College is great—there’s no denying that. But some reluctant graduates cling onto everything from their fraternity T-shirts to beer pong to the less-than-stellar party drinks long after it’s appropriate. Being a real adult means only wearing that Sigma Nu shirt on the weekends, cutting back to one or two games of beer pong a summer, and generally drinking better. Fortunately for those who want to keep drinking like it’s the good old days, there are ways to adult-ify your go-to college beverages without giving them up all together. Here, six simple changes you can make to classic college drinks to take them from trashy to classy.
Master the Ultimate Jungle Juice Ratio
Jungle Juice, by nature, is a chaotic amalgam of full bottles of booze and juice thrown into a vat, with little regard for flavor. We recommend a little method to the madness, with an easy formula for a delicious, balanced Jungle Juice. Try four parts clear spirit, to two and half parts fruit liqueur, to three parts wine or beer, to four parts juice, to one and half parts citrus soda. You can still use whatever you have around, this foolproof recipe will yield a Jungle Juice people will actually want to drink.
Use Fresh Lemon Juice in a Long Island Iced Tea
The Long Island Iced Tea, when made right, can actually be a pretty delicious drink. But novice drinkers usually go wrong by pouring too much of each spirit into the glass and using sour mix. Using fresh lemon juice will really make the cocktail sing, adding just the right amount of tart to the otherwise sweet beverage, while measuring out .75 ounces of each spirit will achieve LIIT nirvana.
Use Craft Cola in a Rum/Whiskey and Coke
Traditional Coca-Cola is made with tons of high fructose corn syrup, leading to an overly saccharine highball that masks the booze entirely. Whether your go-to spirit is rum or whiskey, you’ll be able to appreciate the flavors of the liquor a lot more if you mix it with a quality cola, like Mexican Coke, which is made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. You can also try using a craft cola or reach for a bigger brand like Pepsi’s new 1893 offering, which comes in flavors ranging from classic to citrus to blackcurrant.
Don’t Use Everclear—Use Overproof Rum or Navy Strength Gin
Plenty of college students drink Everclear because they believe it’s the best bang for your buck, with an insanely high ABV and a super low cost. But if you’re a real adult looking to give a punch more, well, punch, skip the grain alcohol and opt instead for some overproof rum or navy strength gin, which will deliver on booziness without tasting like lighter fluid. Save the Everclear for cleaning the house.
Mix Boxed Wine into a Cocktail
While it may be time to stop playing “slap the bag,” that doesn’t mean that box of Franzia doesn’t have value. Instead of chugging the stuff, mix it into simple wine-tails, like a New York Sour or spritzer. A small squeeze of fresh juice and a topping of club soda can really mellow out the harsher flavors of cheap wine, while adding some fruit slices to your glass makes a pretty delicious ersatz Sangria.
Get a Decent Flavored Vodka
The basic mix of flavored vodka and juice is a college staple, thanks to its easy drinkability. But just because you want something on the sweeter side, doesn’t mean you have to reach for neon raspberry lemonade-flavored vodka. There are plenty of delicious flavored vodkas, from Meyer lemon to cucumber to ginger, that hide the strong flavor of alcohol while mixing well with juice or soda.