If you enjoy a cocktail, but you're on a budget, there are still plenty of cheap mixed drinks you can make or order in bars. These inexpensive cocktails and tips for making or ordering drinks more cheaply can help you save money while still offering a tempting and tasty libation.
Cheapest Mixed Drink: Rum and Cola
Typically, one of the cheapest drinks you can order is a rum and coke made with well rum and whatever cola the bar has available. Add a squeeze of lime juice to make a Cuba libre for not much more cost. Making it at home? Bacardi rum costs around $10 for a fifth, while cola can be as inexpensive as a buck a liter. If you use lime, expect to pay a few cents for a squeeze of lime. Total for the drink? Around 80 cents.
Ideas for 11 Cheap Mixed Drinks to Make or Order
The best way to save on drinks in bars is choose drinks made with well liquors and as few ingredients as possible. At home, you can save money by purchasing inexpensive brands of your favorite liquors. The following are inexpensive drinks you can easily make at home or order in a bar.
1. Vodka Soda Lime
You don't need to use premium vodka. Vodka is relatively flavorless, and it's possible to find a well distilled and inexpensive vodka that won't burn on the way down. For example, Tito's vodka is only around $18 for 750 mL (fifth), and it's a smooth, well-distilled vodka. From a fifth of vodka, you'll get 16 standard 1½ ounce shots. Club soda is extremely inexpensive, costing about a buck a liter, and you can jazz it up with a wedge of lime. Total cost for this drink - around $1.20.
- 1 lime wedge
- 1½ ounces vodka
- 4 ounces club soda or soda water
- In a rocks glass, muddle the lime wedge.
- Add the vodka, club soda, and ice. Stir.
2. Cape Codder
Cranberry juice is also an inexpensive ingredient costing around $3 for 60 ounces, or 5 cents an ounce. The Cape Codder (a variation on the sea breeze) is a simple and inexpensive way to order a cheap mixed drink. It's simply cranberry juice and vodka. You can choose to garnish it with a lime wedge, but save money by omitting the garnish altogether. Total cost of the drink is about $1.50.
3. Gin and Tonic
You can buy a fifth of gin for under $20, and tonic water is inexpensive as well (around $1 per liter). In a bar, just ask for the well gin, and at home select an inexpensive but reasonably good gin such as Gordon's gin, which performs well in taste tests and only costs around $10 for a fifth. Just add a squeeze of lemon juice to the gin and tonic water combination for a cheap but tasty gin and tonic. Total cost is about $1.30 per cocktail.
Sangria is usually reasonably priced because it's made with inexpensive fruity wine, fruit and fruit juice, and some sort of an inexpensive mixer such as 7-up or club soda. Likewise, because it's a punch and made in bulk, it's often inexpensive in bars and restaurants as well. Save money by choosing a cheap, fruity wine such as an inexpensive Rioja or Beaujolais Nouveau to make it. When you make sangria, the total cost for a drink is usually around $2.50 depending on the wine, juices, and fruit you use.
5. Vodka Martini
A vodka martini is a simple combination of vodka and dry vermouth. Both ingredients can be quite inexpensive, particularly if you're not looking to use the best of the best. Expect to pay about $10 for 750 mL of dry vermouth, which will make up to 16 cocktails if you like a 1:1 ratio of vodka to vermouth in your martini. If you're making them at home, you can save more by omitting the traditional olive garnish. Total cost is about $1.75 to $2 if you use an inexpensive but palatable vodka.
6. Ginger Ale Moscow Mule
If you're using a cheap vodka, then the most expensive ingredient in a Moscow mule is typically the ginger beer. Save money by ordering your Moscow mule made with ginger ale (or diet ginger ale), which costs around $1 per liter. Total cost is around $1.50 per drink.
- ¾ ounces lime juice
- 1½ ounces vodka
- 4 ounces ginger ale
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the lime juice and vodka.
- Add the ice and shake.
- Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
- Add the ginger ale and stir.
7. Rum and Ginger Ale
Often called a "poor mans dark and stormy," the rum and ginger ale combination reduces costs by using an inexpensive or well rum and in place of a more expensive dark rum and replacing the costly ginger beer with inexpensive ginger ale. No garnishes are necessary.
- 1½ ounces rum
- 4 ounces ginger ale
- In a rocks glass, combine the rum, ginger ale, and ice.
- Stir to mix.
8. 7 and 7
The 7 and 7 is a combination of inexpensive Seagram's 7 crown whiskey and 7-up or another, less expensive lemon-lime soda. The whiskey is around $10 for 750 mL (16 drinks) while the lemon lime soda is about a buck per liter. Total price is similar to a rum and coke - around 80 cents per drink.
- 6 ounces lemon lime soda
- 1½ ounces Seagram's 7 crown whiskey
- Fill a collins glass half full with ice.
- Add the soda and the whiskey. Stir.
9. Jungle Juice
Generations of college students have discovered that when you add enough juice or kool-aid, you can disguise the flavor of even the cheapest alcohol and turn it into a sweet, palatable mixed drink. You'll find many recipes for jungle juice, many of them mixed in trash cans or other large containers by dumping several types of cheap booze along with various fruit juices, fruit punch, lemon lime soda, and/or kool-aid. It's a great, collective way to make a mixed drink that will save money by having everyone bring a few of the ingredients. You can serve (or over serve) a large crowd for around $40.
Fireball whisky costs around $12 for a fifth. Apple cider (or even apple juice or sparkling cider) is also quite inexpensive (about $4 for 750 mL of sparkling cider), so you'll be able to make a cider ball for about $1.40 per drink. It's a delicious combo of apples and cinnamon.
- 4 ounces sparkling apple cider
- 1½ ounces Fireball whisky
- Fill a rocks glass with ice.
- Add the sparkling cider and Fireball whisky.
You can purchase 64 ounces of orange juice for around $6, and it will make 10 mixed drinks, while a fifth of inexpensive vodka will cost around $10 and provide enough alcohol for 16 shots. So you can make a screwdriver for around $1.20 per drink, and the orange juice will mask the flavor of the cheap vodka. You don't even need to use ice.
- 6 ounces chilled orange juice
- 1½ ounces vodka
Mix both ingredients in a collins glass, stirring well.
Tips for Making Cheap Mixed Drinks
You don't have to spend a fortune on mixed drinks. While cheap mixed drinks are often quite simple, they're still satisfying.
Save Money in Bars
Here are some ways to save money in bars:
- In bars, always order well drinks.
- Avoid the special menu drinks at bars, which can be quite expensive.
- Go for happy hour and order their drink special.
- Choose simple over complicated.
Save Money at Home
Making drinks at home is a great way to save money anyway; bars tend to have quite a mark-up on their drinks, so you'll almost always pay more in a bar than you will at home. With that being said, you can save money at home using some of the following tips:
- Look for specials on alcohol and stock up when you can.
- Buy alcohol in bulk. It's usually cheaper per shot to buy a 3 liter bottle than a 750 mL bottle of the same booze.
- Avoid top shelf. There are many perfectly adequate and some tasty middle to bottom shelf liquors that won't cost you an arm and a leg and make really good drinks.
- Disguise harsher inexpensive liquors with soda, citrus, or fruit juice.
- Skip the garnishes.
- Don't buy expensive pre-made simple syrups. Make your own from sugar and water and, if you like, infuse them with special ingredients such as ginger or cinnamon for interesting and tasty drinks.
- Fresh mint can cover a multitude sins. Grow your own mint and muddle it in drinks with cheaper alcohol for inexpensive, delicious cocktails.
Cheap Booze Doesn't Have to Make Bad Cocktails
Just because you're drinking on the cheap doesn't mean you have to choke your way through terrible cocktails. There are plenty of easy, affordable, tasty mixed drinks and cocktail ingredients that allow you to enjoy a libation or two without breaking the bank.