Halloween candy supplies are diminishing, the clocks are rolled back and we’ve elected a new president. That can mean only one thing: It’s officially time to start freaking out about the holidays. Though some people already have their gifts wrapped and party invitations in the mail, just typing those words gives me anxiety. I have done one important thing, however. A few weeks ago, I whipped up a big batch of egg nog.
When it comes to holiday gatherings, batched cocktails are the way to go. Though the notion of mixing bespoke drinks at your next holiday bash might sound romantic, you don’t want to be stuck behind a bar all night instead of necking under the mistletoe. Batched cocktails allow you to offer a better booze selection while letting you actually enjoy your party. Here are a few tips for successfully scaling up your favorite cocktail.
To start, figure out the ratio of the drink you’d like to serve. For instance, many cocktails (like daiquiris and margaritas) are sours, which are 2:1:1—two parts spirit and one part each of sugar and citrus. Knowing that makes it easy to assemble a party-sized helping of whiskey sours. Four cups of bourbon, two cups of lemon juice and two cups of simple syrup, for example, will give you about 20 servings.
Don’t forget that cocktails are generally about 25 percent water. Shaking or stirring with ice dilutes the cocktail as well as chilling it, smoothing the drink’s sharp edges. Though you could measure out the batched drink and then shake it to order, it’s simpler to just add the water in advance. In the aforementioned example, you’d want about two cups of water in your mix. I like to add the water slowly and taste frequently to get the dilution exactly where I want it.
All-booze cocktails like negronis and old-fashioneds work well for batching, as they can be made far in advance and even improve with age (for a truly memorable party, buy a small barrel and barrel-age your cocktail for a month). For drinks with citrus, do the juicing and mixing on the day of the event to avoid any off flavors. And if your drink has a sparkling component like Champagne or ginger beer, leave that for guests to add, as it will quickly go flat in a mix.
For serving, make sure the batched mix stays super-cold, since you won’t be mixing to order. Fill swing-top glass bottles (or reuse the liquor bottles you emptied when making the mix) and keep them in ice water. Leave a sign that clearly explains how to drink the cocktail — instruct guests about ice, garnishes and so on. And make sure you have appropriate cups. Though it might forge some memories, you probably don’t want your uncle filling his 16-ounce Solo cup with your handcrafted Manhattan.