In this guide, we’re going to talk about fun and refreshing cocktails you can make for a crowd so you can get out from behind the bar and enjoy your party.
Cocktails can be a pain to serve when you’re not a professional bartender. Offering an open bar not only drains your supply but it can also mean the stress of having to concoct cocktails you’ve never made for a growing crowd.
Instead, one of the easiest ways to keep the party going and ensure everyone has a drink is to craft batch cocktails in punch bowls and pitchers. Many of these can be made before your guests arrive, but even the ones that do need some last minute TLC don’t require much work or effort on your part. Some ice here, a bottle of club soda there. It’s also a good trick for dinner parties since it’s nice to offer something you’ve already made to an arriving guest without having to disappear into the kitchen for 10 minutes to make it.
Normally, we favor quality over quantity, but when it comes to summer cocktails, the alcohol is usually overshadowed by the mix and other flavours. Keep the good stuff in the bar and consider using more affordable bottles for these drinks.
How to Choose Your Drinks
There are some summer staples like sangria that are easy to pick. However, other cocktails may take a bit of thought if you plan to pair them with food or if you’re following a theme. Here are a few things to take into account when planning your batch cocktails:
Is the party indoors or out?
Will sweet and syrupy cocktails attract flies, wasps or other insects? Does the cocktail need to be served frozen?
What is your budget?
How many people will be there?
How big a batch do you need? Do you need a few different cocktails?
What time is the party?
Can the cocktail sit out? Will you need to refill it? Can you store extra for refills in the fridge or will you need to make again?
How much effort will it take?
Are you a fairly skilled bartender or is your idea of serving drinks opening a box of wine?
Will people enjoy it?
Is it a fairly basic cocktail that’s light and easy to drink or is it a strong, smoky and robust cocktail only some will favour? A batch cocktail should appeal to a wide range of people, so skip overly complicated or polarizing drinks in favour of more classic flavours. Also, skip gimmicky options such a brightly colored liquors and pre-made mixes.
It is important to putting as much thought into your cocktails as you would your menu. Shrimp and lobster are great so long as you’re not serving it to a seafood allergy support group. Take some care in deciding what drinks will go best with your party or event.
How Much to Make
Deciding how much to make is often tricky. Some people will have just a taste whereas other guests make have four or five glasses. The best way to determine how much to make is to calculate the number of guests and assume each guest will have three drinks. Some will have less, others will have more, but it should even itself out. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to have extra as a backup or to make cocktails that take minimal effort and time if you have to recreate them.
Furthermore, guests will often opt for what is easiest. When they come into the party, you’re in demand as the host, so:
1/2 cup brandy (we suggest Soberano Spanish brandy for cost)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 (750ml) bottle dry red wine
1/2 cup triple sec
One lemon, sliced into rounds
One orange, sliced into rounds
One lime, sliced into rounds
1/4 cup white sugar (optional)
Eight maraschino cherries
2 cups carbonated water (optional)
In your pitcher or punch bowl mix the brandy, lemon juice, lemonade, orange juice, wine, triple sec and sugar. Refrigerate for one hour. Add the fruit and cover. Refrigerate overnight for best results. Add club soda just before serving if you want a fizzy sangria. This isn’t authentic, but it’s easy to make, inexpensive and tastes excellent for a large batch cocktail. For larger crowds just double or triple the recipe.
Big Batch Gin & Tonic
One 750ml bottle of gin (we recommend Gordon’s Gin for price)
1 2 liter bottle of tonic water
Five Limes sliced into rounds
Made at the last minute, this is as easy as it gets. Fill your pitcher with ice, add the gin, the tonic, and float in the limes. Stir well, but gently and serve.
Rum Like The Locals
One 750ml bottle of spiced rum (we suggest Appletons 12-year)
One carton of fresh orange juice
Eight maraschino cherries
Fill your pitcher or punch bowl with ice or serve at room temperature for an authentic taste. Pour the rum into the bowl and the orange juice. Add the cherries and stir for a satisfying Caribbean punch.
2 cups of white rum (we suggest Shellback silver rum)
3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of simple syrup
1 cup of fresh mint
Fill the punch bowl or pitcher with shaved ice. Pour rum and lemon juice in. Stir in simple syrup and mint. Enjoy.
The Gent’s Gazette
Our take on the classic B&B, fill the punch bowl with ice rocks and add the ingredients. Stir and serve. Refreshing and elegant, just like summer parties should be.
Java Java Java
Mix all ingredients together over ice in a punch bowl. Serve immediately. Toss any leftovers once ice melts.
Berry Lemon Fizz
4 cups of vodka (we suggest Ketel One)
One can of frozen lemonade concentrate
2 cups of Tropicana Watermelon juice
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1 cup of fresh strawberries, sliced
One lemon sliced in rounds
2 cups of carbonated water
Add all ingredients over ice in punch bowl and stir well. Add club soda right before serving.
Frozen Berry Gin Fizz
Build everything in a blender except the lemon lime soda and blend until smooth. Pour frozen slush 3/4 way into a punch bowl or pitcher. Top with 7 Up and stir. Garnish with a lime wheel and berries.
Forget the whisky, the brandy, and other expensive spirits. Batch cocktails don’t need a $200 bottle of alcohol, especially when it’s being mixed with something sweet. Instead, focus on inexpensive or medium-range spirits. If the lower priced whiskies and brandies are still out of budget, consider cocktails that use beer, rum, tequila, wine, gin, and vodka. If the recipe calls for Scotch, substitute Canadian rye, bourbon or select blended whiskies over a single malt. Batch cocktails are a great way to save money when you’re working with a smaller budget.
Having a punch bowl or pitcher is your best bet, but if you don’t have those you can get creative. Using clean metal garden buckets, a large serving bowl or having individual glasses pre-poured can prevent you from having to run to the store and invest in a punch bowl. However, it never hurts to own one, and we suggest any gentleman who entertains should have a punch bowl. You can also buy inexpensive pitchers for under $30.
Serving Spoons & Ladles
Having a ladle to serve the cocktails with is important if it’s not being served in a pourable pitcher. Even for cocktails served in pitchers, it never hurts to have a spoon to help keep ice back or spoon garnish such as fruit into your cup.
Many punch bowls come with sets of glasses. There really are no rules for glassware, but we suggest lowball glasses for smaller amounts. This way your batch will last longer. Click here to read our guide on glassware.
Straws and Markers
If you’re serving frozen cocktails or ones that are often served with a straw, it’s a good plan to have them on standby for those who want them. It’s also a good idea to have drink markers so people can label their glass since everyone’s drink will look the same. We recommend these straws since they can also be used as muddlers, they are colored which marks your drink and they can be used to mix the cocktail in your class.
Final Serving Tips
Ice melts, especially in the heat. Here are some tips to keep your cocktails cool and delicious:
- Use a double boiler method and place the pitcher in a large bowl filled with ice. This way, if the ice melts in the bowl, it doesn’t water down the cocktail. Even as the ice melts in the surrounding vessel, the water will remain cold for awhile.
- Consider dry ice that can be packed around the pitcher. That or meat packing ice that butchers use when shipping beef also works.
- If your batch recipe calls for cream, substitute it with vanilla ice-cream or freeze the cream before adding it to the cocktail.
- Partially freeze juices before adding them, so they’re slushy. Since it’s 100% juice, it won’t water down the cocktail as it melts.
- Freeze your alcohol. Since it doesn’t actually freeze, placing a bottle of gin or vodka in the freezer will just chill it, giving you an ice cold cocktail.
- If you regularly make batch cocktails, and your favorite go-to recipe calls for carbonated water, consider investing in a Soda Stream Power. It allows you to set your carbonation level, which gives you the ability to add extra carbonation to the water so it doesn’t go flat quickly.
- Consider a top quality blender to get the results you want every time. It will also save you time creating the cocktails. We suggest the Vitamix 7500.
- Fresh fruits always work best when served as a garnish, but frozen fruit stays cooler longer and works better in blended drinks. It’s best to freeze your own fruit since some store-bought frozen fruit is glazed or contains extra water, which will water down your cocktail.
- For soda-based cocktails that use clear spirits, consider adding food colouring for themed parties such as Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. Two pitchers (one red and one blue) will always look more festive than one large clear pitcher.
- For recipes that call for berries, buy berries that aren’t too ripe so they don’t fall apart in the cocktail.
- Using apples, peaches and pears adds some great flavour and fragrance to batch cocktails.
There is no shortage of cocktails that can be prepared in large batches. From simple two-ingredient cocktails to frozen concoctions, you are only limited by your imagination. If you want to create your own, start with a vodka and club soda base. Then add fresh fruit juices, berries, citrus or other fruits. Heck, you can even add cucumber or celery. Get creative and have fun at your party. What are your favorite batch cocktails for large crowds?