Making mixed drinks at home is easy, and learning how to do it can save quite a bit of money. You don't need to spend a fortune stocking your home bar, either. With just a few essentials and some basic recipes, anyone can mix up a nice variety of quick and easy cocktails. It may even surprise you that some of the cheapest drinks are among the most popular drinks at the bar, and each can also be adapted to fit the ingredients you have on hand.
Watch Now: Impress Your Guests with our Favorite Cheap Cocktails
01 of 20
Call it a vodka cranberry or a Cape Codder, either way, it's a simple, tasty drink. All you need is cranberry juice and a carefully chosen inexpensive bottle of vodka. If you feel like getting fancy, shake the duo and serve it up for a crantini.
Building on that foundation, you can add just one more juice to create another refreshing mixed drink. For instance, a bay breeze adds pineapple, orange juice makes a madras, and grapefruit transforms it into a sea breeze.
Anyone Can Make a Great Mixed Drink
These drink recipes use easy bartending techniques that anyone can pull off. Those served on the rocks, for instance, require nothing more than a quick stir. Shaking martinis is also simple, and a Mason jar is an excellent substitute for a cocktail shaker. You can even pull off muddled drinks with the wooden spoon in your kitchen. And yet, the secret to great mixed drinks is ice. Keep your ice trays topped off and toss old ice to ensure you're using the freshest cubes. You'll see a significant improvement in every cocktail.
02 of 20
Easy and delicious, the black Russian is one of the best drinks for a tight budget. All you need to do is stir together vodka and coffee liqueur (look for lesser-known brands to save more money).
With a few extras at hand, you can make any number of vodka drinks. Add cream, and you have a white Russian, or use Irish cream for a mudslide. Top it with club soda for a Smith and Wesson or cola for a Colorado bulldog. Whiskey makes it a sneaky Pete, while tequila's an excellent option for a dirty bird.
03 of 20
Pick up a six-pack of ginger ale, grab a whiskey bottle, then mix up the "highball" of all highballs. Depending on your whiskey of choice, each drink costs just a dollar or two.
Tall drinks save the most money because they naturally take longer to drink. Switching the soda or liquor creates a bunch of popular mixed drinks, too. For instance, the Presbyterian adds club soda for extra sparkle without additional sweetness.
04 of 20
Rum and Coke
The rum and Coke is one of the simplest drinks you can mix up. With those two ingredients, you can switch it up a bit. The easiest variation is the Cuba Libre, which simply adds fresh lime. The lounge lizard pours a shot of amaretto, while the lime cola holds the rum for an old-fashioned soda fountain drink.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
05 of 20
The gin rickey is a simple gin highball with the tart taste of lime. One way to save money in the bar is to invest in a soda maker or siphon so you can skip buying individual bottles.
A well-stocked bar and a little soda can take you from the rickey to a myriad of other drinks, including the nonalcoholic lime rickey and the whiskey fizz. Another option is to explore the famous collins family of drinks, which can be made with gin, whiskey, vodka, or nearly any spirit.
06 of 20
The shandy is a brilliantly simple drink and a wonderfully refreshing choice on hot summer days. Use fresh lemonade or store-bought, then mix it with your favorite cheap beer, and you're done!
The original serves as inspiration for a variety of other shandy recipes. You can swap out the citrus juice, mix in flavored syrup, or both. There are even some spicy shandies that are taste sensations.
07 of 20
The margarita is an incredibly simple drink of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. While it is better with top-shelf liquors, good budget-friendly options make an excellent drink, especially if you use fresh lime juice. There's no way to get bored with a margarita either. Shake it, blend it, or toss in some extra flavor. A bottle of tequila offers many possibilities, and there are several margarita recipes to explore.
08 of 20
The daiquiri is just as versatile as the margarita. Rum is often cheaper than tequila, and this recipe requires lime juice and simple syrup. Stick with the original cocktail or diversify your drinking experience with nearly any flavor.
The strawberry daiquiri is a favorite, and either fresh or frozen berries will do. Toss a banana into the blender, and you have a banana daiquiri. You can also add fruit and herbal flavors to the syrup and create fascinating mixes like the rhubarb-rosemary daiquiri.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
09 of 20
Lemon Drop Martini
Vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup combine for an elegant and low-cost drink. The zing of a freshly-made lemon drop martini is a pure pleasure. The syrup is nothing more than sugar and water, so it costs just pennies to make.
Use the lilac lemon drop martini recipe as inspiration for infusing it with extra flavor. With a floral syrup or fruity vodka, you can enjoy an array of vodka martinis for far less than cocktails at the bar.
10 of 20
Gin and Tonic
A favorite for many drinkers, the gin and tonic can be as reasonable or extravagant as you want to make it. You can find some great affordable gins and tonic water at any liquor store.
With tonic, you can make a great variety of drinks. An obvious choice is the vodka tonic, though whiskey and tonic is excellent too. Add a shot of flavored syrup like the one used in the strawberry gin and tonic, or pour a random fruit juice. Just look in the fridge and see what you have to use.
11 of 20
Spruce up a low-cost bottle of wine with simple wine cocktails. One delicious approach is the kir cocktail, in which an equally inexpensive bottle of crème de cassis adds a touch of flavor and sweetness to a dry white wine. Sparkling wine gives it a lively twist, while red wine creates a cardinal cocktail.
12 of 20
Sometimes it takes a few fresh herbs to liven up a drink. If you have a bottle of rum, some mint, sugar, lime, and club soda, you have a mojito.
There are many ways to tweak and change up the mojito. The easiest is by adding a little fruit to the muddle. Any berry works great, and the raspberry mojito is a favorite. You can also go the tropical route with a pineapple mojito or switch to mango, peach, or watermelon. When your rum reserves dry up, switch to vodka or white wine. Whiskey makes it a mint julep, which is just as versatile.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
13 of 20
A bottle of grenadine can last a surprisingly long time, which gives you plenty of opportunities to mix up a tequila sunrise. Make it with fresh-squeezed orange juice when you have the fruit, or go with the bottled juice, It's great either way.
The "sunrises" don't stop there. Use the same ingredients to make a tequila sunrise margarita, skip the liquor for a sweet sunrise, or go with whiskey in a sour sunrise. Other fruit juices work, too. Enjoy tart grapefruit in a ruby rum sunrise.
14 of 20
Ginger beer is an excellent drink mixer with tons of potential. It's most famous for the Moscow mule, which pairs the spiced brew with vodka and a hint of lime.
From there, you can warm up ginger beer for a holiday-worthy Christmas mule or add cider and enjoy an apple-cinnamon mule. The dark and stormy is rum's answer to the mule, the añejo highball takes that mix to an interesting new level, and the gin-gin mule features gin with a bit of mint.
15 of 20
When you have a bottle of sparkling wine, few drinks are better suited for it than the mimosa. Adding orange liqueur and juice is the perfect way to give an inexpensive bubbly new life.
For instance, switch to peach for the equally fabulous Bellini. The original recipe has also inspired countless fruity mimosas, so there's likely something in your kitchen you can use to create a wonderful drink.
16 of 20
On cold days, few drinks are as satisfying as the hot toddy. The steaming brew of tea, honey, and lemon spiked with brandy, rum, or whiskey is sure to warm you up.
Like many popular drinks, the drink has inspired several toddy recipes. From warm apple cider to an aromatic gin toddy, there's so much you can do with the basic formula.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
17 of 20
Tired of drinking straight beer? Open up your spice cupboard and mix up a Michelada. Traditionally made with Mexican beer, the recipe spices up the average lager with soy, Worchestershire, and hot sauces, a hint of lime, and a touch of black pepper. You can customize it to suit your taste and add all sorts of seasonings.
18 of 20
The cafe Caribbean is a perfect example of just how easy it is to spike your coffee. The recipe adds rum and amaretto, and it's just as satisfying without the whipped cream and shaved almonds.
A variety of other spirits work just as well in coffee cocktails. Whether you have brandy or whiskey, or simply want to add a shot of Irish cream, honey, or nut liqueurs, there's a satisfying recipe waiting for your strongest brew.
19 of 20
Strawberry Vodka Lemonade
Vodka, lemonade, and strawberries, how simple is that? The easy cocktail recipe is pleasant, but it's also very adaptable.
The mix is perfect for any base spirit, so it will work whether you have gin, rum, tequila, or whiskey in the bar. You can also top it with any flavored soda, switch to another juice, or muddle almost any fruit into the mix. Let the recipe serve as a base and use what you have to create a fun new drink.
20 of 20
Tea is an economical ingredient with many possibilities. In the royal-tea cocktail, a nice gin is paired with Earl Grey and accented with a bit of lemon and sugar. It's an incredibly easy iced tea drink you can make by the pitcher, too.
Tea works with many liquors, from vodka in the tea tini to tequila in the Jalisco high tea. It's also a neutral base for small accents, including honey, cherry, and herbal liqueurs.