Large format punches and pitcher drinks somehow seem easier to make than standard cocktails—maybe because we think there’s more room to hide mistakes in all that liquid. But big batch drinks are just as difficult to get right (if not more so) than classic drinks served in lowballs and coupes. Whether you’re making punch from a recipe, pre-batching a cocktail for a crowd, or improvising with whatever spirits and mixers you have laying around, these tips for big batch drinks will help you make a big, beautiful, balanced punch.
Follow a Formula, Even if You’re Improvising
When making a big drink, it can be tempting to throw ratios to the wind and dump bottles in a bowl until the liquid is just passable enough to glug down. But even large punches need balance. If you’re not working from a specific recipe, no matter what flavor you’re going for, follow this age old rhyme to create something that’s actually drinkable: one of sour (citrus), two of sweet (syrup or liqueur), three of strong (liquor), four of weak (dry liqueur, wine, juice, tea or soda).
Use Bigger Ice
Ice affects a cocktail no matter the size of the drink. That big cube of ice anchoring an Old Fashioned melts slower than several smaller cubes because it has more surface area. Same goes for a big block of ice in a punch bowl. To create these extra large blocks, fill Tupperware or another large container with water, and freeze as you normally would.
Fill It Out With Bubbly
It’s a universal truth that everything is better with sparkling wine. Because you’ll likely need to fill out your large batch drink with a low-ABV ingredient or a mixer anyway, you might as well add some fizzy joy, like a quality budget Prosecco. If you’d like an exceptionally effervescent sipper in every glass, consider topping each poured drink with bubbly to order.
Add Water to Premade Cocktails
If you plan to serve your drink over ice, then you should follow whatever recipe you please and simply store it in the fridge until ready to serve. But if you plan to pre-chill a large batch cocktail (like Martinis for a crowd, for instance) and serve it neat, you’ll need to add water. Normally, when you make an individual drink, you stir or shake the ingredients to not only chill it, but also to dilute the mixture. No mixing means no dilution, which means an overly potent cocktail if you don’t water it down to compensate. You’ll need about three parts cocktail to one part water.
Don’t Add Citrus Too Early
We know you’re a master at meal prep and prefer to batch out your food and beverages for an entire month in advance. But if you’re mixing up a big batch of booze that involves citrus, wait until the day you intend to drink it. Citrus juice lasts about a day in the fridge, so you could prep the night before a party if you prefer. But squeezing your juice just before mixing will create a brighter final product.
Prep Garnishes Ahead of Time
If you intend to garnish individual glasses as you serve drinks, feel free to prep the garnishes ahead of time. To keep citrus peels moist, layer them in a container with slightly dampened paper towels, and be sure to wake up any herbs by giving them a quick slap before adding them to a glass.
Go Beyond a Bowl
Every boring punch ever came from a boring punch bowl. But no boring punch ever came out of a watermelon or a pumpkin. Not only do they add some pizzazz to your presentation, but they also subtly infuse the drink as it sits.