Nights out, dinner with friends, a trip to the club, these are some of the first things we cut out of our budget when finances get tight. When you choose to stay home to save money you can still enjoy a great drink or two and there's no need to spend a fortune while stocking your own bar either.
With just a few essentials and a little planning, you can enjoy a nice variety of drinks. It may even surprise you that some of the cheapest drinks you can make at home are among the most popular... drinks at the bar. Think of all that money you've been wasting!
Below are just a few drinks that are good for those times when you have to go into what I call 'extreme budget mode.' You will also find easy variations that require just one or two extra mixers which you may already have in the kitchen or bar.
01 of 10
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 can be found for around $2 and if you add that to an 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.
02 of 10
Margarita and Daiquiri
For either, you basically need one 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) and you really can shake or blend these two drinks into any flavor you can imagine.
A Few Suggestions:
03 of 10
Easy and luscious, the Black Russian is one of the best drinks for a tight budget and 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.
- S...mith 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.
04 of 10
Lemon Drop Martini
Vodka, lemon juice, and sugar combine for an elegant, yet low-cost drink. With a few extra and inexpensive mixers, you can go from the Lemon Drop to other favorite martinis.
Make a quick switch in the ingredients and you can enjoy a variety of vodka martinis without spending a fortune. Trust me, they taste just as good as those $12 martinis you're ordering at the bar.
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
- 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.
05 of 10
Pick up a ginger ale six-pack for a few bucks and grab a bottle of whiskey and 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 that frugal drinkers should measure their whiskey to ensure they'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 gain 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 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.
Building on the gin and soda base is easy and it can take just a small change to give you a brand new cocktail for the night.
- Gin Fizz - Give the gin and soda a... different texture by simply add 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 - A Tom Collins with vodka in case you run out of gin.
07 of 10
Gin and Tonic
One of my favorite drinks, the Gin and Tonic can be as cheap or extravagant as you want to make it. You can find some great guns for around $15 and a six pack of small tonic water bottles will cost just a few dollars.
Once you have the gin and tonic, you're on the way to a great variety of drinks. I often add a shot of flavored syrup or a random fruit juice to mix up my G&T routine. Just look in the fridge and see what you have to work with!
08 of 10
Rum and Coke
Rum is one of the least expensive spirits, making 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.
You have the rum and you have a cold, now it's time to switch it up a bit and mix up more cheap drinks.
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
- Cuba Libre - Add fresh lime.
- Lounge Lizard - Go with a dark rum and add amaretto.
- Whiskey and Coke - Switch to your favorite whiskey.
- Black... Friday - Build on the Whiskey Coke by adding ginger ale and a bit of lime.
- Lime Cola - Hold the rum for an old-fashioned cola drink.
- Trojan Horse - Pick up a pint of Guinness and mix that with cola.
09 of 10
One of the best ways to spruce up a low-cost bottle of wine is to mix it. In the Kir, an equally inexpensive bottle of creme de cassis adds a touch of flavor and sweetness.
Red and white wines can be dressed up in any number of ways and here are a few ideas to get you started.
10 of 10
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 make a brand new drink.
- Rasp...berry 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.