How to Serve Drinks at Friendsgiving Without Breaking the Bank

Women toasting with cocktails
Hosting a Friendsgiving? Here's how to show everyone a good time (and share plenty of liquid cheer) without breaking the bank.

Growing in popularity over the years is the concept of "Friendsgiving" — a kind of pseudo-Thanksgiving celebration recognized either before or after the actual yearly gluttony-fest where friends unite to talk, play games, and most importantly, toast to the holiday season with all sorts of liquid good cheer. But with the post-Thanksgiving happenings of Black Friday and Christmas looming to put a strain on your wallet, plus the inevitable cost associated with keeping everyone's glasses full, it's important to plan a Friendsgiving foray with budget in mind.

When you're hosting your own Friendsgiving celebration, it can be easy to put the heavy lifting on yourself when it comes to supplying all the party needs. But if you want to be able to afford the newest shiny gadget for your significant other, you're going to have to take the reigns and budget like a boss.

Follow these helpful tips to enjoy a Friendsgiving full of cheer, on the low.

1. Divide and Conquer

Delegate to invitees what you would like them to bring for the shindig. Because your friends' palates are all different, it may be prudent to have all the main liquor groups covered by asking each bring a specific spirit. You’ll definitely want a vodka, whiskey and gin to cover your hard liquors, and supplement with red and white wine and a low-ABV beer. The main spirits can be used in a punch or in cocktails throughout the evening. Set up your bar area with common mixers like orange juice, ginger ale, etc. so guests can play bartender and create their own signature concoction for the evening.

Atlanta mixologist Arianne Fielder loves entertaining friends with her holiday cocktails. When it comes to stocking your at home bar, she notes, “I like to have at least one bottle of good bourbon to stay warm, and Martinelli's sparkling apple cider makes a killer easy cocktail when mixed with rum or whiskey, served in a champagne flute.” To keep things seasonal, Fielder further explains to keep a cadre of fun fall bitters like Fee Brothers Black Walnut and Cranberry, and Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters to keep things festive.

2. Punch It Up

When providing drinks for the evening, punches are your pal. As host, you're going to be mingling and making sure everyone has what they need, so running back and forth to the kitchen or bar to make drinks won't be conducive to a good time. Prep and batch two offerings for guests: one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic. Not only will you have a signature drink for the evening, but revelers can serve themselves as much or as little as they want without the need for you to buy out a liquor store. Try these easy three-ingredient punches to start — just use them as a template and experiment as needed.

Alcoholic Punch

  • 1 Bottle of sparkling wine or champagne
  • 4.5 oz. vodka or gin
  • Choice of fresh juice (orange, cranberry, pomegranate or pineapple)

Non-alcoholic Punch

  • 46 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1 Bottle of ginger ale
  • Option of: 8 ounces frozen fruit, a sliced citrus fruit (orange or lemon) or 2 1/2 cups fruit juice (any flavor)

When batching these punches, be sure to add the champagne or any other carbonated ingredients at the last possible second. Adding the fizz early on can lead to your punch falling flat, quite literally. You want those bubbles. To keep things cool, opt for large chunks of ice to float in the punch, like a mini glacier. The dilution will be slow to keep the punch chilled without watering it down too much. Another handy tip is to freeze your juices and fruits together in a mold and add the spirits at the last minute. This also promotes slows dilution, and for those that need a little more oomph in their cocktail, a stiffer drink.

Bartender and mixologist Jenique Mincey echoes a seasonal focus on your Friendsgiving festivities. “Don't be afraid to pull seasonal inspiration from your menu and infuse your main spirit, whether it be tequila, rum or bourbon, with the likes of apples, cloves, or cinnamon. Add a citrus of some kind to balance your punch and don't forget to sweeten to taste,” explains Mincey. Adding more kick to your punch for the harder drinkers is also an option. “For more adventurous drinkers, add some spice. You can go as mild as fresh ginger or as wild as scotch bonnets, but remember, the longer you keep it in your spirit, the more intense the flavor. Add fresh herbs like mint or basil with figs or cranberries.”

Glass of mulled wine garnished with an orange slice and cinnamon stickMulled wine is an easy, budget-friendly way to dish out drinks without getting stuck playing bartender all night. (Plus, your home will smell fantastic.)

3. Mull It Over

One easy concoction to toast to the season is mulled wine. It's super simple to batch, and with a few ingredients, can turn a basic red wine into a holiday-ready quaff. Steep ingredients like cloves, nutmeg, star anise and cinnamon with the wine and simmer for a low-maintenance seasonal treat. You can also parlay red wine into a vibrant and flavorful sangria that will speak to the holidays. Incorporate orange wheels with cranberries, pomegranates, apples and other seasonal fruits for a wintry sipper everyone can get behind.

4. Flavorful Fare

Lastly, what would Friendsgiving be without a proper nosh? Best bet is to offer the main dishes yourself, and have your guests supply a plethora of sides for variety and to save you the added cost. Rather than go the traditional oven-baked turkey route that takes hours to prepare, go low-brow with offerings that your friends instantly gel with. Ground turkey makes for the perfect vehicle in a Thanksgiving-inspired meatloaf, use it for individual burgers or create a hearty pasta dish with it. Prepare a simple dip or cracker canapés as light bites with drinks, and let the Friendsgiving revelry commence.

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