Batch drinks are perfect for parties, but also have some inherent problems—here’s how to avoid them and make on-point pitcher drinks and the best batch cocktails every time.
To batch or not to batch—that is always the question when you know a gathering is coming. By batching cocktails, it frees you up to play host, mingle, and ensure everyone is having fun without having to be constantly on call at the bar. It also allows guests to feel welcomed and elevates a party—guests don’t have to mix their own cocktails from a selection of items, no one has to worry about what wine to open, and it gives the vibe of a signature drink.
However, there are several pitfalls when it comes to batching cocktails. While some of these can be combated ahead of time with proper prep, others—like the proper amount of dilution—need to be carefully accounted for in order to have a delicious drink.
We spoke to Maggie Hoffman, author of “Batch Cocktails” to make sure that no matter what type of cocktail you batch, each sip stays good until the last drop.
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What are a few challenges people may have when creating a batch cocktail? How should they combat that?
“All the recipes in ‘Batch Cocktails’ are tested with proper dilution—they walk you though how much water to add before serving. Sometimes people forget that every cocktail you’ve ever had has water added, whether through shaking or stirring with ice. When you’re batching, you’re not going to shake each drink to order, so you need to make sure it’s properly diluted first. When you’re batching, you’re never just multiplying an ingredients list. You’ve got to add water or ice somehow.”
What about when it comes to serving? Should one use a pitcher, a bowl, or something else? Does it depend on the cocktail itself?
“I don’t want people to stress out about this. If you have a pitcher, great. If you have a glass salad bowl and a ladle, great. If you have clean empty liquor bottles, that’ll work too. The only key is to know how big your container is—measure it with cups of water and you’ll also be making sure it’s not going to leak! In general, I like to use liter-size containers like empty liquor bottles or swing top bottles for boozier drinks, especially drinks you’d serve up (without ice)—I like to chill those in my freezer before serving.”
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What about bubbles? How do you prevent a bubbly batch from going flat?
“If you’re making fizzy drinks for a crowd, you can basically batch up the rest of the cocktail, then add bubbles to each glass. Definitely keep sparkling wines or club soda chilled and add at the last minute.”
What are a few of your favorite tips and tricks for making batch cocktails?
“The most important thing is to get prepared in advance—make a list of everything you need to shop for, make sure you have lots of ice, etc. When I’m starting to mix drinks, I like to keep the bottles I haven’t added yet on the left, then move them to the right as I’ve poured in the proper amount. That way you won’t lose track. Here are some of my cardinal rules for batching:
- Measure twice, pour once: Make sure you have a big enough container, and find out how big it is. Most of these recipes are meant to be made in a 2-quart pitcher, though bigger is okay too. You especially need to make sure your pitcher is big enough if you’re instructed to add ice to the pitcher. One way to measure your pitcher or punch bowl (and make sure it doesn’t leak) is to use a glass or plastic measuring cup to count how many cups of water fit in it.
- Chill your ingredients: When you’re batching in a pitcher instead of shaking individual cocktails with ice, you can give yourself a head start by refrigerating your ingredients in advance. I like to throw spirits in the freezer to get way cold. Any syrups and liqueurs can be put in the fridge the night before your gathering, or you can measure out the spirit/liqueur/syrup part of the drink and combine it in your pitcher or a big mason jar.
- Prep juices fresh: While ingredients like spirits and liqueurs and syrups can be measured and combined in advance, and kept cool in your fridge, fresh juices like lime, lemon, and orange juice will taste best the day they’re made. I like to squeeze citrus juices just an hour or two ahead of a gathering and add it to the refrigerated cocktail batch to keep cool, so I’m certain they’re going to taste really good, not oxidized or off.
- Okay, pour twice: Don’t measure your drink ingredients holding a measuring cup over your pitcher. A little spill could mean a big change in flavor.
- Have something for the non-imbibers: When you’re hosting, don’t forget non-tipplers. A special signature non-alcoholic drink helps everyone feel welcome.”
Batch Cocktail Recipes
Reprinted with permission from “Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion” by Maggie Hoffman, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Makes about 12 servings in a 2-quart pitcher
This low-proof drink from San Francisco bartender Gillian Fitzgerald is salty, bitter, fruity, and sour thanks to Cynar, Campari, pineapple juice, and honey. Sherry brings a nutty note. If you have two pitchers handy, Fitzgerald recommends pouring the mixture back and forth between them to aerate the drink. If you don’t have a juicer, simply puree fresh pineapple cubes (from two large fruits) in your blender, then strain and measure your fresh juice. Save the pineapple leaves for your garnish!
- 1 1/2 cups Cynar
- 3/4 cup Campari
- 3/4 cup amontillado sherry (such as Lustau)
- 3/4 cup chilled 2:1 honey syrup (recipe follows)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple juice
- 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
- flaky sea salt
- 1 lime wedge (optional), plus 8 lime wheels
- 24 pineapple leaves (optional)
1. Up to 12 hours before serving, make the batch. Pour Cynar, Campari, amontillado sherry, and chilled honey syrup into a 2-quart pitcher and stir to mix. If not serving immediately, seal well, covering with plastic wrap if needed, and refrigerate.
2. Up to 2 hours before serving, prepare pineapple and lime juices and stir into pitcher mix. Reseal and return to refrigerator if not serving immediately.
3. To serve, if you’d like to rim the rocks glasses, pour some flaky salt onto a small plate and rub each glass’s rim with a lime wedge. Gently dip and roll rim of each glass in salt to coat.
4. Stir pitcher mixture well, then fill pitcher with ice and stir until outside of pitcher is cool (or pour mixture back and forth between two pitchers a few times to add froth). Add lime wheels to pitcher and pour cocktail into ice-filled rocks glasses and garnish with pineapple leaves, if desired.
2:1 Honey Syrup
Makes about 11/3 cups
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 cup water
Combine honey and water in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is uniformly blended. Do not let boil. Pour into a resealable container and let cool. Seal well and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
All She Wrote
Makes about 12 servings in a 1-liter swing-top bottle
This is another bold but low-proof option, starring the Italian bittersweet vermouth Carpano Punt e Mes (which Hoffman calls her Kryptonite). Created by Jeremy Simpson at Bestia in Los Angeles, this drink combines the vermouth with sweet, rich maraschino liqueur, a little grapefruit liqueur, and a pinch of salt. This is great freshly made, but also ages wonderfully in the back of your fridge—but if you’re aging it more than a few weeks, leave out the bitters and just add 2 dashes to each glass when you serve.
- 2 1/4 cups chilled Punt e Mes
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry vermouth (such as Dolin)
- 6 tablespoons maraschino liqueur
- 3 tablespoons pamplemousse (grapefruit) liqueur (such as Combier or Giffard)
- 4 teaspoons Peychaud’s bitters
- flaky sea salt
1. At least 2 hours before serving, make the batch. Use a small funnel to pour Punt e Mes, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, pamplemousse liqueur, and bitters into a 1-liter swing-top bottle. Seal well, gently turn to mix, and refrigerate.
2. To serve, turn bottle gently end over end to mix. Place a large ice cube in each rocks glass, then pour in cocktail. Give each drink one gentle stir before serving. Garnish with a small pinch of salt.
Makes about 12 servings in a 2-quart pitcher
Believe it or not, combining coffee, Campari, and grapefruit results in a raspberry-filled chocolate truffle flavor that makes this rosy drink, created by Morgan Schick for Villon in San Francisco, perfect for brunch. The fruity, bitter, tart, and roasty notes are ideal beside a stack of ricotta pancakes or buttermilk waffles. Schick recommends buzzing the mix in a blender for a moment (or whisking it vigorously) to give it a frothy texture.
- 2 ¼ cups chilled Campari
- 1 ½ cups chilled coffee or cold brew
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons 2:1 simple syrup (page 139, or just adjust the ratio of our simple syrup recipe)
- pinch fine sea salt
- 3 cups fresh grapefruit juice
- 3 cups chilled tonic water
- 12 grapefruit twists
1. Up to 6 hours before serving, make the batch. Pour chilled Campari, chilled coffee, simple syrup, and salt into a 2-quart pitcher and stir to mix. Seal well, covering with plastic wrap if needed, and refrigerate.
2. Up to 2 hours before serving, prepare grapefruit juice and stir into pitcher mix. Reseal and return to refrigerator if not serving immediately.
3. To serve, whisk pitcher mixture well, or pour half of the mixture into a blender and blend for 20 seconds, then stir back into remaining pitcher mix. Fill 12-ounce highball glasses with ice and add 1/4 cup chilled tonic water to each glass. Top with pitcher mix and garnish each drink with a grapefruit twist.