22 Cheap Summer Cocktails: Big-Batch Drinks to Pour Out at Your Next Party

A honey elderflower lemonade is photographed.
A honey elderflower lemonade is photographed. Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder

Making mixed drinks at home is certainly cheaper than happy hour. But the cost can add up fast if you’re serving up sips for a crowd. Fortunately, doling out a few summer cocktails at your next shindig doesn’t have to set you back financially. You can pour them straight from a pitcher and use ingredients you already have.

Make Big-Batch Summer Cocktails for Your Next Backyard Bash

The proof is in the punch. We’ve found dozens of big-batch drink recipes that won’t break the bank. Many of these easy cocktails only require three or four ingredients. You’ll cut costs further with homemade simple syrup, fresh herbs from the garden and a steady supply of homemade ice cubes.

So, step away from the cocktail shaker and join the party with pitcher cocktails that make the perfect companions for your next summer party.

22 of the Best Summer Cocktails to Shake Up on the Cheap

Choose your favorite liquor and mix up a classic summer sipper on the cheap. Our recommendations for the ideal drink focus on a recipe with fewer than five ingredients, many of which you’ll already have on hand.

Summer Cocktails With Vodka

Vodka is the base for many classic drinks because its neutral flavor profile pairs well with virtually everything.

Sea Breeze (or Bay Breeze)

Bringing a breeze to your next backyard bash is the perfect remedy for hot summer days. It’s as simple as mixing vodka with cranberry juice and garnishing with a slice of lime.

In the case of the bay breeze, you’ll add some tropical flavor with pineapple juice, while the sea breeze stays tart with just a hint of grapefruit.

A Bloody Mary is photographed
Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder

Bloody Mary

Ditch the bottle and lean into homemade bloody mary mix to cut costs. Bonus points if you dig up garnishes like parsley and fresh basil from your backyard herb garden. Bloody marys also make a great base for a DIY cocktail bar at your next outdoor brunch.

Moscow Mule

The sweet snap of ginger beer makes Moscow mules the perfect summer pitcher pour. This simple drink has just three ingredients but provides endless variations to suit your tastes all summer long.

Summer Cocktails With Tequila

Tequila is just the thing to kick off a party, but put down the shots and go for the long pour. These tequila big-batch drinks strike the perfect balance between spicy and sweet.


If you think a margarita is a frozen drink, you’re doing it wrong. These three-ingredient pitcher margaritas feature plenty of fresh lime juice and can be poured into a mason jar with a salt rim for extra flair.

You can also add fresh watermelon and orange liqueur or triple sec for the stronger taste of summer featured in this watermelon pitcher margarita recipe.

A Paloma is photographed with salt and lime in it.
Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder


Tired of margaritas? Meet your new pal, the Paloma, featuring grapefruit juice, lime juice and a splash of club soda. And if you want to spice things up, toss in some sliced jalapeños or stir up some chili lime simple syrup.

Tequila Sunrise

Contrary to popular belief, this festive drink makes a beautiful pitcher pour. Grab a jug of orange juice, some grenadine and a few orange slices, and you’re in business with a big batch of tequila sunrise.

If you can’t find five-year-old grenadine syrup haunting your cupboards, go for this classic version of a tequila sunrise instead.

Summer Cocktails With Gin

Gin is a spirit with botanical notes that shine through even the simplest adornments. These gin cocktails brim with the fresh appeal of ripened berries, plenty of herbs and an effervescence that’ll take your backyard bash to the next level.

Gin Rickey

Don’t pass up the chance to sample one of the most refreshing sips on this list. The gin rickey, sometimes called the lime rickey, starts with lime juice, gin and a generous splash of club soda or tonic water. 

But switch in berry simple syrup made with fresh strawberries or fresh blueberries, and you’ll get a rainbow of rickey possibilities like the strawberry lime rickey.

Salty Dog

If sweet sips aren’t your favorite recipe for fun, the tart grapefruit and fresh thyme in a salty dog is worth a try. Watching your blood pressure? Skip the salted rim and go with a greyhound cocktail instead.

Pimm’s Cup

Got some fresh produce or frozen berries you need to use? The beautiful gin-based Pimm’s cup is adaptable to whatever’s in the fridge. Try it topped with ginger ale and a splash of lemon juice. The history of this punch’s rise as the quintessential summer drink is also worth sampling.

Summer Cocktails With Rum

Is there anything that calls up visions of sand between your toes and palm trees as well as the sugary spice of rum? Whether you prefer dark rum, white rum or something in between, the crowd you’re serving will surely appreciate these tropical-themed summer sips.

The ingredients to make a rainbow mojito is photographed including rum and an array of fruit plus rum.
The ingredients to make a rainbow mojito. Kaz Weida/ The Penny Hoarder


A little fresh mint goes a long way in this simple mojito recipe. Mojitos also make the perfect palette to experiment with, so try a new twist with coconut cream or a variation topped with soda water like the Southside fizz.

Dark ‘n’ Stormy

You’ll ride out the storm just fine kicking back with one of these rum cocktails. The signature division that makes for such an attractive presentation in this take on a mojito is all in the preparation. Emeril Lagasse also has a celebrated pitcher recipe for a dark ‘n’ stormy.

A rum punch is photographed.
Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder

Rum Punch

Punch up the party with this rum recipe that begs to be garnished with one of those little umbrellas. And if subtle is more your style, you can turn down the volume on the fruit juice and go with one of these rum punch alternatives.

Summer Cocktails With Bourbon

Whiskey is a liquor with a reputation for smoky flavors and a serious bite, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make itself at home in your next big-batch summer cocktail.

Mint Julep

An abundance of mint leaves, plenty of ice cubes and some simple syrup combine to make this refreshing summer cocktail that has become the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby.

Not sure mint juleps will strike the right note for your shindig? You can hedge your bets with these mint julep variations.

Whiskey Sour

Put a cherry on top of this classic cocktail, and you’ll have a cheerful cup to pass around. These fresh whiskey sours from Ina Garten skip the egg white but hang onto the spirit of this tart drink. You can also soak up the sun with this strawberry lemonade version that leverages frozen strawberries for a summertime sour.

The Smash

This cocktail has so many versions that it’s hard to tell when the smash began. Regardless, the recipe is made mostly of fresh fruit of your choice, usually muddled and topped with bourbon.

Start with the blackberry bourbon smash or the peach summertime smash; no peach schnapps required.

Summer Cocktails With Wine

You can pass the bottle without passing up on cocktails. These cups feature wine-based punches and big-batch cocktails that’ll cool off your next book club meet-up.

White Wine Spritzer

Just combine a bottle of white wine with some sparkling water and fruit, and you’ve got the fixings for a white wine spritzer. You can even cut some corners and use sparkling wine to mix up a poolside pitcher of one of these creative takes on a wine spritzer.

Kalimotxo (Calimocho)

It sounds fancy, but the Basque drink kalimotxo — sometimes written as calimocho for those of us who need a pronunciation guide — is just two ingredients: red wine and Coca-Cola.

And if you’re wondering about the genius with impeccable taste who came up with this idea, the Spanish have been sipping kalimotxo since the1920s.

Two glasses of strawberry lemon pomegranate summer sangria is photographed.
A strawberry lemon pomegranate summer sangria is photographed. Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder


No list of summertime big-batch cocktails would be complete without sangria, the star of every backyard bash. Traditional sangria uses red wine, but many adaptations use white wine or sparkling wine.

Summer Cocktails With Champagne

Bottoms up to a refreshing drink featuring champagne. Pop the top off a bottle and let a pitcher of these bubbly beauties steal the show at your next summer party.


Traditionally, this Italian cocktail relies on Prosecco, peaches and a dash of raspberry liquor to deliver a less mainstream take on a brunch mimosa. But fruity bellinis can take many forms and will adapt to whatever is in your fridge.

Aperol Spritz

Another Italian cocktail, the champagne-based Aperol spritz, also relies on Prosecco but ditches the peaches in favor of the rhubarb-flavored aperitif Aperol. You may recall Aperol was in short supply a few years back but has since returned to store shelves (with a hike in price).

A French 75 is photographed
Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder

French 75

Italians aren’t the only ones who combine champagne and cocktails. Say bon appetite to the French 75, featuring champagne, gin, lemon juice and sugar. And, if this sip is too simple for your taste, the blood orange version earns rave reviews.

Summer Cocktails With Beer

We’d be remiss not to include at least one big-batch cocktail that lets beer find a spot at your next backyard barbecue.

Summer Shandy

A shandy is any cocktail that combines lemonade and beer. If that sounds suspect, you should try this take on a summer shandy, which throws strawberry lemonade and tequila into the mix. You can brew your own or mix your favorite beer with lemonade for a tasty treat. Paper parasol required.

Create a DIY Bar with These 3 Classic Cocktails

Part of the joy of pitcher drinks is helping the host or hostess enjoy the party hands-free. However, you don’t need big-batch cocktails to stay cheap. These ideas for DIY cocktail bars leave the mixing (and the fixings) to the guests.

Gin and Tonic

The beauty of a basic gin and tonic is that it’s the perfect springboard. For a summer cocktail crowd, slice up some citrus for a simple but charming gin and tonic bar.


Don’t banish mimosas to brunch. Baby showers and afternoon meetups are still the perfect place to put together a mimosa bar.


These old-school sippers don’t automatically conjure summer, but an old-fashioned DIY cocktail bar featuring seasonal bitters and fruit is a great solution for bourbon aficionados.

3 Budget Mocktails to Throw into the Mix

Don’t drink alcohol? No problem. Cutting the cost of liquor means these mocktails come out the winner for cheap sips to stay cool this summer.


Lemonade sounds boring, but it doesn’t have to be. Skip the lemonade or limeade concentrate and go for fresh citrus with rosemary, peach, basil and kiwi to make a stellar batch of lemonade.

A sherbert punch is photographed against a blue background.
Kaz Weida/The Penny Hoarder

Sherbert Punch

Have dreams of lovely drinks piled high with whipped cream? Try sherbert punch. Dropping in some scoops of rainbow sherbet will make your punchbowl pretty as a picture.

Arnold Palmer

Iced tea and lemonade mixed together? Nothing could be more suggestive of summertime than that. But make sure you get the ratio right for this classic pitcher drink.

Kaz Weida is a former senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.