It was that shock wave that barreled me over when my parents dropped me off at the University of Pittsburgh. I was left in a city that I’d never seen before, bringing with me only a few boxes and a poster of my favorite oil painting, Starry Night. A woman of culture, I know. It was an odd, foreign feeling, realizing that in one afternoon my life had drastically changed and would never go back to the way it once was. I was now completely responsible for myself, with no one telling me what to do or how to run my life.
It was pretty fucking awesome.
But not always a cakewalk. I never had a real job in high school. My parents always provided spending money so that I could focus on my studies and extra-curriculars, but in Pittsburgh no one was going to throw $5 my way so I could go grab coffee or catch a movie. Luckily, I’m adaptable. I’m also a self-proclaimed bargain shopper, a mantle I’d taken up in adolescence out of guilt that now proved itself to be a valuable survival skill. I refuse to over-pay on any purchase, no matter how small, if I think I can find a better deal. At school, this translated into me pretty much not buying anything at all. I quickly realized that the majority of my classmates followed budgets identical to mine, spending money on two things alone: food and booze. Standard collegiate finance. Fairly universal. And understandable! We were operating with minimal coin, but refusing to give up on having a good time. This budget made sense. Even the most responsible and forward thinking scholars need to balance out the stress of papers and tests by letting loose on the weekend. And of course, for some, letting loose seems to be the main reason that they bothered with going to college at all. The proportion of frat boys to intellectuals on any given campus can really cripple the dating pool. But I digress.
How do we party while maintaining fiscal responsibility? Many pre-game their debaucherous festivities in an effort to curb later spending, and pre-gaming typically means one thing: shots. I have nothing against shots (especially when they’re tequila and come with a nice wedge of lime) and I recognize that they’re going to cost less than full-blown cocktails, but I also think that they get old fast. What can I say? I’m a girl who appreciates a little diversity in her life. Once I became a certified bartender, I realized how simple it actually was to assemble most popular drinks. On a night out, people would willingly fork over $5 or more for these cocktails that took less than a minute of effort. As I mixed $7 margaritas, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much people would save if they just made the damn things themselves. Great attitude for a Bar Maid, I know, but they were my peers and I empathized. All the money they’d save by mixing drinks at home was money they’d keep in their pocket, money that could buy more food and alcohol later down the line. Who wouldn’t want that for their friends?
With this revelation, the concept for my book was born. (Real life quote that I got from an agent: Its really fun, nicely voiced, well-written, but twenty year olds don't buy books. Try starting a blog.) I would compile a simple guide to mixology for those twenty-somethings who wanted to save money, but also enjoy their beverages. And look! It is done! Compiled! Though you all will get the recipes in installments. In the spirit of collegiate practically, the only measurement tools needed for these recipes are a shot glass and a solo cup. Two things that I assume most people reading this book (blog, SIGH) already have lying around. Popular collector’s pieces. The shot glass is used to measure liquor and is referred to in three ways: a half shot, a shot, and a to-the-rim shot. See the diagram below for a better idea of how these measurements are done.
Let’s start with ice. Ice makes things cold. That may seem really obvious and pretentious to spell out, but take a moment and think about how much more enjoyable a beverage is when it’s really well chilled. It’s a notable difference. There are also several mixers within these pages that you don’t have to refrigerate, so you’ll save room in your icebox while ensuring that your drinks are frosty and delicious. Ice is also cheap. You can make it yourself just by filling a little plastic mold with water from the tap! If you entertain often, I highly recommend that you to invest in a set of ice molds. You can get them at any dollar store and they will last you a good long time. For larger get-togethers, you can always pick up a bag of ice (or two) from the grocery store. The ice will even make people drink slower, helping them realize when they’re actually intoxicated and thusly drink less overall. Less of your stuff. This keeps them happy AND keeps more money in your pocket (or rather, in your booze fund). It might also keep sloppier individuals from breaking your belongings, but that in itself is a whole new can of worms.
So what’s so important about straws? For one thing, they’re a nice way to mix up a drink without having to shake it. While my bar patrons don’t often sip Highballs through a sip stick, they almost always use it to swirl around their ice before discarding. Straws also come in handy because just as hot air rises, so does vodka. When mixing the first few drinks of the juice chapter, I didn’t use a straw when taking my first sip. Such a mistake I shall not make again. Though one-mixer drinks don’t need to be shaken, the strongest concentration of liquor often floats to the top. Attempts to sip from the rim may be met with the singe of undiluted spirits. Since for our purposes we’re using incredibly cheap liquor, and unflavored to boot, this wouldn’t likely be a pleasurable experience. By simply adding a straw and sipping from the bottom of the cup (and poking it around in the ice a bit to mix things around) I was relieved to find that the drink was actually quite good. The lesson here: straws make everything better. Use them.
I think it goes without saying that most of the drinks in this book will be slightly different than they would be served in a bar. Almost every recipe will be for a double, since solo cups are so much larger than traditional cocktail glasses. This will be reflected in the price estimates so that you to see just how much bang you’re getting for your buck. (It’s a lot of bang.) I’ve also made creative substitutions to some recipes that make them home and budget friendly. The aim of this blogook is not to train you as a professional bartender or to eradicate your need to go out on the town. Instead, my hope is that this booklog will diversify your drinking at home, spice up the beverage selection at your dinner parties, and save you some money once in a while. When you buy that late night pizza with the dollars this bloogk has saved you, I hope that you think of me fondly. So lets get started. Run to your liquor store, grab a solo cup, and mix yourself something different tonight!