Think Big: 5 Tips to Making Party-Ready Batch Cocktails

A guide to scaling up your favorite drink for a crowd

There are certain mustachioed mixologists out there who would have you believe that each and every cocktail is a bespoke thing of beauty. And in certain cases, that's true. But when it comes to warm-weather entertaining, there's nothing better than cocktails meant for a crowd. And unlike tinkering to get that Negroni just so, mixing a large-format cocktail allows you to really get creative and have a little fun—without having to man the bar all night long.

① Choose Your Vessel

Large-format cocktails are all about impressive presentation, presenting the perfect opportunity to break out your grandmother's crystal punch bowl and matching cups. But if family heirlooms aren't in the cards, there are several attractive options out there that will do the trick. This shatterproof beverage dispenser ($48) has a built-in chiller, while this mason-inspired jar ($70) will give your bash plenty of Pinterest cred. And if you'd prefer something a little more DIY, this screw-on spigot can convert pretty much anything into a drinks dispenser.

② Think Theme

Since party planning often begins with building a menu, the best way to glean inspiration for cocktails is simply to look at the food. Hosting a Mediterranean feast with cold antipasti and grilled fish? Let the trip to coastal Italy continue by serving Aperol Spritzes or bubbly Negroni Sbagliato cocktails. Margaritas are the obvious choice for taco night, so try mixing things up with tart Palomas or spicy micheladas. Sangria could work well with tapas, but go one better with large-format gin and tonics or something with vermouth.  

③ Proof Before Purchase

Unless your guests can really handle their alcohol, it's wise to consider just how strong your cocktails are. Some people might consider two gallons of Negronis a dream come true; in most cases, though, it's a recipe for a party that gets a little too rowdy a little too quickly. Instead, think about drinks that incorporate low- or no-proof mixers (like sparkling wine and fruit juices) and be sure to steer clear of  drinks made entirely of booze.

④ Formulas Are Your Friends

Large-batch cocktails will require that you dust off those math skills. Luckily, most recipes have a formulaic nature that makes them pretty easy to scale up. For example, a Negroni Sbagliato is equal parts sweet vermouth, Campari and prosecco—a 1:1:1 ratio that can be multiplied ad infinitum. A classic margarita is made of four parts tequila, two parts Cointreau and two parts lime juice, making it similarly easy to convert. (Just be sure to do the math before you start drinking.)

⑤ Set Up a Self-Serve Station 

With your vessel filled, it's time to set up a serving station. Instead of adding ice—which will water down your creation and mute all of that hard work—line up glasses and a full ice bucket, along with a platter of lemon and lime wedges, citrus rounds and other garnishes, and let partygoers serve themselves.

Caroline Coral is a food and travel writer who splits her time between Philadelphia and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram at @caroline.f.coral.

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