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Homemade vs. Mixer: The Cheapest Way to Make Frozen Drinks

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There's been a recent upswing in made-from-scratch food preparation for edibles ranging from pickles and preserves to ice cream and baby food. Cocktails are no exception. Amid the resurgence of the craft cocktail, more enthusiasts are investing in home bar tools and ingredients for mixing specialty drinks at home. Part of the motivation behind this do-it-yourself trend: Consumers want to know the exact ingredients they are consuming and experience the thrill of making their own concoctions. Does it also save money? Or would it be cheaper to use a prepared mixer -- and benefit from the convenience and hassle-free cleanup? compared the cost of making three classic frozen drinks from a mixer and from scratch.


The margarita combines just a few ingredients for a refreshing and tart beverage. A premade mix from a brand such as Margaritaville costs roughly 24 cents an ounce; each margarita requires 2 ounces of mix, or 48 cents' worth. Compare this to a homemade margarita containing the juice of one lime (25 cents), one-half ounce of simple syrup (5 cents), and an optional half ounce of orange liqueur or orange juice (10 cents). Before the tequila is added, the homemade version totals roughly 40 cents a drink versus 48 cents using the mix. The 8-cent price difference is negligible and can vary by several cents depending on local ingredient prices. Note that mixers contain additives and preservatives that may lend more sourness. Regardless, the convenience of opening a bottle as opposed to juicing limes and boiling a simple syrup might win over many margarita drinkers. Winner: Homemade (by a hair).

Strawberry Daiquiri.

A fresh and fruity treat, strawberry daiquiris lend a dash of vacation mode to a normal day. The best homemade versions blend the juice of half a lime (13 cents), one-half ounce of simple syrup (5 cents), and 4 ounces of frozen strawberries (66 cents), which amounts to roughly 84 cents' worth of ingredients per drink before the rum or another booze of choice is added. A typical mix, such as Masters of Mixes Strawberry Daiquiri/Margarita Mixer, costs about 9 cents an ounce. Similarly sized drinks of 3 ounces of mix plus 2 ounces of ice come to 27 cents each before the addition of rum. Due to the fruit involved in the recipe and the price of strawberries, the mixer is more cost-effective, especially when blending daiquiris for a crowd. Winner: Mixer.

Piña Colada.

This rich and creamy cocktail is tropical liquid indulgence. A homemade piña colada combines 2 ounces of cream of coconut (30 cents), 2 ounces of pineapple juice (11 cents), and ice for a total of 41 cents a drink before incorporating light and dark rums. A popular mix such as Mr. and Mrs. T's Piña Colada Mix costs about 12 cents an ounce; 4 ounces of mix and ice for a drink the same size as the DIY version cost about 48 cents, before the rum. As with the margarita, the price gap between a homemade recipe and a premade mixer is small (41 cents vs. 48 cents) and would amount to only a few dollars in savings for a large batch. There is a flavor difference, though: The packaged mixer skews sweeter. Individual preference for the ease of a mixer or the higher quality and better taste of homemade may be the deciding factor. Winner: Homemade (by a hair).

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