Now that University seems nothing more than a hazy dream that I can barely recollect, and all my friends are buying houses, getting married, or saving their pennies to ‘invest in the future’, I feel that the concept of ‘having a cheap night in’ has irrevocably changed.
It’s no longer acceptable to pour every available spirit in the house into a bucket, adding a 2l bottle of own brand lemonade to mask the taste, and then ending the night asleep behind the sofa with the bucket on your head. Not only is it not really acceptable it’s also (shock, horror) no longer that desirable! ;)
When I invite my friends over for cocktails I want to make a drink I enjoy and can take my time drinking. Sadly, cocktails tend to be pushing my budget a bit when I go out, (anything that isn’t a pint of cider or a small glass of house red is pushing my budget to be honest with you), but I’ve found that they can actually be an incredibly cost effective and fun thing to do with your friends when you get together for a night in.
I have five golden rules that have steered me right so far…
1. Learn to make a cocktail you love with each base spirit
This is my tip-top tip, because if you have a cocktail up your sleeve for each different base spirit then you are not tied into buying only a certain type of alcohol at the supermarket. This means you are free to buy whatever spirit is on sale when you go shopping.
2. Don’t skimp on the extra bits
By this I mean the syrups, the juices, and the slices of fruit. There’s a good reason for this, and it’s not just about adding the extra touches to make the drink that much more ‘special’ (although this is also true). It’s actually because nothing masks the flavour of a cheap glass of wine or shot of rum better than a good fruit syrup or squeeze of lime juice! I’ve learnt this the hard way.
3. Learn to love a long drink
You might be a dry martini girl (or boy) at heart, but they go down too smoothly and too quickly! If you’re looking for your money’s worth look at long drinks; Gin and tonic, whiskey and ginger, or sangria. All relatively easy to make, not too many ingredients, and can be sipped slowly and enjoyed. You drink fewer of them and they go further!
4. Prosecco is always ok. Always.
OK, hands up, this is very much a personal preference; but prosecco is the queen of all drinks and is great in every cocktail, all the time. Any cocktail that tells you that you need champagne is lying. You can get a nice bottle of prosecco for around six quid and in my opinion it tastes just as good in cocktails. I substitute it to make a cheaper version of a champagne cocktail; still tastes delicious. I add it to pimms in the summer to make it slightly more special. I even add a dash of it to limoncello and add lots of ice.
Just trust me on this.
5. Make cocktails with few ingredients
A great way to keep the costs down is to make a cocktail with few ingredients. By keeping it simple you also keep the flavours cleaner. A curl of cucumber in your Gin and Tonic is all this simple drink needs. Or try a caipirinha; arguably the simplest cocktail ever, with just rum, sugar, and lime. A poor man’s Kir Royale is also a winner. A glass of prosecco with a dash of Kir looks fancy and the cost is negligible.
At the end of the day, no one can tell you what to drink or how to drink it. It’s your night in, your budget, and they’re your friends. You don’t need to spend a fortune; mixing all these drinks together is almost as much fun as drinking them anyway!