If the alcohol's not here, it's not worth your time.


  • 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
  • Soda
  • Tonic
  • 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.
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Whiskey (we're partial to bourbon)
  • Optional: tequila, vermouth


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.