It would be hard, but if I had to pick my very favorite thing about summer, it would probably be hanging out by the pool with friends and family, enjoying the weather, the water and each other’s company.
And I’d be lying if I didn’t say an ice-cold libation completes the picture perfectly.
But if you’re on a budget — and you don’t want to play bartender all day — that summery Solo cup can pose some problems.
Drinking is expensive, even at home — especially if you want to do it well. Of course, you could always go the Bud Light route, or grab a giant bottle of over-sweetened “sangria.”
But if you’re looking for something a little more fun that still won’t break the bank, there is one solution. (Get it?)
Why You Should Seriously Consider Batch Cocktails This Summer
I could spend a whole afternoon ogling batch cocktails online. (Actually, that’s exactly what I just did to write this post. I love my job.)
What I’m saying is, they’re pretty.
I don’t know what it is, but put any drink in a bowl or pitcher and it’s suddenly a party.
They’re also delicious, and an instant way to class up any summer barbecue.
Plus, everything’s done ahead of time, so no one has to play party barkeep. Trust me: The job seems fun for an hour, but quickly shows its diminishing returns — unless, of course, you’re practicing to become a professional.
Also, I mean, they’re batch cocktails. Do I really need to sell you on this?
6 Summer Drink Recipes You Can Make in Bulk
If you’ve ever spent way too much time on Pinterest fantasizing about a delicious recipe, boozy or otherwise, you may have run into a familiar scenario: needing a small amount of a weird ingredient you’ll probably never use again.
Batch cocktails are famous for this — just ask the almost-full bottle of elderflower liqueur in my cabinet.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
We found six refreshing, summery batch cocktails and punches made of familiar ingredients you already either already have or will easily use again.
So break out grandma’s best punch bowl and get ready to get refreshed — just remember, no glass in the pool!
Sangria is awesome because it’s so versatile — and all that fruit looks luscious in a pitcher.
If you have wine, fruit and any kind of liquor at all in your home, you have all the makings of this classic summer sipper.
And sangria couldn’t be simpler to make. Mix together stuff that sounds delicious; make sure one component is alcoholic; apply time; drink. We love this easy and traditional sangria from Dana at Minimalist Baker.
And since Spanish wines offer some of the best value on the market, you can definitely make this baby for less than $15 — you can find a decent bottle in the one-digit price range.
If you don’t have brandy, use whatever booze you do have on hand — or just skip it and drink deliciously fruity wine!
Want to make a sweet wine punch without going in for the cost of produce?
Apparently, mixing red wine and cola is a thing. A delicious, sugary, perfect-to-beat-the-July-heat thing.
Since you’re pouring all that sweetness into your wine, you don’t have to worry about getting something fancy — you won’t taste the difference. Time for one of those two-for-$8 bottles!
Spoon Fork Bacon’s recipe makes three to four servings, but you could easily scale it for more. Garnish with some frozen table grapes, or just keep it simple with big ol’ ice cubes.
3. Beer Punch
Full disclosure: I don’t like beer.
But lots of people do. And a huge part of the reason why? It’s pretty darn cheap, and you can drink a decent amount of it without having to call it a night.
So it makes a great base for a punch, like this grapefruit-y version from Real Simple. If you don’t have gin on hand, try vodka or tequila. Experiment and use what you have!
Who knows? Dressed up with fruit juice, maybe even I’d like a cold brew.
4. Spiked Lemonade
It simply does not get more “summer” than this drink.
Whether you’re using fresh lemon juice or the pink powdery stuff, if you’ve already got lemonade in mind this summer, why not add vodka? To make it pretty for a party, just add a few lemon wedges or wheels.
Voila! A classy cocktail that still looks innocent.
The best part is, this concoction is a super-cheap option. That’s because cheap vodka is the best cheap liquor you can buy.
Due to its distilling methods and other technical stuff, cheap vodka is a lot closer to expensive vodka than cheap whiskey is to, say, Scotch. Vodka is supposed to taste like nothing. The idea is to distill all its flavors out.
So as long as you’re not buying far down enough on the shelf to get a cheaply made batch whose impurities give you a pounding headache the next day, vodka is vodka.
Just look for the cheapest thing that says “triple distilled” and go with that — it’s pretty much the same as the ultra-expensive stuff, and you’re only looking at about $15-$20.
Another great option? Gin, which is basically vodka with an herbal infusion.
Check out Budget Bytes’ Gin Cooler, which features lemonade and cucumber. YUM. Plus, she even priced it out for you: $1.60 a serving. Multiply and serve up in your favorite punchbowl to keep the cheap, delicious drinks flowing.
Or you could always skip the vodka altogether and just go back to plan A: Add wine to everything. Check out this sangria lemonade, which I am probably making this weekend.
5. Black Tea Punch
If you have tea bags, sugar, soda, lemon and booze, you can make Delish’s “WTF? Punch.” And if you don’t, none of the ingredients cost more than a few bucks — with the exception of the hooch, of course.
I don’t get the name, because there’s nothing “WTF?” at all about spiked sweet, black tea to me. Then again, I did grow up in the South — which is why I’d probably go ahead and throw lemonade into the mix as well.
6. Literally Any Two- or Three-Ingredient Cocktail
I know, this feels like cheating.
But seriously, just making the drinks ahead of time in a pitcher will make your life easier, and make you seem way more put together. Plus, you can use whatever you have on hand — there are way more two- and three-ingredient cocktails than I’d thought.
Try a simple margarita — just lime juice, agave and tequila — or mix it up and try a paloma instead (switch your lime juice for grapefruit, or mix both)!
You could make Moscow mules, Cuba libres or even create your own concoction from what’s available. Just be sure to taste test a smaller portion with the same ratios before you dump everything in the bowl!
To elevate it from a drink to a cocktail, just add simple garnishes — citrus wheels work wonders for presentation.
No matter what, use what you’ve got. While buying herbs is almost never economical, if you have a mint plant, make juleps or mojitos. It’s summer, and huge packs of berries are on sale. What drink wouldn’t benefit from their addition? Go crazy.
If you want to really push the envelope, brighten up a simple, classic mix by infusing or flavoring your own liquors.
We love Brandon Matzek’s salted tarragon greyhound (and not just because two TPH staffers have greyhounds of the four-legged variety).
By bringing your spice cabinet into the mix, you can create completely new flavors — without spending a dime on a fancy flavored vodka you’ll never use again.
And to me, at least, tarragon vodka sounds a whole lot better than cotton candy vodka, or whatever else they’re hocking these days.
Want Even More Ways to Save Money This Summer?
Summer’s about more than just backyard soirees — although they are a big deal.
But we have tons of ways to help you save money this summer, even if a pool party is the last thing on your mind.
And if you’re looking to make money instead of just save it this summer, check out these excellent side gigs. Cheers!
Your Turn: Will you make any of these batch cocktails at your next summer get-together?
Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder who really, really likes a good cocktail. Her writing has also been featured at Word Riot, DMQ Review, Hinchas de Poesia and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.