As the warmer weather kicks in, high-volume cocktails can help make gatherings delicious and easy. Whether under the stars, poolside, or snuggling around the table on a patio, the backyard bartenders can relax when they’re outside.
Hang out. Pour. Cheers.
Made ahead of time, big-batch drinks are served from a large, chilly pitcher. Depending on the ingredients, most of the work can be done hours or even days in advance. So there is no last-minute shake in a cocktail shaker. Don’t try to memorize ingredients and proportions. No stress.
Along with a refrigerated large pitcher, I like to make an easily accessible tray of glasses and a filled ice bucket. I often use stemless wine glasses or small old-fashioned glasses, keeping the portion on the moderate side. No supersizing at my house; I want guests to remember dinner.
My table display also includes non-alcoholic choices. Some chilled sparkling water and fresh juice are a must. And if I have several guests who prefer non-alcoholic cocktails, I like to make a modified version of cookbook author Maggie Hoffman’s big-batch Blaylocks.
To make them, combine 4 1/2 cups of fresh pink grapefruit juice and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice in a 2-quart pitcher up to two hours in advance. Add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey syrup in a 2:1 ratio (combine 1 1/4 cups honey and 3/4 warm cup water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until blended, do not boil – cool.) Before serving, pour halfway into tall, ice-filled glasses. Finish with sparkling water.
Boulevardiers’ origins date back to Paris in the 1920s. American expatriate Erskine Gwynne is credited with inventing the tasty concoction, dubbed it with a name that honors those who frequent the Parisian boulevards. The cocktail can be thought of as a bittersweet Manhattan variant or a whiskey Negroni (you can think of the Negroni as a Boulevardier variant, as Boulevardiers appeared in print long before the Negroni).
According to America’s Test Kitchen’s book “How to Cocktail,” the cocktail originally called for equal parts bourbon or rye, Campari, and sweet vermouth. But when they put together their version, they reasoned that a smaller ratio of Campari allowed the drink to walk a fine line between bitter and sweet, while maintaining a rich lusciousness. And they point out that because water is added to the mix, no ice is needed. The water ensures the perfect dilution.
Yield: 8 cocktails
12 ounces rye or bourbon
8 ounces Campari
8 ounces sweet vermouth
8 ounces of water
garnish: 8 orange twists, see chef’s notes
Cook’s notes: To make a citrus twist, use a paring knife or peeler with pivoting blades to remove a long, wide strip of zest. Try not to take too much white pith along with the colored part of the peel.
1. Combine rye, Campari, vermouth, and water in a serving pitcher or large container. Cover and refrigerate until well cooled, at least 2 hours.
2. Stir to combine and serve in chilled cocktail glasses, garnish each cocktail with an orange twist. Large batches of Boulevardiers can be stored in the refrigerator tightly closed for up to 1 month.
Source: “How to Cocktail” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $24.99)
Classic Red Wine Sangria
Sangria, with its ancient roots in Spain, has become a mainstay for party drinks around the world. The folks at America’s Test Kitchen decided after much experimentation that they preferred a simple formula. They tested versions with untold collections of fruit and chose this classic red wine version with simple citrus – just oranges and lemons.
For white wine-based Sangria, they preferred the addition of apples or pears. For a rosé-based version, they recommend two cups of mixed fresh berries. Recipes for these variations appear at the end of the classic Sangria recipe.
Yield: 12 cocktails
2 (750 ml) bottles of fruity red wine, such as Merlot
4 ounces orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
4 ounces simple syrup, see cook’s notes
3 oranges (2 thinly sliced, 1 squeezed to yield 4 ounces)
2 lemons, thinly sliced
To serve: ice cream
Cook’s notes: To make simple syrup, combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 5 ounces warm tap water in a bowl. Beat until the sugar has dissolved. Cool completely, about 10 minutes, before transferring to an airtight container. You can also buy simple syrup in the drinks department in many supermarkets.
1. Combine all ingredients (except ice cream) in a serving pitcher or large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until flavors meld and mixture is well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
2. Stir Sangria to recombine, then serve in chilled wine glasses half filled with ice, and garnish individual servings with macerated fruit.
White Wine Sangria: Substitute a fruity white wine, such as Riesling for the red wine, brandy for the orange liqueur, 8 ounces of apple juice for the orange juice and 2 apples or pears – thinly sliced - for the orange and lemon slices.
Rosé Sangria: Replace red wine with rosé wine, elderflower orange liqueur, 8 ounces orange juice, pomegranate juice, and orange and lemon slices with 2 cups mixed berries.
Source: “How To Cocktail” by America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $24.99)
In Maggie Hoffman’s book, “Batch Cocktails” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99), she provides the formula for Big-batch Birds Again cocktails, a spicy pour that combines sauvignon blanc and a dry herb vermouth with basil. , simple syrup, rose water and fresh lime juice. The author points out that it is a clear and refreshing blend that is a “low-proof easy drinker”.
She suggests that a great way to use up leftover dry vermouth on a hot day is to combine a few ounces of it in a tall ice-filled glass with twice as much tonic and a slice of lemon.
Yield: About 13 servings
15 fresh basil leaves, halved
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1:1) simple syrup; see chef’s notes
1 1/4 teaspoons rose water; see chef’s notes
2 1/4 cups refrigerated sauvignon blanc
2 1/4 cups refrigerated dry vermouth, such as Dolin
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
garnish: 13 fresh basil leaves
Optional garnish: Freshly ground black pepper
Chef’s Notes: This version of simple syrup is made in a 1:1 ratio. Combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup very hot water in a resealable container, such as a mason jar; stir to dissolve sugar. Once cool, seal and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Rose water is a flavored water made by soaking rose petals in water. It is sold in supermarkets with large liquor departments, large wine stores and online.
1. Up to two hours before serving, place basil leaves, simple syrup, and rose water in a 2-quart pitcher. Gently tap basil with a muddler or long wooden spoon, just enough to take out the flavor; don’t pulverize it. Pour in chilled sauvignon blanc, chilled vermouth, and lime juice. Stir well to combine. If not served right away, seal tightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2. To serve, stir the mixture well. Pour the mixture into ice-filled wine glasses or rock glasses and garnish each with a basil leaf. Garnish with a little freshly ground black pepper if desired.
Source: “Batch Cocktails” by Maggie Hoffman (Ten Speed Press, $19.99)