Cocktails you can make on a budget

Living on a tight budget is tough, there's no denying that. But it doesn't mean you need to compromise on all of your favorite things, it just means getting a little creative. 

Take cocktails. Sure, they can be insanely expensive if you go out and order a few, but there's no reason you'll need to stop treating yourself completely. Because you can make some seriously delicious cocktails right from the comfort of your own kitchen, and you're not going to break the bank. Even better? You can come up with something way better than the boring, same-old, crazy expensive drinks you'll find coming standard on most bar menus. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, and we've done some of the leg work for you. So let's talk about cocktails you can kick back with after a long day at work, and not feel the least bit guilty about the cost. We guarantee there will be absolutely no compromising on taste.

Here's why you need to start with a homemade simple syrup

Many cocktails call for a simple syrup, and you should absolutely make your own to save some money. At the most basic, it's just water and sugar in a one-to-one ratio, boiled until the sugar dissolves, then cooled and stored in the fridge. It'll keep for up to a month, too, so there's no reason not to keep a bottle of it handy. 

But we're going to go one step further, and recommend you get a little creative with it. It's going to be the basis of your cocktails, after all, so step it up. For some versatile options, add a dash of vanilla, or, after you dissolve your water and sugar, throw some cinnamon sticks in and let it sit overnight to steep before putting it away. 

You can also hit your herb garden for some ideas, too — and if you don't have an herb garden, it's one small investment that's going to keep on giving. It's easy to keep a few plants on your windowsill, and those plants aren't just for meal times. Steep some fresh mint leaves, rosemary needles, tarragon, basil, lavender, or sage in your simple syrup mix while it's still hot on the stove, and trust us when we say it's a brilliant and inexpensive way to dress up your cocktails. Need an idea to get you started? How delicious does gin, a dash of lemon, and some herbal simple syrup sound?

Champagne punch is a budget-friendly cocktail

Buying fresh fruit seems expensive, and sometimes, it is. But if you shop smart, it doesn't have to be. Head to your local farmers' market and see what's on offer, or just go to your local Aldi (or other go-to grocery store), and see what's in season. Fruit will be cheaper when it's local and there's a lot of it, and when you get home, you can take one basic idea, switch it up for whatever fruit you've scored, and make it into a delicious cocktail. Bonus? This one's great for making a huge batch of something, and that means you'll be able to impress and entertain while not spending a fortune. 

Start with your alcohol — either champagne or prosecco (which is typically much cheaper) is perfect for this. Add ginger ale or some lemon-lime soda to fill it out and add some more fizz, and here's where you're going to mix it up for whatever fruit you found. 

Strawberries are in season? Add some pureed strawberries, and some of that simple syrup. Found some pineapple? Add pineapple juice and your pureed fruit. Peaches? Add pureed peaches, orange juice, and a dash of lemon. And if you didn't find any seasonal, affordable fruit you like, head to the frozen section, grab a bag of frozen berries, and make a super-chilled version using this same idea.

Simple sangrias don't have to cost a lot of money

A sangria is a brilliant option for those hot and humid summer days when you want something that's equal parts cool, fruity, and refreshing. It's also a great option when you're throwing (or going to) a backyard BBQ, and if you're not? Mix it up and pop it in the fridge in a jug, and you'll have your cocktails ready to go for the week.

Sangrias are super easy and super versatile, and that means you can come up with something to suit both your taste and your budget. For the most basic sort, you'll need to pick a wine — red, white, or rose — and it can be the cheapest bottle you can find, because you're going to add enough other things that there's no reason to get even slightly fancy. Then, pick your mixer, which can be anything from orange juice to lemon-lime soda. Then, add a dash of something more boozy than wine, like rum or brandy. Finally, add a dash of fruit.

This is so, so versatile you might never go without some in your fridge again. Some ideas? Red wine, orange soda, vodka, and slices of orange. White wine, lemonade, cherry brandy, and cherries. Rose, apple juice, sherry, and apple slices. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy… and you can add that, too.

You can make mojitos on the cheap

There's a reason mojitos are so popular: they're amazing. If you only ever order them when you go out, you're missing out. Not only are they very, very tasty, but they're easy to make and take only a few ingredients that aren't going to hurt your wallet. 

A basic mojito is just white rum, simple syrup (and this is the perfect drink to use your mint-infused simple syrup), lime, soda water, and mint, served over ice. Muddle the mint leaves to get the most out of the flavor, and that's all you need to know!

Besides, maybe, how to dress up your mojitos and make them more impressive than anything you can order off a menu. If you happen to have lemongrass in your herb garden, this is the perfect way to use it — and if you don't have any growing on a windowsill, this is the reason you need to start your own plant. Just muddle your lemongrass with your mint, and it will add a whole new dimension. Adding fruit is another simple way to dress this up, and it doesn't take much. A few fresh strawberries, blackberries, or cherries and you have a stunning — and affordable — cocktail ideal for any hot and muggy evening, even if there's no beach in sight.

Big-batch ginger beer punch is a low-cost cocktail

If you're having a few friends or some family over, there's no reason to just crack open a bottle of cheap wine when you can make something amazing that's going to fill everyone's glasses without breaking the budget. How about a perfect-for-a-summer-afternoon ginger beer punch?

Start with picking up some ginger beer. Since it's alcohol-free, you can absolutely use it to make a kid-friendly mocktail if there's going to be any young ones at your gathering. Just mix it up the same as the adult version, and skip the booze.

Now, for some ideas. Ginger beer, Bud Light Lime, and lemonade. Ginger beer, orange juice, pineapple juice, and a dash of rum or flavored vodka. Ginger beer, apple juice, vanilla vodka. Ginger beer, sparkling wine, a fruity flavored vodka, and cranberry juice. Ginger beer, apple juice, cinnamon simple syrup, a lime, and dark rum. Whatever suits your taste buds.

Since ginger beer can be strong, proportions are all about how much of that ginger flavor you want, so add more or less of your ingredients to taste, until you have the perfect mix of spicy and boozy.

Rosemary-infused cocktails make use of your herb garden

Let's talk about that herb garden again, and a few simple cocktails that are so easy and so delicious that you'll want to keep some rosemary around just for them. Rosemary? Absolutely — it has such a distinctive, herbaceous flavor that it's easy to build a cocktail around a sprig, and when you're going budget, what's more budget than something you can grow yourself?

So, what should you make with your sprigs of rosemary? How about a lemontini with vodka, lemon juice, and some simple syrup. Either infuse your simple syrup with the rosemary for a fuller flavor, or — for something a little more decorative — use it as a garnish. 

There's a rosemary gimlet, too. Gin is becoming more and more popular, and the botanical flavors that usually come with it make it perfect for an herbal garnish. All you'll need for this one is gin, lime juice, and your simple syrup — again, either infused with rosemary or just use a sprig for garnish. Easy!

White wine punch serves a crowd on a budget

Whether you like your wine sweet or dry, white wine actually makes a brilliant base for punch-style cocktails. It's a super affordable way to serve up some drinks for a whole group of people, and if you're looking for a budget option to serve up at your next book club meeting, game night, or brunch, this is the way to go. 

And it's so versatile, this is one idea you can modify to use whatever you happen to find on sale or in the cupboards. Just start with a bottle of white wine (and no, it absolutely doesn't have to be an expensive one), and add your cocktail-making ingredients. What do we mean by that? Say you have a slightly dry white wine — that's perfect for pouring into a jug and adding some lemonade and blueberries, then serving up in glasses with some muddled mint. Or, what about that same wine, that same lemonade, and a few maraschino cherries? 

White wine is such a wonderful backdrop, it lends itself to any kind of fruit. Add some orange juice and a few figs, or some pineapple, strawberries, and a dash of orange liqueur, or some rose water and a few petals. It's so elegant, no one will suspect you did it all on a budget.

Basil adds tons of flavor to cocktails, and it's easy to grow yourself

Basil is a super simple herb to grow, and there's a bonus with this one, too — it has a strong smell that's nothing short of divine. What, you've never thought of including it in a cocktail? You should! 

Gin is an excellent alcohol to pair with it, as it's already got those botanical notes that are going to go so well with basil. For a quick and easy cocktail, muddle some basil in a bit of lemon juice, and add simple syrup, lime, and gin. Shake in a cocktail shaker, strain over ice, and done! You can also switch this one up pretty easily, and instead of the lime, opt for grapefruit, lemon, or pomelo. 

You can definitely swap up the alcohol on that same idea, too. Switch the gin for vodka, plain or flavored, and you've got something super easy that's sure to impress — and surprise, all while letting you stick to your weekly budget and using what you've got on hand.

Simple slushie cocktails don't hit your wallet too hard

Got a blender? Yes? Perfect. Pull it out, fill it with ice, and make some simple, refreshing slushie cocktails.

Start by picking your booze — vodka, rum, and tequila all work wonderfully with this idea, but you also shouldn't forget the possibilities of a white or rose wine, either. Then, hit the freezer section of the grocery store for those cost-effective bags of fruit. We know… frozen fruit tends to be not-so-good when it's thawed, but throw it in the blender with some ice and some alcohol and it's a total win. 

Looking for some ideas? How about a mix of frozen tropical fruits, rum, and coconut milk? Or vodka with strawberries and dragonfruit? 

Now, here's a pro tip. Since your drink is going to be super cold, that's means there's the potential for flavors to get lost. Adding some lime juice or some simple syrup will help, and it's all down to what you want to taste. If you want more sweet, add a dash more simple syrup. A bit more sour? Add some lime. Now you know!

Easy iced tea cocktails don't cost a lot

Being budget-conscious goes hand in hand with creativity, and that means checking your fridge and your cabinets to see what's already there. You have some tea bags, right? Perfect! Turn those tea bags into iced tea, and turn that tea into a cocktail. 

Simple syrup is a must for these cocktails, and if you just have some standard black tea, get it cold and sweetened, then add some lemonade and flavored vodka (of your choice) for a boozy Arnold Palmer. But there's so many different kinds of tea, you shouldn't stop there. 

If you've got orange black tea, sweeten it with honey, and add some vodka and lemon-lime soda for something fizzy, spicy, and delicious. Blackberry tea? Add rum, fresh blackberries, and some mint. Peach tea? Add lemon, mint, and a dash of honey bourbon. Or, how about taking that peach iced tea and adding some vodka, lemonade, and fresh fruit? 

Prefer green tea? Use it — with a dash of white rum, mint, simple syrup, and lime — for a dressy version of a mojito. It really is that easy — just start with your tea and build your own cocktail from there.

Sgroppino looks like an expensive cocktail, but doesn't have to be

Sgroppino is an Italian cocktail, and it's so easy you're bound to think that you're pulling one over on your guests. How easy? All you'll need is lemon sorbet, vodka, and champagne (or the much more budget-friendly prosecco). Blend, and done!

That's it. You can also swap out the sorbet for less expensive ice cream, and the plain vodka for a flavored vodka or limoncello. If you're not bothered about tradition, you could also add some elderflower cordial or some rose water. And here's a pro tip. If it doesn't seem to be mixing just right, it might be that your sorbet has too much ice in it. If that's the case, grab some heavy cream and just add a dash. Problem solved!

It's cold, creamy, and wonderful, and if you're looking for something to serve at the end of a meal, this is the cocktail for you. Sure, you'll have to serve it with a spoon, but there's nothing wrong with combining after-dinner drinks and dessert into one delicious, elegant glass.

Spiked lemonade cocktails are easy on the budget

Making a cocktail out of lemonade will probably be one of the easiest things you've ever done, and it's going to be one of the best, too — we promise. We're not even talking about fresh-squeezed lemonade, either. We're talking budget cocktails here, so just mix up some Country Time and you're good to go.

That said, what should you mix into it? If you've got a bottle of gin around, it'll go great with your lemonade — especially if you add a few slices of cucumber or some herbs out of the garden, particularly tarragon or mint. Have a can of beer in the fridge? Mix your beer and lemonade to taste, then add some simple syrup and serve over ice for a classic shandy. 

Vodka is always an easy win with lemonade, too, especially when you can add a dash of grenadine, some peach schnapps, or some fresh fruit. And if you have a bottle of tequila kicking around, add it to some lemonade along with some sea salt, and serve over ice.

Rose wine punch is a light, low-cost cocktail

Red wine is elegant, white is classy, and rose is super trendy, so when you use a bottle of it to mix up some punch you can serve up as a round of cocktails, believe us when we say it's going to be a win. And affordable? Heck yes, because there's an almost infinite number of ways you can make this one work. 

Start with a bottle of rose and a pitcher, and no, you absolutely don't need to get something pricey here. One of the easiest ways to mix up a quick punch is going to be by adding a liter of lemon-lime soda and some fruit to your rose, and just calling it a day. Completely legit and completely delicious. If you want to go farther, you can add sparkling water, and a dash of vodka instead, and serve that up over ice. 

It's perfect for blending up something extra creamy, too. Just take your rose, add some white rum, some lemon-lime soda, and sherbet. Blend — carefully — for a drink that isn't just a cocktail, it's dessert.

Sage cocktails make use of what you already have

If you think of sage, you probably think of savory and of Thanksgiving dinners. Believe it or not, sage can also be used to make a brilliant cocktail — and since it's easy to grow and smells amazing, it's also pretty much perfect for growing right in your kitchen. Plant gets too big? Just make a cocktail!

Sage's slight citrus taste makes it perfect in gin cocktails, especially when you're craving something light and refreshing. Try orange juice or lemonade, gin, simple syrup, and sage leaves, all put into a cocktail shaker, shaken (of course), then strained over ice. You could also muddle the leaves — or make a sage-infused simple syrup — and add some club soda, a dash of apple juice, lemon juice, and some vodka. 

Honey also goes brilliantly with these sage cocktails, so when you're making your simple syrup, you can use honey instead of sugar (still with equal parts water and honey), and you'll have a naturally sweet, botanical cocktail that will change the way you think about sage forever.