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Most people love entertaining, and having friends and family over for some cocktails is guaranteed to be lots of fun. While liquor is expensive, if you plan carefully, you can easily entertain your friends with some amazing drinks that don’t cost a ton of money. The key is in the mixers.
Imagine it’s your turn to host happy hour and you’re not sure how to serve cheap mixed drinks that won’t bust your savings account wide open.
When you spend a lot of money on liquor (even cheap alcohol or domestic beer and bottled beer like Bud Light), you can end up having a happy hour that is unhappy for you and your bank account.
Well, we’re here to save you with some of our favorite cheap alcoholic drinks for happy hour, after dinner, or for a fun party in New York, at a dive bar on the Las Vegas Strip, in downtown Las Vegas, the East Village, the Lower East Side, or anywhere else you may be partying.
Most of these happy hour drinks are cheap drinks with two or three ingredients.
Also, for many of these happy hour drink recipe ideas, you can use ingredients you already have at home. For example, most folks already have orange juice in the fridge, right?
Whether you want to make a classic Screwdriver cocktail or a classy and sophisticated Dark and Stormy, there’s something on this list of cheap happy hour mixed drinks for everyone.
Are you ready to find your own favorite happy hour drink? Let’s go!
A classic Screwdriver drink is possibly the cheapest drink you can make. All you need is some inexpensive vodka and orange juice.
The best thing about cheap drinks like a Screwdriver is that you don’t need expensive vodka. You can also use flavored vodkas to make a Screwdriver.
Garnish your Screwdriver drink with an orange slice. Serve it in a rocks glass with ice cubes.
2. Gin Gimlet
When it comes to easy cheap drinks or mixed drinks that impress, the gin Gimlet is perfect.
To make a gin Gimlet drink special, you need gin, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup.
If you do have a lime, garnish your glass with a lime wedge.
When you want happy hour mixed drinks that are sophisticated cheap drinks, you can’t go wrong with a classic Old Fashioned.
An Old Fashioned is made with bourbon, angostura bitters, and sugar. That’s it.
Serve your Old Fashioned in a rocks glass with ice cubes and garnish with a cherry.
A gin and tonic is a sophisticated happy hour mixed drink that you can make in your own home for pennies.
Garnish a gin and tonic with a lime wedge.
5. Cuba Libre
Rum and Coke. It doesn’t get much easier than that for cheap drinks at happy hour, right?
However, if you want to take your rum and Coke up a notch, just add a lime wedge and you have a Cuba Libre. Fancy, right?
A Kalimotxo, which is made with red wine and Coca-Cola, sounds like something some broke college kids came up with for social hour or happy hour specials. That may even be the case, but this mixed drink is a Spanish cocktail that is surprisingly delicious.
You can use any type of red house wine to make a Kalimotxo, and Pinot Noir is perfect. Also, you can use any type of soda or cola.
7. Vodka Tonic
A vodka tonic is just like a happy hour gin and tonic, but it’s made with vodka and tonic water. You don’t have to use expensive vodka to make a vodka tonic, but use the best vodka you can afford.
Garnish your vodka tonic with a lime wedge, cucumber slice, or rosemary sprig. Serve your vodka tonic in a tall glass with ice cubes.
If you’ve stocked your bar cabinet with ginger beer, you can enjoy a Dark and Stormy at happy hour.
The only other ingredient needed is fresh lime juice and you’re ready to drink up!
Garnish your Dark and Stormy with a lime wedge.
When you stock your bar cabinet with mixers for happy hour, be sure to have some ginger beer and ginger ale handy. You can use both of these fizzy drink mixers to make tons of unique cocktail recipes.
With ginger beer, you can make a Moscow Mule, which is made with fresh lime juice, vodka, and a lime wedge.
10. Salty Dog
If you have a bottle of gin and some grapefruit juice in the fridge, you’ve got what you need to have a tasty Salty Dog.
The name of this drink comes from the salt you put on the rim of the glass.
11. White Russian
A White Russian is a sophisticated mixed drink that is super easy to make.
You need just three ingredients to make a White Russian: Kahlua, vodka, and heavy cream. You can also use half and half or just plain whole milk.
Do you like bonus cheap drinks? Make your White Russian but leave out the cream and you have a Black Russian.
12. Classic Daiquiri
The classic daiquiri originated in Cuba and this subtle drink isn’t a sugary mixture that’s come to be associated with drink options like a strawberry daiquiri.
A true classic daiquiri has just three ingredients: white rum, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup.
Mix your ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake until your daiquiri is completely cold. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Having fruit juice such as grapefruit juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice in the fridge is handy when you want a cheap drink (or a free drink if you already have the juice and some booze!).
The Vodka Cranberry drink is also called a Cape Cod (or Cape Codder). All you need to make this drink is vodka and cranberry juice.
Serve your Vodka Cranberry drink in a rocks glass with ice cubes. Garnish with a lime wedge.
If you’ve got a bottle of cheap tequila and some orange juice, you’ve got the makings of a Tequila Sunrise. All you need now is a bottle of grenadine syrup.
We like to add fresh lime juice or Rose’s Lime Juice to our Tequila Sunrise, but lime juice is completely optional. Also optional (but nice to add) is club soda (soda water) for some fizz.
The Long Island Iced Tea cocktail is a drink with a lot of liquor, so at first glance, it can appear pricey.
However, if you’ve already got several bottles of cheap booze sitting around, you can whip up this impressive drink.
A Long Island Iced Tea is made with tequila, white rum, vodka, Triple Sec, and gin.
Best of all, the only mixers you need to make this drink are simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and soda like Coca-Cola.
Garnish this drink with a lemon wedge or lime wedge.
How to Save Money on Cocktail Equipment and Tools
It’s great to have a fully-stocked bar with all of the best bar and cocktail equipment, but if you’re on a budget, don’t worry. We’ve got some tips to help you do mixology like a pro.
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make professional-caliber cheap cocktails at home for happy hour.
- Make your own cocktail shaker. If you don’t have a shiny stainless steel cocktail shaker, that’s totally fine. You can use a mason jar with a lid. You can buy the lids at most big-box discount stores or on Amazon. Just toss all of your ingredients in the jar with some ice, shake them up nicely, and strain using any fine-mesh strainer. Don’t want to buy mason jars and lids? No biggie! Just save a nice-sized jelly jar or something similar. Clean it out very well and run it through the dishwasher.
- Use a wooden spoon for a cocktail muddler. Some cocktails need to be muddled, and you don’t have to stress if you don’t have a fancy cocktail muddler. Just use a sturdy wooden spoon instead.
A Cheap Simple Syrup Recipe That Will Make Your Happy Hour Happier
We have the Tequila Sunrise on our list of happy hour drink ideas, and that recipe calls for red grenadine syrup. However, most recipes will call for simple syrup. To make a homemade simple syrup that is super budget-friendly and easy to make in just five minutes, follow these tips.
- Mix equal parts of water and white granulated sugar in a small saucepan. You can use about 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white granulated sugar.
- Heat the water and sugar over medium heat, whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved. This step will take just about 1-2 minutes. Don’t allow the syrup to simmer. Your only goal is to dissolve the sugar.
- Allow the syrup to cool until it reaches room temperature. You can store your simple syrup in a mason jar in the fridge.
Also, you can always use good maple syrup to sweeten happy hour cocktails.
Do you want some more cheap cocktails and cheap drinks that are super easy to make? Check out this video from Steve the Bartender below to learn how to make five easy cheap drinks and cheap bar drinks made with vodka.
Our Best Cheap Drinks (+Classic Cheap Daiquiri)
- 2 oz. white rum
- 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3/4 oz. simple syrup
- Ice cubes
- Add the rum, freshly squeezed lime juice, ice cubes, and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker.
- Shake well until the ingredients are fully chilled.
- Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.