Be The Hostess with The Mostess with Booze on a Budget
Hosting impromptu parties is a whole lot more fun when you already have the beverages on hand. With just a little good planning and some smart shopping, you can be mixing fancy cocktails in no time—all in the comfort of your own home and for less money than you think. I typically buy mid-range liquor brands for mixed drinks, reserving higher-priced top shelf liquors (which I pick up at BevMo, Trader Joe’s or warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club) for drinking without mixers.
To stock your at-home bar on a budget, you’ll need:
Vodka, Gin, Light Rum: $12-$18 for 750 ml.
These are the building blocks to nearly every cocktail—and the most versatile spirits to have around, making them extremely cost-effective.
Recommended brands: Seagrams (vodka and gin) and Castillo (rum).
Brandy, Whiskey and Bourbon $13-16 for 1 L
Not as versatile for cocktail mixing, but essential for hot drinks like Hot Toddies and Irish Coffee.
Recommended Brands: Paul Masson (brandy), Evan Williams Black (whiskey/bourbon)
Triple Sec $6-9 for 1 L
If you’re going to buy a cordial, buy triple sec. Seriously. When it comes to mixed drinks, it is the single-most-used liqueur.
Recommended Brands: Aristocrat, Arrow, Hiram Walker
Other Cordials $5-$12/ 750 ML
Buy these in small bottles—they’re typically very sweet and a little goes a long way. Some of the most popular flavors include: peach, raspberry, melon, amaretto, sour apple. You may not use them often, but they’re great to have when the craving for a specialty cocktail hits.
Now that you’re stocked, it’s time to get mixing. One of my favorite ways to save money when I throw a party is, rather than just setting out my entire booze collection and letting my guests make their own drinks, I decide on a couple of signature drinks for the evening. I mix up a few pitchers ahead of time, and then replenish a few times during the party. Not only is this a nice way to personalize my gathering, it also helps me conserve booze.
I follow this drink formula:
- 2 parts main liquor (ie: vodka, gin, rum, etc)
- 1 part cordial/liqueur
- 3 parts juice or other mixer
I pour it into a pitcher with ice, stir, add a fruit garnish, depending on the cocktail, and then serve.
Here are a few basic cocktails to get you started:
2 parts vodka
1 part triple sec
3 parts cranberry juice
2 parts vodka
1 part triplesec
3 parts lemon juice
sugar to taste
2 parts vodka
1 part Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
3 parts whole milk or half-and-half
Gabi Moskowitz is the editor-in-chief of the nationally-acclaimed blog BrokeAss Gourmet and author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook (May 2012) and Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious, Unexpected Recipes (November 2013). Most recently, she developed “Young and Hungry”, an ABC Family sitcom based on her life and writing. It premiers this summer (2014).