22 Cheap Summer Cocktails: Big-Batch Drinks to Pour Out at Your Next Party
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. Liquor, beer and wine are always the biggest budget busters, but you can also spend a lot on garnishes, mixers and fancy liqueurs.
Fortunately, serving up a few drinks at your next summer shindig doesn’t have to set you back financially. Because the best summer drinks for your next party can be poured straight from a pitcher and use ingredients you already have in the fridge or pantry.
Make a Big-Batch Summer Cocktail 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 less than five ingredients, many of which you’ll already have on hand.
Summer Cocktails With Vodka
Vodka is the base for many a classic drink 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.
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.
Fun fact: You can buy liquor at Costco in some states without a membership.
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.
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.
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 shines 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 next level.
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 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.
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.
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, 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.
Looking to save on fresh produce this summer? Try these tips for cutting costs while you fill your cart this season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This cocktail has so many versions that it’s hard to tell when the smash began. Regardless, the recipe is mostly a lot of fresh fruit of your choice, usually muddled and topped with bourbon.
Imperfect peaches are still delicious. See how leaning into ugly produce can help you save money on groceries.
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.
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.
Make sure the sangria doesn’t empty your savings account with our recommendations for wine under $15 a bottle.
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.
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.
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.
Champagne is the big-ticket cost in these cocktails, so check out our favorite bottles of bubbly under $15.
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.
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. 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 stellar lemonade.
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.
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 senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering saving money and budgeting. As a journalist, she has written about a wide array of topics including finance, health, politics, education, and technology for the last decade.