It’s the eternal Saturday night question: to host or to go out? When you go out to drink, you have experienced bartenders who can make you just about anything your palate desires; hosting from home, on the other hand, lets you set the mood, the music, and the agenda. Also, you don’t have to... go out. Do I want expertly-made margaritas, or do I want to be steps away from bed at the end of the night? If you know how to make batched cocktails, you don’t have to choose. With the right tools, you can create one perfectly balanced, bar-ready, large-format drink to serve your guests, all in the time it takes to wait for a pizza delivery.
The first thing you’ll need to make large-format drinks is a decent grasp of fractions. (It’s really not that bad.) Instead of thinking about how many ounces of each ingredient you’ll need, think of the proportions. Take a daiquiri: A true daiquiri is simply two parts rum to one part each of fresh lime juice and simple syrup (these proportions can be tweaked to taste). A single cocktail may require 1.5 ounces of rum and three-fourths of an ounce each of lime juice and simple syrup, added to a tin with ice and shaken.
To make a giant batch of daiquiris at home you’ll need half as much lime juice and simple syrup as you have rum. Using one 750-milliliter bottle of rum? You’ll need 375 milliliters each of lime and simple syrup. Having a massive gathering and you’re using two bottles of rum? You’ll need 750 milliliters of simple syrup and lime. Easy! Now that you have the math down, here’s everything else you’ll need.
Cambros are the ubiquitous storing containers used at bars and restaurants. From individual, meal-sized containers to insulated, travel-ready bins for hundreds of pounds of salmon filets, the Cambro company has your back. You’ll be pouring all of your cocktail ingredients into one of these. For batching purposes, opt for a clear 6-quart Cambro. You can batch 62 3-ounce cocktails in a container this size, and while you might not be hosting a gathering that large (or that thirsty) the extra room gives you space for stirring and adding ice.
If you’re going to make cocktails at home you really need to have a juicer of some sort. A drink is only as good as its ingredients, and fresh juice is a must. A simple hand juicer, like this version from Williams Sonoma, works just fine. If you prefer something electric to speed the process along, try this one from Black and Decker. It’s smaller but mechanically similar to what many bars use.
Tea strainer and bar spoon
Every bar using fresh juice strains the juice before bottling it and using it in drinks. (Pulp isn’t everyone’s jam.) After you juice your citrus, pour the juice through a tea strainer into a clean container. When it backs up, and it will (there’s an incredible amount of pulp in lemons and limes), use your bar spoon, to help swirl the juice through the strainer. It’s handier than a standard spoon thanks to its long, thin, spiraled handle. Bonus: You can use the same spoon to stir your batch and waterize it — the process of diluting the drink by either mixing ice into the batch in the Cambro or pouring the batch over ice when you’re ready to serve.
Funnel and ladle
One of the great things about batching is you have ready-made storage vessels for your final product in the liquor bottles you’ve emptied into the batch. If you’re taking your cocktails on the road and need them to be travel ready, you can transfer your creation from the Cambro to these bottles. You will need a funnel, though, with a spout base about the size of a quarter (or, you know, the opening of a bottle of booze).
However, if you’re hosting the soiree, find yourself a sturdy punch ladle, something with a long handle, to keep it from sinking into the vessel holding your drinks, and a deep, 5-ounce bowl: If a standard cocktail is between 3 and 4 ounces, it’s helpful for everyone if they’re not needing to dip into the pitcher or punch bowl multiple times to fill their glasses.
Pitcher or punch bowl
Any vessel will do, depending on your crowd. Serve your cocktails straight out of the Cambro, if you want, or pull down that Halloween cauldron you put out with candy for trick-or-treaters — it all works.
If you want to get fancy, though, and half the fun of hosting a gathering is to pull out all the stops, there are oodles of pitchers and punch bowls available. I like this classic, deep-set version (that comes with a ladle!) from Amazon. If you’re feeling splurge-y, or plan on entertaining often, something like this vintage, 10-liter bowl and cup set from Etsy is perfect.
My favorite place to procure punch bowls and glassware, however, is Goodwill. You likely won’t find a complete matching set of glasses but a mix and match combo can be more fun than a matching collection. Hit up your local Goodwill once or twice before your event; glassware comes in all the time and you can scoop up some truly incredible finds once you have an eye out.
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