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.