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Cut Your Bar Tab With These Frugal Mix-At-Home Cocktails

Throwing out food-gone-bad is especially galling when the item in question was expensive. So if you don’t want to be literally pouring money down the drain, it’s important to keep an eye on the contents of your liquor cabinet and wine rack.

Liquor.com had an interesting article recently, suggesting a clean-up party where guests get to mix their own drinks from a range of nearly finished or old (but still not-expired or otherwise off) bottles and assorted mixers. Failing that, they wrote, you might jump on the punch craze with recipes that work with a variety of different liquors.

Bottom line: don’t be afraid to experiment. Reader Kerrie Blazek invented a drink she calls the MoMo — Monster Energy Drink and Moscato wine — while cleaning out the fridge. “Quick, easy, and refreshing,” she says. “I think it’s gonna be the new Red Bull and vodka.” Suraj Hemnani points to Spanish “tinto de verano,” which is equal parts red wine and Sprite over ice.

What creative cocktail recipes have you come up with while cleaning out either your fridge or the last remnants of a lingering bottle of booze? Here’s what a few home cooks, bartenders and product reps recommended for less than $5 worth of non-alcoholic ingredients:

Boozy Iced Tea

“You can’t get much more economical than using iced tea as a mixer, especially when compared to soda, energy drinks, or obscure, frou-frou mixers,” says Beau Dealy of SomethingEdible.com. He makes a tea cocktail with fresh mint, lemons and limes. As an added bonus, he says, it can be made ahead and tastes great with even cheap booze.

Malt Beverage Slushy

Every party includes at least one guest who can’t stand the taste of beer or wine and brings their own odd beverage. Use up those lingering wine coolers, hard lemonades and other pre-mixed drinks by mixing them with ice and other ingredients. Seagram’s, for example, suggests combining its Seagram’s Escapes sangria flavor with flavored vodka and lemon-lime soda.

Infused Press

Frugal Foodie makes the best of cheap rums, vodkas and gins by infusing them with whatever fruit or spices are at hand. Mix, let refrigerate at least overnight and then strain. Top with club soda. Her two favorites: crushed raspberries in rum, and sliced lemons, oranges and figs in vodka. Reader Brittney Hanson makes a version using vodka soaked with canned or fresh pineapple. Muddle two or three slices of cucumber in a highball glass and top with ice. Add two ounces of the pineapple vodka and top with club soda. “It’s really refreshing and super cheap and easy to make,” she says.

Sorbet Margaritas

Instead of buying margarita mix, use sorbet already in the freezer. Premium gelato and sorbet maker Ciao Bella suggests blending a half pint each of its peach ginger and lemon zest flavors, plus a cup of tequila, half cup of lime juice, quarter-cup Cointreau and ice. (Real Simple has an unblended lime sorbet version that looks pretty cool, too.)

Red Wine Sangria

Talk about a flexible recipe: chop up whatever fruit is at hand, threatening to go to waste in your fridge, add red wine of any type or value, chill. Some creative takes: Las Vacas Gordas in Miami Beach, Fla., uses bananas in their fruit mix and a house Malbec as the wine, while winemaker Cantina di Soave adds raspberry or blackberry puree and pomegranate and orange juices. For her “Casa de las Vistas” sangria (named after the house), reader Martha Van Ingwen adds a shot each of Grand Marnier and mandarin vodka, and then serves the drinks with a splash of club soda.

White Wine Sangria

Just as flexible as red. Here, Cantina di Soave uses prosecco and peach puree along with the white wine and fruit. Just before serving, Kristl Story of TheBudgetDiet.com adds sparkling lemon-lime water and frozen grapes as a substitute for ice cubes.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie http://www.twitter.com/mintfoodie.