Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, you can make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety.
Today: Upgrade from light beer and two-buck chuck. Gabriella shares tips for mixing up affordable drinks for your next summer party.
Cheap booze is not hard to find.
Cheap booze that'll supply an entire party, doesn't taste like something you whipped up in your dorm room, and won't burn a hole in your stomach lining? That's a different story.
This Fourth of July, you don't have to settle for a thirty rack of beer or a tired old watermelon plugged with a bottle of vodka. Here are some fresh summer options that'll keep everyone happy through the last of the fireworks -- and won't burn a hole in your wallet either.
Embrace the beer cocktail: they use up less beer, are a little dressed up, and come in way cheaper than any traditional cocktail. Plus, they're light enough to sip all day long. You can't go wrong with a classic Michelada made with Modelos. (And the tomato juice is healthy, to boot.) I'm also a fervent advocate of the Beermosa -- just mix 2 parts light wheat beer (I like UFO Hefeweizen) with 1 part fresh-squeezed orange juice, and top with a slice of orange.
You know that $3 wine you're not sure is kosher to bring to a dinner party? It's made for sangria -- and everyone loves sangria. Just follow the basic formula of 2 bottles of wine, plus 1/2 cup of any liquor that you have stashed away, plus fruit to marinate in it. I like my white wine versions with peaches, mango, pineapple, or berries and save my red for apples and oranges. This rosé version relies on seltzer, making it even more economical. There's really no way to whip up a bad batch, so let your liquor cabinet and crisper drawer be your guide. Running especially low on cash? Try a kalimotxo -- it's a Spanish drink touted as the "poor man's sangria."
Low-Rent Champagne Punch
Okay, so these recipes aren't technically made with Champagne. But budget sparkling wine is always a great pick for making a huge supply of punch -- just make sure to go with the driest kind available to avoid getting into cloyingly sweet territory.
When Anna made a cheaper take on a French 75 at her last party, we were none the wiser! First she whipped up lemon-strawberry syrup (2 cups of lemon juice simmered with 1/2 cup sugar and 10 chopped strawberries for 20 minutes, cooled, and strained), then poured that into a bowl with 2 bottles of the sparkling stuff and 1 1/2 cups of gin. The best part? She froze lemon wedges in an ice block and left it to float -- the whole party was mesmerized.
Short on time and inspiration? Try this recipe from Martha that just requires you to mix champagne, simple syrup, and fruit. Cheers to that!
Tell us: what are your favorite budget drinks for a summer party?
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).