The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode Thirty Seven
Making your own Cocktails is an expensive hobby. Here are our best tips for getting the most from your bar without breaking the bank!
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In today’s Episode…
We’re talking about ways to keep the bar budget under control, while still having the ingredients and tools you need to make the drinks you like!
Frugal Bar Tips:
First of all, it’s important to note that alcohol prices vary a lot depending on where you live. Within the US, different states have different distribution laws and taxes, so some places can be a lot more expensive than others.
1. Don’t hoard the booze: Stick to what you like
It’s pretty unfortunate that the main ingredient for your cocktails is the most expensive one but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and make use of what you have.
- Keep your ingredients simple and try not to invest in things that are hard to find, unless you will use them frequently
- Don’t “Stock Your Bar.” Master the cocktails you like – don’t buy everything “just in case” someone visits.
- Feel free to update seasonally, but resist the urge to buy everything! (I know, it’s tough!)
2. Saving Money on Base spirits
When we say “Base spirits” we’re referring to the ingredients that typically make up most of your drink’s volume. Things like Tequila, Gin, etc. For the most part, you won’t need a specific brand of product for any given cocktail recipe.
- Buy what’s on Sale. (This can make a huge difference!)
- Some big bulk stores like Costco can have more affordable prices, but don’t buy in bulk if it means you’ll drink it all! Resist the urge to use your ingredients faster just because you have a bigger bottle. (Because trust me, that does not save money!)
- Find yourself a local liquor store with a knowledgeable staff. Talk to them about what you’re buying – you may be able to make better buying decisions and avoid buying a product you’re not going to like.
- Go to local (free, if possible) tasting events. This is a sure-fire way to know if you’ll like what you’re buying, and a great way to meet other cocktail enthusiasts.
3. Saving Money on Modifiers (Liqueurs, Aperitifs, Vermouths, etc.)
These are ingredients where recipes are more likely to call for a specific brand. (For example, Cointreau, Cardamaro, or Fernet Branca.)
- Watch out – this is where most people spend the most money!
- “Google” possible alternatives if you don’t have a specific brand of aperitif in hand (the results may not always be perfect, but giving it a try won’t hurt)
- If you’re interested in learning more about ingredient substitutions and the art of cocktail design check out our Mixology classes page here.
Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning it has higher alcohol content than wine and lower than most liqueurs and spirits. This means an open bottle will keep longer than wine, but much shorter than, say, Vodka.
- Keep open bottles of Vermouth in the fridge, and try to consume within 3 months.
- Consider buying a smaller bottle if it helps you finish the bottle in 3 months.
- Here’s that hugely nerdy (but really awesome) Vermouth article we mentioned.
4. Fresh Ingredients
Many cocktail ingredients nowadays require “fresh” ingredients, usually citrus. Unfortunately, that word “fresh” means you can’t just store your limes in the fridge forever. So how can you save money on your fresh ingredients?
- Buy fruit (including citrus) when it’s in season. It’ll typically be much less expensive.
- Only used part of a lemon or lime? Store it in the fridge with this Citrus Saver Thingy. (We have one, it is awesome!)
- If you’ve stocked up on citrus when it was on sale / in season, go ahead and juice it all. Freeze the juice in ice cube trays for future use. It won’t taste as good, but it’ll keep for months and months in the freezer!
- No fresh lemons / limes? Skip zesting and use an atomizer to spritz your drinks with lemon or lime extract instead.
- The ultimate frugal hack: a green thumb! Mature citrus trees can produce fruit year round (depending on where you live.) If you can keep a lemon or lime tree alive where you live, this is a great way to get inexpensive citrus!
If you’re just starting out, you really don’t need to invest in a fancy bar set. (Check out our “Bar Hacks” Podcast episode!) But if you do want something to get started with, you can find very reasonable and complete sets on the web for not a lot of money. Here’s a good well-rated set that’s less than $20 and more than enough to get started.
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Thanks for Listening!
Have you had awkward moments in the “real world” thanks to your hospitality past? Tell us your stories in the comments, it would make us feel SO much better if there are other people with these issues… ha!