WHAT YOU NEED
The essential mixers Premade mixers are expensive and contain lesser-quality ingredients. Save your money (and your taste buds) by stocking fresh ingredients when possible.
-- Orange juice
-- Cranberry juice
Optional: pineapple juice, tomato juice, grenadine
The essential liquors Commercial bars usually have nine alcohol choices -- we like a cocktail, but come on! We've narrowed it down to the top four.
-- Whiskey (we're partial to bourbon)
Optional: tequila, vermouth
WHAT YOU DON'T
Don't go broke buying every type of alcohol. It's actually trendy to serve one or two signature drinks, plus wine and beer. So put a spin on a classic (check out our ideas on the next page) and spend the extra cash on a new party outfit.
Forget washing a million glasses. If your party is especially casual -- or especially large -- just pick up sturdy, recyclable plastic cups. Mingling is more important than tending to mounds of dishes.
No need to buy fancy wine. If there's a cheap brand that you like, then serve it in a carafe -- no one will be the wiser.
Playing bartender is overrated. Let guests serve themselves at a laid-back gathering, and hire a bartender (or a bartending-school student) for a swankier party.