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More mingling, less mixing

How to batch cocktails and host like a pro

The Porch Swing at Sundown is the perfect summer drink—citrusy and bright with tequila.

Andrew Saliga

The food you’ve prepared is not quite ready, but at least all six of your guests have a drink in hand. The first round included two old fashioneds (one with rye and the other with bourbon), two beers, something “light and fruity” and a daiquiri—not to mention something for yourself. Opting for the simplest choice, you pour yourself a glass of whiskey, neat. 

You’re scrambling to put the finishing touches on the food, and empty glasses begin to abruptly raise, requesting the next round. As the clear cubes clink around the empty glasses you realize that with this frenetic rhythm, you’ll be caught up mixing rather than mingling. There has to be a better way. 

Fortunately, a round of cocktails able to rival any craft cocktail bar can be created in batch with a few simple tips. Forget about terrible concoctions calling for soda, juice and a bottle of cheap vodka. The following tips and recipes will elevate your hosting skills. 

The most important element tends to be forgotten when batching cocktails: water. Ice is responsible for both diluting and chilling the cocktail—two key components that need to be incorporated into the batching process. A good rule of thumb is to use 1/6 cup of water per serving for stirred cocktails and 1/6 to 1/8 cup of water per serving for shaken cocktails. It’s important to use good-tasting water and fresh ice.  

Chilling the cocktail to the proper temperature will take several hours, and individually chilling ingredients prior to combining can expedite this process. Stirred cocktails tend to be higher in alcohol content, so those batches can be chilled in the freezer. Shaken cocktails can be stored in the refrigerator and poured over ice when it’s time to serve. 

Juices should be added fresh, a couple of hours before serving. Fresh fruit juices have a brightness to their flavor that begins to decay over time.  

Garnishes should also be prepared as part of the batch. Citrus wheels and wedges can be stored in an airtight container. Fresh herbs can be stored upright in a glass with water, and citrus peels can be stored between two damp paper towels. When it comes time to party, it’s as simple as pouring and garnishing. Which leads to the final and one of the most important tips. 

While you’re the best judge of how many drinks your guests will consume, a simple way to ensure you don’t run out of drinks early is to provide a properly sized glass. I’d advise against providing standard sized red Solo cups. Allow the cup’s size to communicate serving size. 

Two excellent recipes to kick off your next party this summer are the Porch Swing at Sundown and Happiness. For more batch cocktail recipes, Maggie Hoffman’s latest book, Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion, is an indispensable resource. 

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Porch Swing at Sundown   Servings: 12 
This tequila-based cocktail is refreshingly bright and citrusy thanks to the combination of Aperol and fresh lime juice. The yellow Chartreuse provides both sweetness and herbal complexity. Don’t be intimidated if you’re not familiar with all the ingredients–this crowd-pleaser is the perfect companion to tacos. 

1 ½ cups blanco tequila 
1 ½ cups yellow Chartreuse 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of Aperol 
6 tablespoons of maraschino liqueur 
¾ cup of water 
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of lime juice 
Cilantro sprigs for garnish 

1.     Combine tequila, yellow Chartreuse Aperol, maraschino liqueur, and water in a 2-quart pitcher. Stir and chill. 
2.     2 hours before serving, add lime juice and return to refrigerator to chill. 
3.     Serve in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with a cilantro sprig. 
Recipe by Julia Momose from Maggie Hoffman’s Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion, Ten Speed Press, 2019.

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Happiness   Servings: 8
This cocktail is technically a reverse Manhattan, which means instead to the standard of two parts whiskey and one part sweet vermouth, it’s 2:1 vermouth to whiskey. While you could use a good entry-level sweet vermouth like Dolin, this recipe will benefit from using vermouth with some added complexity. For those who prefer rye over bourbon, I’d suggest Cocchi Vermouth di Tornio in place of Carpano Antica. Since this cocktail does not contain any fresh juices, it’s also the perfect candidate to store in a 1-liter swing-top bottle in the freezer. 

2 cups Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
1 cup bourbon 
3 teaspoons Angostura bitters 
½ cup water 
Orange twists for garnish 

1.     Combine all ingredients in a 1-liter swing-top bottle, seal, and invert to mix. 
2.     Chill for a minimum of two hours in the freezer. 
3.     Serve in a rocks glass over a single cube and garnish with an expressed orange twist. 

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Recipe by Mark Sassi from Maggie Hoffman’s Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion, Ten Speed Press, 2019.

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