There have recently been a spate of quasi-reverential articles in food and wine publications about making “batch cocktails.” Now “batch cocktails” are really nothing more than making drinks in quantity, say by the pitcher or quart. The articles reminded me that making drinks by the batch is a time-honored, time-saving practice in restaurants with limited space. I recall how my dear friend Devon offered just a few very well-made cocktails at his eponymous restaurant in Provincetown. The place didn’t have a bar and was quite small, so it made great sense to ready the cocktails ahead of time by, you guessed it, the batch. I recently encountered the same approach at the Canteen Winter Lodge pop-up.
Making cocktails by the batch is a great thing to do when throwing a party at home. Making one or, perhaps, two batches ahead of time expands your offerings beyond wine and beer without the potential chaos of a full open bar. You can set up the drinks in nice pitchers, along with glasses, ice, and garnishes. Festive and practical at the same time. Guests can help themselves, thus giving you as the party-giver more time to enjoy yourself.
Many people are familiar with the practice of making pitchers of mimosas, Bloody Marys, and sangria for brunch. The batch cocktail idea takes that practice into the slightly more formal territory of an evening cocktail or dinner party. It’s also a bit of a throwback: picture scenes from movies from the ’40s and ’50s where there always seemed to be a pitcher of martinis on the bar.
Which reminds me of one of the first parties we went to after moving to Provincetown in the late 1990s. The host was offering what he called “Not Your Father’s Martinis” by the pitcher. The martinis were cold and bracing (as they should be) and made from half gin and half vodka. Indeed, I’d never seen my or anyone else’s father make a martini that way. This martini quickly became a favorite. A little sleuthing revealed that it is also called a Vesper and was created for Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.
An important thing to keep in mind with batch cocktails is the requirement to add some water to the mix. It’s a bit counterintuitive perhaps, but this addition mimics ordering a cocktail in a bar — the ice in which the drink is stirred or shaken will dilute the cocktail a bit. Some drinks experts say this bit of water actually helps in getting the cocktail to “blossom,” softening as it does the strength of the alcohol. The water (ideally filtered or bottled) should be one-quarter to one-third of the volume of alcohol you are using.
Below are a couple of ideas for you. So, grab a pitcher and get mixing!
Batched Vesper Martini
“Stirred, not shaken”
12 oz. gin
12 oz. vodka
1-2 oz. dry vermouth or Lillet Blanc
3 oz. water
Lemon peels for garnish
Combine ingredients in a pitcher and chill, covered, in the refrigerator until your guests arrive. Pour 4 to 5 ounces into a chilled martini glass. Twist the lemon peel over the drink to release lemon essences and drop peel into drink.
This is a Negroni’s cold weather cousin, made with bourbon, not gin.
12 oz. bourbon
9 oz. sweet vermouth
9 oz. Campari
4 or 5 dashes Angostura or orange bitters
4 oz. water
Orange peels for garnish
Combine ingredients in a pitcher and chill, covered until ready to serve. Pour 4 to 5 ounces into a chilled martini or old-fashioned glass. Twist orange peel over drink to release orange oils and drop peel into the glass.
One final note: feel free to serve these drinks over ice (“on the rocks”). This won’t over-dilute the cocktail.
And, as always, enjoy responsibly!