How to Make Large-Batch Holiday Cocktails for a Crowd
Plus, five classic cocktails you can easily batch for your guests.
Cocktail mixing for a crowd is tricky. Not only does it require serious time and attention, but translating drinks from individual servings to a punch bowl format isn’t so straightforward. If you don’t add extra water or ice to them, they won’t be as balanced as a shaken drink; if you batch too quickly in a big quantity, your drinks might end up watered-down.
We sought out some expert tips to help you swiftly, and correctly, make large-format drinks. Justin Campbell, bar director at The H.wood Group, gave us his best advice for mass-producing holiday cocktails and recommended a few classic drinks that can easily be batched, too. Yael Vengroff, beverage director for The Spare Room and Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles, also gave us a helpful guideline for making batch cocktails, which applies to cooking as well. Read on for their recommendations.
1. Set up a mise en place
“The most important and number one thing to keep in mind when making a large-format cocktail is to have all of your ingredients prepped in advance and in your immediate vicinity, so you can build, complete, and wow quickly,” Vengroff says. “Just as a chef has a full and complete mise en place before beginning to cook, you must prepare yourself the same for drinks, especially big ones.”
2. Add water
“When you’re batching for a crowd, you have to be sure that you’re adding your water dilution," Campbell says. "When you’re making a cocktail individually, you’re shaking it, which gives it about a quarter ounce of water and really helps to balance the cocktail. A lot of times when you’re batching a cocktail, you’re not adding water, you’re just throwing all of your ingredients into a punch bowl and serving it from there. So it’s not going to be as balanced as it would be if you had a cocktail."
Remember this ratio: "I would add about a quarter ounce of water for each cocktail that you have in the bowl," he says. "Or, some smaller cubes in there with the big cubes so you can get the dilution from that water.”
3. Don’t batch too quickly
“The cocktail is going to change over time, so I wouldn’t batch as much as quickly,” he explains. “Make enough for the crowd to have one or two and have a second batch on deck. Because if it sits for too long, the whole cocktail kind of manipulates and gets watered down. Not as pretty.”
4. Take it easy on the spices
“The fall spices that you’re going to use, like cinnamon and nutmeg, those are all very potent, powerful flavors, and I would definitely use them in moderation,” Campbell says. “I usually stick with one.”
5. Swap sugar for maple syrup
"Maple syrup is a really cool sweetener to use, instead of just Demerara sugar, or sugar in the raw, or white sugar,” Campbell says.
6. Remember that these drinks are easy to batch:
“Those are pretty easy because you can just put a fall spice or a holiday spice in the demerara,” Campbell says.
Get our Old Fashioned recipe here.
“Daiquiris play well with cinnamon,” he said “[and] any type of citrus. Winter is citrus season, so grapefruits, mandarins, those come in fresh for the winter.”
Get our Classic Daiquiri recipe here.
“Anything with a Champagne topper is easy to batch quickly because you’re essentially just adding spirit to the Champagne, so it’s like a miniature cocktail,” he explains. “And for the French 75, I would say adding any kind of cranberry, any kind of infusion for the spirit.”
Get our French 75 recipe here.
“Anything with a shrub would be great as well, so a vinegar-based cocktail,” he says. “Apple shrubs are pretty cool, and it has that fall/Christmas flavor.“
Get our Apple Cider–Ginger Shrub recipe here.
“They’re pretty easy to manipulate, you can substitute the sweetener for any kind of fall spice or fruit,” he says.
Get our Whiskey Sour recipe here.