How to Properly Batch Cocktails for Your Next Party

This champagne-tequila cocktail is the perfect welcome drink.

Batching cocktails Death & Co
Photos by Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso

Hosting parties is stressful. We can’t be the only ones who immediately regret the idea as soon as we send out invitations, right? You’ve got to anxiously clean your house, buy and make a ton of food, and pretend you’re sophisticated for the evening by offering your guests more than just boxed wine and light beer.

That’s where Death & Co’s new cocktail book Welcome Home can really come in handy. This is the third book from the staff of the innovative cocktail bar, which opened in Manhattan’s East Village in 2006 and now has locations in Denver and Los Angeles. This installment focuses on home bartending, offering tips and tricks to take our at-home drinks to the next level.

“It’s almost like we wrote this in the middle of a pandemic,” laughs Alex Day, who co-wrote the book with Nick Fauchald and David Kaplan. “Technically speaking, the martini you make at home could be the same on paper, but you lose things that make a bar magical in so many ways. We peel back those layers and share some of the tricks and reasons why a drink at a bar might subconsciously feel next level.”

The first three chapters of Welcome Home chronicle how exactly a bar like Death & Co came to be, from preparing a space to hiring talent to developing cocktail menus. Nice touches include stellar photography from Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso and thoughtful essays from regulars.

The fourth chapter gets more personal—with tips on how to build a home bar, recipes for hundreds of cocktails depending on your mood, and tutorials including how to properly batch cocktails for a crowd. Batching is basically a fancy term for making cocktails in advance in bulk.

“Really it’s like mise en place in a kitchen. You can prep some of your ingredients beforehand so your assembly is quicker,” Day says. “Batching is fundamental at all our bars. Sometimes it’s batching small amounts together—like amaro, a fortified wine, and a spirit—all the way up to thousands of fully batched cocktails for a big event.”

You might be wondering how hard it is to just increase a recipe tenfold for a larger crowd, but batching requires a bit more nuance. For certain ingredients that Day considers the “seasoning” of drinks—like bitters, absinthe, and acids—you don’t scale it exactly in line with everything else, you actually cut it in half from that scaled amount. They would be too intense in larger quantities. Also, ingredients that lose their luster or are even perishable, like bubbles and citrus, should only be added later and not prepared beforehand.

A good example from the book is Lady Stardust, which was developed by New York bartender Tim Miner in 2019. The celebratory cocktail is an ideal welcome drink and can be partially batched beforehand. Two days prior, you combine and refrigerate tequila, amaro, and strawberry syrup; eight hours before guests arrive, you add lemon juice; and when you serve, you can shake, strain, and pour the cocktail before topping each with champagne.

“Nothing better than doing a live champagne top-off for people,” Day says. “The perception to guests is that—voila—you came up with this drink in a couple of minutes. You can tap into what people really love about cocktails, and that is the theater of the whole thing.”

Day shares a few tips to consider during the process. In the book, the writers “get real nerdy with it” and use a centrifuge to make the strawberry syrup, but using a blender to combine the strawberries and sugar is just fine. He also advises to make sure you’re using enough ice (to the brim!) in your cocktail shaker and to keep your champagne equally as cold. “Bubbles don’t like warm temperatures,” he says. “Get it ripping cold so your drink is nice and frothy.”

Sure, these at-home drinks might not be an exact carbon copy of the cocktail bar experience we all miss—dim lighting, music at the perfect volume, the smooth bartop feel, and the randomly compelling conversation of a stranger. But Day hopes that these tips and recipes will be the next best thing.

“Anyone who’s cooked a really extravagant feast for the holidays and wasn’t prepared beforehand knows they went down in flames,” he says, adding that he already has spreadsheets going for his Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. “Planning ahead a bit affords us at-home hosts some luxuries. Because you’re supposed to have fun, too.”

Lady Stardust
Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso

Lady Stardust Cocktail Recipe

Advance prep (up to 2 days beforehand): Batching, syrup preparation
Last-minute prep (up to 8 hours beforehand): Citrus juicing, final batching

Ingredients:
• 1 ounce Siembra Valles Ancestral tequila➝6 ounces
• ½ ounce amaro Zucca➝3 ounces
• ¾ ounce strawberry syrup (1:1 hulled strawberries to unbleached cane sugar)➝4½ ounces (prep and refrigerate until ready)
• ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice➝4½ ounces (prep and refrigerate until ready)
• 2 ounces cold champagne➝12 ounces

Directions:
1. Make the batch up to 2 days in advance: combine the tequila, amaro, strawberry syrup, and lemon juice in a 1-liter bottle. Seal and shake briefly to mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. When ready to serve, add 9 ounces of batch to each shaker tin.
3. Before shaking, add 2 ounces of champagne to each flute.
4. Shake the batch with ice and double strain, distributing the drink evenly among the six flute glasses.

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Jess Mayhugh is the editorial director of Food & Drink for Thrillist, and is grateful to have her holiday party cocktail already figured out. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.