A night out with friends is among the first things many people 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.
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. Each can also be adapted to fit the ingredients you have on hand and save an extra trip to the liquor store.
Watch Now: Impress Your Guests with our Favorite Cheap Cocktails
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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, add pineapple juice and you have a bay breeze, orange juice creates a madras, and grapefruit juice transforms it into a sea breeze.
02 of 20
The margarita is an incredibly simple drink of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. While it is better with top-shelf spirits, there are good budget-friendly options that make an excellent drink, especially if you use fresh lime. 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 flavored margarita recipes to explore.
03 of 20
The daiquiri is just as versatile as the margarita. Rum is often even cheaper, and this recipe simply requires lime juice and simple syrup. Stick with the original cocktail or diversify your drinking experience with any flavor you can imagine.
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 some fascinating mixes like the rhubarb-rosemary daiquiri.
04 of 20
Easy and delicious, the black Russian is one of the best drinks for a tight budget. Be sure to check your liquor store for coffee liqueurs that are cheaper than Kahlua.
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 a great option for a dirty bird.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
05 of 20
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 flavor and enjoy a whole new world of vodka martinis that taste just as good as those $12 cocktails at the bar.
06 of 20
Pick up a six-pack of ginger ale and grab a bottle of whiskey, then mix up the "highball" of all highballs. 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 save the most money because they 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.
07 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 and a few CO2 cartridges so you can skip buying individual bottles of soda.
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, which prefers lemon juice. Another option is to explore the famous collins family of drinks, which can be made with gin, whiskey, vodka, or nearly any spirit.
08 of 20
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 costs just a few dollars.
With tonic, you can make a great variety of drinks. An obvious choice is the vodka tonic, though the leprechaun proves that whiskey works, 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 work with!Continue to 9 of 20 below.
09 of 20
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 liter of off-brand cola, and you have a drink that's tasty and easy on the wallet.
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 adds a shot of amaretto, while the lime cola holds the rum for an old-fashioned soda fountain drink.
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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. If you happen to have red wine, use the cassis to create a cardinal cocktail.
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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, sugar, lime, and club soda, then you have 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. Add a little fruit to create a pineapple mojito or raspberry mojito, or add leftover watermelon for the amazing Independence Day mojito. When your rum reserves dry up, switch to whiskey for a mint julep, which is just as versatile.
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The original also 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.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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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 tequila 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.
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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 anejo highball takes that mix to an interesting new level, and the gin-gin mule features gin with a little mint.
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When you have a bottle of sparkling wine in the cellar, few drinks are better suited for it than the mimosa. Adding orange liqueur and juice is the perfect way to give an inexpensive wine new life.
If you've been skipping triple sec, you've been making a Buck's fizz all along. And, if you switch to peach you have the equally fabulous and famous Bellini. The original recipe has also inspired countless fruity mimosas, so it's likely that there's something in your kitchen that will create a wonderful drink.
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On cold days, few drinks are as satisfying and cheap to mix up as the hot toddy. The steaming brew of tea, honey, and lemon spiked with brandy, rum, or whiskey is sure to warm you up.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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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.
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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.
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Vodka, lemonade, and strawberries, how simple is that? The easy cocktail recipe is pleasant, but it can also be changed up in many ways.
The mix is perfect for any base spirit, so whether you have gin, rum, tequila, or whiskey in the bar, it will work. 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 well-balanced drink.
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Tea is a cheap 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 while saving money.