up a pint of Guinness and mix that with cola.
- Whiskey and Coke: Go with a Jack and Coke or save some cash with any cheaper Canadian or American whiskey.
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One of the best ways to spruce up a low-cost bottle of wine is to mix it. In the kir cocktail, an equally inexpensive bottle of crème de cassis adds a touch of flavor and sweetness to a dry white wine.
Red and white wines can be dressed up in any number of ways. Use these as a starting point to inspire your own custom wine cocktails.
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Sometimes it takes a few fresh herbs to spice up a drink. If you have a bottle of rum, some mint, and club soda, then you have yourself a mojito! It's a fantastic drink that doesn't have to break the bank and it's easier than you think.
Between your garden, the produce market, and your regular bar stock, there are many ways to tweak and change up the mojito on the cheap:
- Independence Day Mojito: Leftover watermelon and a few fresh raspberries create a brand new drink.
- Raspberry Mojito: Got raspberries? Then you have a new mojito.
- Pineapple Mojito: Add a little pineapple to your mojito mix.
- Mint Julep: Switch from rum to whiskey.
- White Peach Julep: Just add peaches to the mint julep.