By Simon Isham–

For many students college can be a cocktail of low finances, high stress and bad judgment. These three factors result in some of the most ill-advised liquor and mixer combinations. If you’ve ever mixed vodka with Kool-Aid, Emergen-C or Crystal Light Pink Lemonade, you need to read this.

Here’s the good news: you’re only half wrong. Vodka is a wonderful alcohol for low-budget cocktails because it tastes equally terrible whether you buy a good quality or a bad quality. So, feel free to buy the cheapest, nastiest vodka you can find and then follow along with these suggested mixers.

Jam and Vodka

You eat toast, don’t you? And you probably put jam on that toast. So you probably already have everything you need to make this cocktail. Just add 1 tablespoon of your favorite jam to 1 1/2 ounces of vodka. If it’s still not sweet enough for you, try adding another tablespoon of jam. If you’re feeling adventurous, add lime juice to taste. Serve this cocktail in a mason jar and it will look like it came straight off of Pinterest. If you don’t tell them how you made it, your friends will wonder when you got so classy.

Sweet Tea and Vodka

There’s really no reason for Southern-style sweet tea to be as sweet as it is. That being said, it lends itself really well to being a cocktail mixer. Add equal parts vodka and sweet tea. If you want to take it a step further, add lemonade and make it an alcoholic Arnold Palmer (technically called a John Daly).

Vodka Margarita

You’re broke, I get it. But you can afford water. And if you can afford water, you can afford ice. And if you can make ice, then you have everything you need to take your dorm-room mixology to the next level. Adding crushed ice gives even the most basic drink some sophistication. Crush some ice in a blender, or even a Ziplock bag. Mix in two parts vodka with three parts store-bought lemonade or limeade and add one can of light beer per serving. Elevate your game by dipping the edge of your glass in water, then in table salt.

Rum & Root Beer Float

If you’re going somewhere hot for Spring Break, you may want to cool off with a root beer float. And if the age-old beverage is no longer up to your of-age standards, mix two parts rum into three parts root beer and add as much ice cream as you want. It’s your party and you can do what you want to.

Easy Sangria

Be honest: you’re not a wine connoisseur and neither is anyone you know. Plus, the flavor of the legendarily crappy boxed wine will be masked by other choice notes. In a large bowl or a couple of pitchers, mix one box of Franzia, a 2-liter of Sprite and four Dole fruit cups of your choice. This may or may not be enough drink for everyone at your event.

Make Your Own

I’ve walked you through a few recipes above, but don’t be afraid to start experimenting with your own concoctions. Some other potential mixers that you might have around the house anyway include:

  • Sodas: Ginger ale and seltzer water
  • Juices: Orange juice and lemonade
  • Fresh fruit: Oranges, grapefruit, pineapple chunks or blueberries

All it takes is a little bit of creativity and a little bit of pre-planning to take a drink from cringe-and-binge to classy.

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