Nothing makes a social event quite as good as the right cocktail. Sipping on something delicious and soothing can go so far to set the mood of any kind of get-together, from a luncheon with friends to a reunion of high school classmates.

The only fly in the ointment is usually the cost. With skyrocketing prices for fruit, sugar, and alcohol, cocktails are not cheap. This is a real burden when you’ve got a tradition of ordering that same mimosa or tequila sunrise every time you gather with a certain group of friends. So what do you do?

A solution being used by a lot of people today is to skip the bar and make the cocktails at home. By becoming an amateur mixologist, you can save money and make your event something altogether different and far better than you expected.

Of course, this is not something you do on the spur of the moment. It takes a little preparation to make your own Manhattan, so start with these steps.

Get the Ingredients

It doesn’t matter what else you plan if you can’t get the essential components of the drinks you want. Fortunately, there are options other than your neighborhood grocery store. You can get lots of essential components online without the hassle of bouncing from store to store. Good grenadine syrup will come right to your front door.

You’ll also need to find a good source for your basic alcohols, such as tequila, rum, whiskey, and vodka. Find a store that sells quality brands and also has a staff that knows their way around not just the products themselves, but also the cocktails you plan to make.

Locate the Equipment

Your favorite bottle-slinging barkeep may give the impression that it’s all about pouring, but that’s not the whole process of making a cocktail.

It takes a lot of equipment to make a good drink. From zesters to strainers and mixing cups to ice makers, you can’t really work around getting the right tools for the job.

Fortunately, most of these utensils and other tools are handheld, with the exception of things like blenders, which are already on hand in most homes anyway. You won’t be out a ton of money, and the results will definitely be worthwhile.

Develop Your Skills

Not every drink is as simple as Scotch on the rocks, so you need to get yourself some education. There are countless online sources for basic bartending. Find some good ones and start learning how to make your favorite drinks.

But don’t make it a boring school experience! Have friends over to help you. Make it a night to experiment with cocktails, then schedule another night to show off your skills. It takes experience to make any mixed drink consistently and with high quality, so feel free to enjoy as many cocktail research nights as you wish.

Cocktails really make an occasion. They provide refreshment and relaxation, and if there’s nothing else to talk about, there’s always the quality of the drink to kick-start the conversation. They are often traditional and sentimental as well, becoming as much a part of the event as the people themselves.

If the cost of getting that experience is getting to you, it is entirely possible for you to produce great cocktails yourself right in your own kitchen. Not only will you save money, you’ll build an entirely new event as well as another great source for conversation topics and great memories.