Cocktails on a Budget

Image Credit: Hayford Peirce, Wikimedia Commons

Cocktails are delicious, alcoholic, and expensive. Nathan Young wonders if they can be enjoyed, on a student’s budget.

Drinking cocktails is a damn fine activity. Cocktail drinkers look suave, sophisticated, and sexy. Cocktails themselves taste delicious and get you tipsy. All-round it’s a win-win. That is until you check your bank balance, and realise that great aunty Susi doesn’t budget for your attempts at out drinking James Bond. So, what is to be done? Can one drink cocktails on a student budget? 

First, and this is obvious, avoid them on nights out. Attempting to order a Negroni or a Manhattan is unforgivably pretentious in a regular pub or student bar, wastes the bar staff's time, and you will be as happy with a pint or glass of something simple anyway. As well as this, most drinks on menus in Irish “cocktail bars” consist of stupidly named mixes of a fruity schnapps, a juice, and a clear spirit of some kind, chosen at random. A good menu should consist of all the classics, plus a specially crafted house cocktail or two, and you will not find a menu like that catering to your sorry budget.

Instead, social-distancing permitting, host your own cocktail party. This provides all benefits of cocktail drinking in bars, with an added level of control. Much like hosting a dinner party, hosting a cocktail party allows you as a host to show off your skills. If you’re especially talented in the culinary arts, you could combine the two and have a cocktail for guests as they arrive, and a different, whiskey cocktail as a “course” at the end of the meal to replace the traditional scotch and cigars. If you can’t cook, stick to instant snack trays from any supermarket to accompany a night of classy drinking. Once you’re mixing the drinks, your guests will be impressed.

Unless your friends study actuary or are in YFG, they won’t mind chipping in. The question is whether to ask them to bring a bottle of something each, or to bring money. Against popular opinion, my go-to is always money. If everyone brings  €10 or €15 for the jar, you know you have all ingredients before anyone arrives, and you know their quality. It also means that a last-minute cancellation doesn’t leave you Vodkaless.

Write a “menu” for the night. Start with two drinks, something sweet and something not so sweet, and you’ve something for most people. Then, looking at the ingredients you have, and thinking about how many people you’ve invited, consider adding more drinks. If you’re already getting everything to make whiskey sours, you basically have everything for old fashions too. Watch your budget closely. For simpler drinks, you need a relatively high-quality spirit, but for anything diluted with vast quantities of syrup and fruit juice, a much cheaper brand will suffice.

Most importantly, have fun! While getting pigletted within thirty minutes of your guests arriving may be taking things too far, you should be making yourself drinks as the night goes on. Tell all your friends to dress in bowties and have a playlist of jazz and swing, or wear a Hawaiian shirt if your menu is more fruity. Remember, you’re hosting a party, not running a bar. Embrace the gimmick, too!