The best cheap mixed drinks to order at a bar

It's easy to run up a hefty bar tab if you're not careful. Premium drinks and high-end wines can easily go for $15 a pop, and we never seem to be able to order just one when we're out with friends. Before you know it, the bar tab exceeds your budget, and you might have to pick up a $5 fast food meal on your way home for dinner. Luckily, we know a few ways to make sure you don't end up there without having to ask the bartender for whatever's cheapest — that's definitely one of those things you should never do at a bar. If you really want to drink on the cheap, beer (especially draft beer) is likely the best deal. That said, you can still find some mixed drinks at your price point if you're in the mood for a cocktail. 

You'll get the bar's best pricing during happy hour, but don't be afraid to ask the bartender what's on special once happy hour ends. No matter what you do, stay away from drinks with multiple alcohilic ingredients (especially if they contain more than one liquor you've never heard of before) and try to order from the well — the cheapest booze behind the bar. If you don't know how to get started, try ordering one of these cheap mixed drinks. They taste delicious, and they won't break the bank, either. As always, drink responsibly and have your Uber app ready to get you home safely.

Rum and Coke

Rum is a great liquor to order when you're looking to drink on the cheap. White rum is made from sugarcane or sugar byproducts like molasses, so it tastes as sweet as toasted sugar. The more expensive versions are aged in barrels to bring out rum's more subtle and complex flavors, but regular old white rum is a great option for an inexpensive drink. Add it to a mixer as strongly-flavored as Coca-Cola, and you can mix in the cheapest rum at the bar; you won't be able to taste the difference.

A standard rum and coke has anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2 ounces of alcohol, which is the equivalent of one beer or a glass of wine. That means it's not the strongest drink at the bar, but it does go down easy, so sip slowly if you want to make it last. It's also important to note that Coke does contain caffeine. If you're trying to avoid those late-night caffeine jitters, try mixing rum with soda water, ginger beer, or pineapple juice instead.

Mojito

Mojitos are ridiculously delicious because they're super simple in concept but complex in flavor. They're made by crushing refreshing mint leaves to bring out their essential oils. Mix that with citrusy lime, a pinch of sugar, and white rum. Top it off with crushed ice and soda water, and it creates a thirst-quenching drink that's perfect on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, this is one of those drinks that will make the bartender hate you (they're kind of a pain to make), but the mint and lime has so much flavor that this drink will taste fantastic even if you use inexpensive rum

We would be remiss if we didn't offer a disclosure on the mojito: If you're at a dive bar, you'll want to skip this one. This is one of those cocktails that requires really fresh ingredients to taste great, so you may want to ask the bartender if they have fresh mint and lime behind the bar. According to Money, mint only lasts about a week, and you might end up with bacteria from spoiled mint in your drink if the bar doesn't go through it quickly enough.

Vodka cranberry (aka the Cape Codder)

Vodka is a great base spirit for anyone on a budget. Since vodka doesn't have much of a taste to begin with, you can use inexpensive options when pairing this spirit with strong mixers. Something like cranberry juice is perfect because it has a bold and assertive flavor. This drink is also known as the Cape Codder because of the abundance of cranberry bogs in Massachusetts. It's easy enough to make — just fill a glass with ice, add vodka and cranberry juice, and garnish with a wedge of lime.

Pure cranberry juice can be bitter, but it also happens to be really healthy; you'll get a boost of antioxidants with each drink. If the flavor is too strong for your liking, ask the bartender to add a splash of soda water. You could always order it the other way around, too: Ask for a vodka soda with a splash of cranberry. It's a lower-carb option, and it'll taste better than vodka and soda alone.

Old Fashioned

If you're in the mood for whiskey, bourbon, or rye, look to the Old Fashioned. It's a simple drink made with whiskey, sugar, bitters, and water, but it will make inexpensive whiskeys taste significantly better than ordering them on the rocks. It's also a good drink to sip slowly, so you can drink one for every two beers your friends order. If you want to make the drink go a little further, ask the bartender to use crushed ice instead of a giant cube. It'll melt more quickly and water down the drink. You could also ask for a splash of soda water, too, if the flavor is too strong for your liking.

Traditionally, an Old Fashioned is made with a sugar cube dotted with a few drops of Angostura bitters. If you add a splash of water and crush the cube with a cocktail muddler, it will completely dissolve into the whiskey. Today, many bars use simple syrup instead of a sugar cube because it's easier to incorporate into the drink, preventing any gritty sips. No matter what you do, don't ruin this cocktail by asking for sugar substitutes like Splenda or Stevia; the sugar's purpose is to balance out the spicy alcohol flavor, and the cocktail just won't taste the same with artificial substitutes.

Seven and Seven

The Seven and Seven is one of those drinks that will taste exactly the same, no matter where you order it. It's simple in flavor because it's made with only two ingredients, so it drinks as easy as a Jack and Coke or gin and tonic. You'll also find the components at almost every bar you visit: Seagram's 7 Crown Blended Whiskey and 7Up soda. Mix them together, serve it over ice, and garnish it with a lime wedge to create a sparkling whiskey drink that's ridiculously refreshing.

The pairing has been a classic since the '70s because it's so easy to make. It doesn't hurt that the sweet flavor of 7Up covers up the mediocre flavor of the blended whiskey, too. American blended whiskeys are so inexpensive because they only have to contain 20 percent whiskey; the rest can be made up of neutral grain spirits, colorings, and flavorings. That makes Seagram's a go-to whiskey for buget-seekers, but the company doesn't seem to be bothered by this reputation. In fact, they embraced the divey nature of this cocktail by launching National Dive Bar Day on July 7, 2018 (Get it: 7 and 7?).

Gin and tonic

Gin has a love-it-or-hate-it kind of reputation. Some people dig its citrusy, piney flavor and aroma while others find drinking it to be akin to chewing on a handful of pine needles. If you're not a gin fan, you'll want to skip right past this drink; there's really no covering up gin's assertive flavor by mixing it with the eclectic flavors in tonic water. You could always order a vodka tonic, but the gin and tonic is one of our favorite cheap mixed drinks to order at a bar. 

There are some great gin brands out there, and most of them won't break the bank like tequila or whiskey. Many bars use New Amsterdam as their well gin, which is not only super inexpensive but it's also an award-winning gin. It received excellent scores from Beverage Testing Institute and Wine Enthusiast, and it also earned medals at San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Mix a gin like this with the bitter-sweet flavors of tonic water, add in a spritz of fresh lime, and you'll be drinking on the cheap all night long.

Moscow mule

If you notice any copper mugs behind the bar, you should do yourself a favor and order up a Moscow mule. Believe it or not, the mug itself is actually an integral ingredient in this inexpensive cocktail. When it's not served in copper, a Moscow Mule is just a refreshing combination of vodka, ginger beer, and lime. Put it all together in a copper mug with crushed ice, and this drink becomes legendary. The copper keeps the drink extra cold, chilling your lips from the moment you take a sip. It also keeps the ginger beer as fizzy as possible, as cold temps help carbon dioxide bubbles stay in suspension.

Like other inexpensive vodka drinks, the flavor of the ginger beer can cover up the lackluster flavor of cheap vodka, so sip away without blowing your budget. The other great thing about a Moscow mule is it's often featured during happy hour, so this inexpensive drink can become even more affordable if you time it out right.

Margarita

Margaritas might be featured at Mexican restaurants, but almost every bar you visit has everything they need to whip up this classic drink. You don't need to be drinking top-shelf tequila with fancy additions like Grand Marnier to make a margarita taste great, either. There are a ton of cheap tequilas out there. If you choose one that's made with 100 percent agave (like Milagro or Sauza), you'll save a ton of money and still get a great tasting drink. Keep in mind that many people find that "mixto" tequilas that aren't made with pure agave (like Jose Cuervo Gold) can lead to headaches the next day, so you'll have to decide for yourself if it's really worth it to go super cheap here.  

If you happen to be at a bar with fresh lime juice, all the better. Margaritas are often made with sours mix, a concoction made from sugar and citrus juice. Unfortunately, commercial sours mix also has a ton of additives and preservatives, and it can taste cloyingly sweet. If your bartender mixes up your margarita with real lime juice and a splash of simple syrup, that cheap marg will taste so much better.

Cosmo

A Cosmopolitan cocktail sounds fancy, and it definitely looks the part, too. It contains a splash of cranberry juice that turns the drink a vibrant pink color, and it looks super elegant served up in a martini glass. You would think a drink like this would only be affordable for socialites, but we'll let you in on a little secret: it's not that expensive to make. Bars can get away with using inexpensive vodka because you can't taste the difference, so you may as well order it with the well vodka. 

Although this drink has been around for a while, it was made famous by HBO's Sex in the City. We can almost guarantee that Samantha was drinking top-shelf liquor in her cosmo, but that doesn't mean you have to! Ask the bartender to make the drink with well vodka instead of the expensive citrus varieties, and use triple-sec instead of Cointreau. By the time it's mixed with lime and cranberry juices, you won't be able to tell the difference.

Daiquiri

When you think of a daiquiri, you probably think of the frozen slushy varieties served up poolside at exotic beach resorts. The classic version of this cocktail couldn't be further from the frozen variety, and it can be made on the cheap, too. Most drinks that use rum as their base are a great target for budget cocktails. Even the inexpensive bottles taste sweet and delicious, and there are a ton of value rums that taste more expensive than they actually are. 

A classic daiquiri is the perfect way to feature rum because it's so simple. The bar only needs three ingredients to pull it off: white rum, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup. Most establishments serve the drink up in coupe glass so it looks fancy, but you can always ask for it on the rocks to make it last longer. We'll leave you with a word of warning about this drink: It's really easy to fall in love with the sweet-and-tangy flavor of a classic Daiquiri. So be sure to sip slowly to make your drink last!

Dark 'n Stormy

Most of the rum drinks on this list feature white rum, so we wanted to change things up by talking about a dark rum drink: the Dark 'n Stormy. This simple cocktail is made with two ingredients, but it tastes complex enough to be named Bermuda's unofficial drink. Unlike its light counterpart, dark rum is deep and rich with a stronger flavor. It's still sweet, but it tastes a lot more like molasses and caramel, and it has a spiced flavor that's reminiscent of cloves. 

To make a Dark 'n Stormy, dark rum is mixed with ginger beer and served over ice. It's traditionally made with Bermuda-made Gosling's Black Seal Rum. This is definitely an affordable option, so there's really no reason to diverge unless the bar has a less expensive aged rum. If the bar happens to be out of ginger beer and you were really in the mood for this drink, ask for a dark rum and coke. You could also order a daiquiri made with dark rum; it'll be more complex than the original, but in a good way.

Mimosa

Mimosas are one of the best cocktails to whip up for brunch, but it's not unheard of to order one in the evening. In fact, when mimosas were originally introduced in the United States, they were served at nightclubs to help people cool off after a long night of dancing. It wasn't long before they became a brunch favorite because they're easy to drink and just as simple to make; it's just equal parts orange juice and Champagne.

Champagne doesn't exactly have a reputation for being cheap, but most restaurants aren't using the expensive stuff to make a mimosa anyway. The experts at VinePair actually advise against using pricey bottles. Once you mix it with sweet and tangy orange juice, you won't be able to taste the expensive bubbles anyway. That means you can order a mimosa with less-expensive Prosecco or Cava. This is one of those drinks that's worth asking the bartender if they have any specials, too. If the bartender had any leftover bubbles from brunch service, you may be able to get this drink at a great value.

Southern Comfort and lime

Southern Comfort is a New Orleans-made liquor inspired by an 1874 recipe. It's not quite a bourbon, and it's not quite a whiskey; in fact, it's actually a bottled cocktail. North American whiskey is blended with citrus, honey, and spices to make a whiskey drink that's sippable straight out of the glass — no mixers required. Add in fresh lime juice, though, and you have yourself a mixed drink that tastes fantastic and won't break the bank.

SoCo and lime is also a popular shooter, so make sure to ask for it as a cocktail. You can also ask for a classic daiquiri made with Southern Comfort instead of rum, which would be slightly sweeter but still quite delicious. Don't be afraid to mix Southern Comfort with other mixers, either. The base liquor is really inexpensive, so it's a great choice when ordering cheap mixed drinks. Try mixing with cranberry juice and soda water, lemonade, or iced tea. It also makes a great play on a Jack and Coke; it has a sweeter flavor than regular whiskey, but it still pairs well with the bold flavors of Coca-Cola.