21 Ways To Make Cheap Liquor Taste Better

The poor student’s guide to mixology.

In college, two things are certain: finals, and that the liquor will have to be cheap.

Oh no.

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These cocktails are some of the best for making bottom shelf, throat-burning alcohol taste great.

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1. Make a Moscow mule with ginger ale instead of ginger beer.

The real version of this drink is vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice. BUT, ginger beer can be expensive. Ginger ale will be key to deadening the senseless violence that is cheap vodka without emptying your wallet. Instructions here.

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2. Make a white Russian with coffee creamer instead of Kahlua and cream.


Mix vodka, hazelnut or amaretto-flavored liquid coffee creamer (Coffee-Mate makes both), and a slice of lime. Typically this is made with Kahlua coffee liqueur, which is great but not the cheapest. Any flavored sweet cream will accomplish the job of taking all of the attention away from the booze.

Garnish with froot loops if you want to add some whimsy. Instructions here.

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3. Make a slip ‘n’ slide with cherry vodka, lemonade, and lots of lime juice.

Cherry vodka (Burnett’s works great), limeade or lemonade, and a lime slice. While flavored cheap vodka can be brutal alone, it really calms down when you add some fresh citrus. Instructions here.

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4. Harness the power of pineapple juice with a hole in one.

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Raspberry vodka, Mountain Dew, pineapple juice, Redbull, and a lemon. You can mix it to your taste, but it should be around 1 part Mountain Dew, 1 part Redbull, 2 parts pineapple, and 2 parts vodka. The name says it all. Instructions here.

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5. Combine cheap rum with apple juice and pineapple juice to make the apple pie.

If you have it, substitute the rum and pineapple for Malibu, but you’ll have a tasty tropical cocktail either way. Get the recipe.

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6. Rum + ginger ale + lime = poor man’s dark and stormy

Another cocktail that’s technically made with ginger beer, but that’s up to you. Instructions here.

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7. Make a hurricane — and DIY the grenadine if you want.

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Of the many rum punches out there, this is probably the most foolproof. Mix any rum you have on hand with orange juice, pineapple juice, a little bit of grenadine, and squeezed lime. Grenadine is actually pretty cheap, but if you don’t want to buy it you can make it with just sugar, pomegranate juice, and lemon. More instructions here and here.

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8. Make a Singapore sling with gin, Sprite, and grenadine.

Theoretically, this drink is made with gin, grenadine syrup, sweet and sour mix, club soda, and cherry brandy. More realistically, you can mix gin, Sprite, and grenadine to achieve the same effect on a budget. And again, you can easily make your own grenadine. Instructions here.

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9. Make a gin bucket.

Valerie Shaindlin / Via

For this you’ll need cheap gin, a collection of different citrus fruits (limes, lemons, and oranges), Sprite or Squirt soda, a pan or bucket, and a turkey baster. It’s perfect for summer parties, and there’s so much sugary citrus flavor to cover the plastic bottle gin taste that you’ll think you’re drinking a Capri Sun.

One of many recipes here.

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10. Combine cheap gin with ginger ale and lots of lime juice.

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Ginger ale, gin, and a shot of lime juice. Ginger makes the magic happen.

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11. Make a salty dog.

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Gin, grapefruit juice, and sparkling water. Typically, this doesn’t include the soda water, but I find that adding seltzer to most citrus drinks improves them drastically.

Instructions here.

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12. Combine SoCo and peach schnapps to make the Georgia peach.

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This drink is just Southern Comfort and peach schnapps. Both ingredients are pretty good on their own, so this drink is very strong and very delicious.

Instructions here.

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13. Mix hard cider with Fireball to make a ciderball.

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But also, Fireball plus really anything.

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14. Manhattan

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About 3 parts bourbon, 1 part sweet vermouth, and a dash of the Angostura bitters. Admittedly this one’s a little pricey, but bitters and vermouth aren’t that expense, actually, and you can impress your friends with this drink without having to buy expensive bourbon because the vermouth and bitters do all the work.

Instructions here.

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15. Mix tequila with lots of grapefruit juice and club soda.

To be specific: 1 part lime juice, 2 parts grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed ideally), 2 parts tequila, 3 parts club soda, and a spoonful of sugar. SO GOOD. Be generous with the citrus in all of the tequila drinks. Instructions here.

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16. Make a Mayan mule.

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Two parts tequila, 3 parts ginger ale (or ginger beer if you can pony up), a spritz of lime juice, and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. This one is great because it doesn’t mask the flavors of tequila but enhances the ones you actually want to taste while killing the burn. Instructions here.

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17. Mix tequila with lemon juice and soda for a Juan Collins.

Three parts tequila, 6 parts club soda, 1 part lemon juice, a spoonful of sugar, and a squeeze of lime. Refreshing and summery. Instructions here.

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18. Make a tequila sunrise the easy way.

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This drink can be made in two ways: The first requires tequila, crème de cassis, lime juice, and soda water, and thus, is more difficult. The simple recipe just requires mixing tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup.

Instructions here.

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19. Franzia Sangria

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Perhaps the easiest and cheapest sangria in history, this just requires Franzia burgundy, Sprite, orange juice, and a couple of Dole fruit cups (or real fruit if you’re feeling more ambitious).

Instructions here.

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20. The Brass Monkey

Take a 40, drink about a third of it (down to the label), and fill the rest with orange juice. The worst part, by far, is drinking the first third of the 40 by itself. Straw recommended.

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21. Long Island Ice Tea

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This one kind of stands on its own because it neutralizes the taste of cheap liquor by adding more kinds of cheap liquor. Put in 1 shot each of rum, gin, tequila, vodka, triple sec, and lemon juice. Then fill the rest with Coke. A more comprehensive recipe here.

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5 Cheap Pantry Essentials to Help Battle the Burn

You’ve probably noticed a pattern here. These mixers are your best friends when it comes mixing up cheap booze. The final three are worthwhile purchases that you can use for a ton of drinks and can find at many liquor, grocery, and discount retail stores.

1. Citrus juice: A juiced lime, lemon, grapefruit will work wonders no matter how much you spent on the liquor.
2. Seltzer water: Fizzy is better.
3. Grenadine: Not expensive, and easy to make at home.
4. Sweet Vermouth: A fortified wine that is infused with a ton of herbs, spices, flowers, and various other things. It tastes like class.
5. Bitters: A quick trick for many Bourbon and Whiskey drinks is to just add Angostura bitters. A bottle of bitters is fairly affordable (about $10 for a 4-ounce bottle) and lasts for a long time if you just add a couple dollops each time.

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Please frat responsibly.

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