The Secret to Cocktails for a Crowd


Making drinks for a crowd is easier than it sounds—as long as you’re prepared. As Jessica Latham, co-founder of Social Studies, an entertaining and party kit rental company, says, “The best host is a relaxed host. Prepping the night before your event makes all the difference.” Preparation when it comes to large-format cocktails can take many forms—slicing garnish and stowing it away for mise en place, picking up fresh-squeezed juice from a local vendor, combining spirits into a single bottle for ease of service, or simply curating a drink that pleases a crowd.

Here, a cadre of tips for entertaining a crowd of thirsty drinkers.

Pick the right drink and format. Cocktail writer Kara Newman says some of the best advice she’s received about batching focuses on spirit-forward drinks, “because citrus and sugar will eventually separate, and you’ll lose the freshness and quality of the cocktail, especially if it’s going to sit for more than 30 minutes,” she says. She also recommends sticking to brightly colored drinks—no garnish will save a trough of murky brown. Daniel Kutch, East Coast brand ambassador for MARTINI & ROSSI®, goes for a punch bowl format and checks its carbonation level regularly, adding prosecco whenever it seems to be fizzling.

Batching is all about prep. The experts recommend having all your tools and ingredients on hand before even getting started. Measure out your ingredients, fill up your ice trays or stock your freezer. Line up glassware, tools and cocktail napkins. Newman recommends remembering clean-up gear, too—dish towels, trash bags and a bin for ice and liquids if you aren’t near a sink. Cut garnish ahead and organize it into a mise en place to keep things looking fresh and decorative.

Aesthetics, aesthetics, aesthetics. Just because a cocktail is batched doesn’t mean it doesn’t get the same amount of attention as an à la minute drink. Latham likes to cut citrus peels, cucumber ribbons and little bouquets of herbs to drop over each individual drink. She’ll also prep glassware ahead of time with a seasoned rim, or sprinkle Tajín over the top of a batched Margarita when serving. Depending on the drink, she’ll pull out punch cups, pretty Moroccan tea glasses or coupes that match the vibe of the occasion.

"The best host is a relaxed host. Prepping the night before your event makes all the difference.”

The ice factor. Of course, ice is always a moving target when it comes to making cocktails for a crowd. “You can never have too much ice,” says Newman. She relies on a specific formula to help her plan for necessary quantities. For each 750 ml of cocktail (the size of a standard bottle of liquor), allot seven pounds of ice—and then add extra. Latham adds visual appeal to her ice by freezing fruit or edible flowers into individual cubes.

Self-service is key. A cocktail party is foremost about the quality social time. For Kutch, the secret lies in lightening the load, and letting guests do some of the work. By virtue of the format, the punch bowl is the perfect solution—guests ladle and garnish their own cocktails. If you don’t have time to play bartender, measure cocktails ahead into bottles or pitchers alongside a bucket of ice and a little serving card that provides instructions.

Below, three large-format cocktails from the entertaining experts that are fit for a crowd.

Rubino Sbagliato

Daniel Kutch, East Coast brand ambassador for MARTINI & ROSSI, likes to rely on a punch bowl when entertaining a large group. “Food, drinks and entertaining guests can be a lot to juggle when hosting at your place, so it’s important to find solutions that keep you from time-consuming prep work while you should be enjoying the company of others,” he says. This drink is a simple yet robust twist on the Negroni Sbagliato, a perfect combo of bitter, sweet and bubbly.

Servings: 12

12 ounces MARTINI & ROSSI(R) Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth
12 ounces MARTINI & ROSSI Riserva Speciale Bitter liqueur
1 bottle MARTINI & ROSSI Prosecco

Garnish: orange half-wheels

1. Pour the vermouth and bitter liqueur into a punch bowl.
2. Add ice, then pour a bottle of Prosecco over it.
3. Stir briefly to incorporate ingredients.
4. Ladle into a rocks glass, and garnish with an orange slice.

The Vespucci
Cocktail writer Kara Newman likes to batch a version of bartender Jonathan Russell’s Vespucci, a sherry-forward play on the Americano. Equal parts rich and savory, it’s a quenching long drink best served at the beginning of an evening with a salty snack. Newman recommends combining the sherry and vermouth in a single bottle for ease of serving.

Servings: 4

12 ounces MARTINI & ROSSI(R) Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth
12 ounces fino sherry
Birch or Angostura bitters

1. Combine the vermouth and fino sherry into a single bottle.
2. To serve, measure 3 ounces of pre-batched vermouth-sherry formula into each glass over ice.
3. Top with 3 to 4 dashes of bitters, and fill each glass with Prosecco.

For Jessica Latham, co-founder of Social Studies, the most crowd-pleasing drink is simple, refreshing, tasty and easily dispatched. This spritz combines the clean bubble of MARTINI & ROSSIProsecco with the floral sweetness of ST~GERMAIN, all topped with zippy club soda for a quickly built cocktail meant for a group.

Serving: 1

4 ounces dry MARTINI & ROSSI(R) Prosecco
1.5 ounces ST~GERMAIN elderflower liqueur Club soda

1. Pour MARTINI & ROSSI Prosecco into a large ice-filled wine glass.
2. Add ST~GERMAIN and top with club soda.


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