Americans love to eat out, but with modest cocktails selling for $8 a pop at many restaurants, a party of four can easily slurp down 100 bucks in an evening. The same money, spent otherwise, will buy the fixings to stir up cocktails for 40 at home. So, host a pre-dinner cocktail hour and forgo the pricey drinks at restaurants.

You don’t need a trust fund or a degree in mixology to formulate a killer cocktail party. Professional bartenders or bar chefs often approach their concoctions with culinary sensibilities, employing fresh ingredients, like herbs, and cooking up unique cocktail components. And while no amateur mixologist need smoke their own sea salt, there are a few worthy distinctions between cocktails and keggers. Avoid, for example, purchasing an assortment of standard mixers and allowing guests to pour their own creations. This almost always results in something sloppy. It’s possible to ditch the pomp and price of modern mixology, without sacrificing its finesse.

First, here's what you'll need to stock your home bar:

The Booze: $80
(St. Germain) Elderflower Liqueur: Macerated elderflower blossoms give this infusion it’s musky fragrance and sophisticated sweetness
200ml $16

1 liter $13.99

Dry Vermouth
750 ml $10

Campari bitters
250ml $15

(Pama) Pomegranate Liqueur
750 ml $25

Bar Back’s Pantry: $25
Citrus: 10 lemons, 8 limes and 6 oranges for $8

Juice: Ream fruits and store juice, refrigerated, in squeeze bottles.

Twists: Use a channel knife ($10) to carve out distinct coils of zest. Keep twists covered tightly with plastic to prevent from dehydrating.

Cuts: Wedge. Round.

Mint: 1 bunch, $2

Frozen cranberry juice concentrate: $2.99 for 12-ounce can. Thaw for a potent cranberry syrup that won’t dilute your beverage.

Pineapple juice, chilled: 46 ounces for $3

Club soda, chilled: 1 liter $1.60

Demerara sugar: 16 ounces $2. You can use this for two things:

  • Simple Syrup: Combine equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, 5 minutes. Cool completely, pour into a glass jar or bottle fitted with pour spout.

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  • Sugar Rim: Coarse sugar is ideal for crystallizing the lips of your glassware. Pour sugar into a shallow dish; dip the top ¼-inch of a glass into water, then twist in sugar to coat.

Honey: 4 ounces, $2. Loosen 4 ounces of honey with 1 ounce warm water for a distinctive sweetener that’s easy to incorporate.

Sweetened condensed milk: 14-ounce can, $3

Bread and butter pickles: 16 ounces for $1.50.  Strain pickle juice and chill.

Those are your supplies. Click through to the next page for the drink recipes!

The Drinks:
Pickled Vodka Martini: This simple twist on a classic is worthy of trademark status. Make it the signature cocktail of your next gathering.
1 part vodka
3/4 part dry vermouth
¼ part bread and butter pickle juice
Shake over ice and strain into martini glasses.

Berry-Berry Sparkler
1 part pomegranate liqueur
1 part cranberry juice concentrate
club soda
lemon twist
Pour liqueur, juice and soda over ice, stir and garnish with lemon twist.

Pomegranate-Lime Ricky

Demerara sugar
1 part pomegranete liqueur
1 part vodka
¼ part lime juice
club soda
lime wedge, for garnish
Coat glass rims with sugar. Pour remaining ingredients over ice and garnish with lime wedge.

1 part pomegranate liqueur
1 part simple syrup
½ part lime juice
½ part mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
Muddle mint leaves with simple syrup and lime juice. Stir in pomegranate liqueur, top with club soda and serve over ice with a sprig of mint.

Honey-Flower Lemonade
1 part Elderflower liqueur
½ part vodka
2 parts lemon juice
½ part Honey syrup
½ part soda
lemon rounds, for garnish
Mix alcohol, juice and syrup. Pour over ice, top with club soda, stir and garnish with lemon round.

Candy Girl Martini
Demerara sugar
1 part vodka
½ part pineapple juice
1 part elderflower liquor
¼ part cranberry juice concentrate
Coat martini glass rims. Shake remaining ingredients over ice and strain into prepared glasses.

Pina Creamsicle
1 part pineapple juice
¼ part lemon juice
¾ part vodka
¼ part sweetened condensed milk
Mix juices and vodka. Add ice, swirl in condensed milk.

Cranberry Sauced
¾  part vodka
1 part dry vermouth
½ cranberry juice concentrate
½ orange juice
Pour all ingredients over ice and stir.

Sweet and Sour Negroni
1 part vodka
1 part Campari
¾ part dry vermouth
½ part lemon juice
¼ part simple syrup
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into lowball glasses.

Aperitivo Shooter
1 part Campari
1 part dry vermouth
½ part Elderflower liqueur
½ part orange juice
Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into glasses.

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