Learning how to batch a cocktail isn’t rocket science. And I’ve got a way for you to do it that doesn’t require a lot of math or a calculator. It’s so easy my Mom now uses it for all of her favorite cocktails. And I use it as an easy thank you gift to a host or hostess, or a friend who has helped me out in a pinch.
Now don’t get me wrong, you can make the batch of cocktails complete rocket science, get out a calculator, a kitchen scale and measure the weight of drops and dashes. But, to be fair, not everyone has a palate so advanced and delicate that they’ll be able to tell that you put in a little extra water or a little too few bitters.
And for those of you with those palates, you can always play with kitchen scales and ratios to your hears content to find and record your favorite version of a cocktail. But let’s talk large volume cocktails.
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Why Batch a Cocktail?
Batching cocktails is an easy way to make cocktails for a crowd. It’s a perfect way to make sure you always have some delicious cocktails on hand for happy hour or visitors. And it makes entertaining a snap because you don’t have to stand behind the bar fixing drinks all night – you can visit with your guests.
In addition, batching a cocktail brings your prep time to a great cocktail down to the time it takes to select a glass, pour, and add a fast garnish. This means that your five o’clock cocktail can be made in seconds rather than minutes.
Let’s face it, people love ready-to-drink and canned cocktails because of the convenience. But take a few minutes to fill an empty 750mL liquor bottle and place it in the fridge and you will have the same ease with a much tastier cocktail, perfected to your own palate.
What Are the Best Kinds of Cocktails to Batch?
Spirit-forward cocktails are the easiest kinds of cocktails to batch. Because they consist of just spirits, syrups, bitters, and other lower ABV ingredients, they don’t become more bitter over time. This means they can be made days in advance of consumption, or a party, and will taste as good from the first sip to the last.
Cocktails with fresh juices, especially sour citrus, turn bitter over time. When you use fresh citrus and fresh juice, the shelf life for a batched cocktail shortens from days into hours. Also, cocktails with milk or egg white should be avoided in batches. Perishable foods don’t do well in cocktail batches.
Cocktails like Manhattans, Martinis, Old Fashioneds, Negronis, Boulevardiers, Old Pals – anything that’s made primarily of spirits, liqueurs, syrups, vermouths, etc. are the best contenders for a great batched cocktail.
Bubbles topped cocktails can still be batched to some extent but will require an extra step when serving. Wait to add anything carbonated or bubbly until just before serving to keep the bubbles of carbonation alive in the drink as you sip it.
Tools for Batching Cocktails
The good news is that batching cocktails at home doesn’t require any special equipment. In fact, it doesn’t even require a mixing glass or shaker.
Here are helpful tools to have:
- A pitcher or empty 750mL
- Liquid measuring cup
- Long handled spoon
- Jigger (for smaller amounts)
How to Batch a Cocktail without Doing Math
My favorite method to batch cocktails is also the easiest. I simply convert ounces to cups, add a little water and I’ve made a batch of 8 cocktails.
Here’s why this works: one ounce is 1/8th of a cup. So, by converting ounces to cups, you’ve made a batch of 8.
The only trick is to add water to account for the dilution that happens when you shake or stir a cocktail over ice. In a cocktail with 2.5 oz or less, I add ¼ to ⅓ cup water, and for a cocktail with 3 to 3.5 oz of volume I put in ½ to a bit more.
Be careful with bitters, though. When batching a cocktail with bitters, it’s critical that you don’t simply multiply the number of bitters by 8. In a batch, and especially over time, bitters become more potent and pronounced. Once bitters are added to a cocktail they can’t be removed.
So when I add bitters to a batched cocktail I add half the amount I would with straight multiplication. (OK, so there’s a little math). If the recipe calls for 3 dashes of bitters, instead of adding 3 x 8 = 24, I start with 12, then add bitters by taste up to 75% of 24 (so 18 in this example),
If you’re batching with an amaro or highly bitter spirit, you may need to drop the total amount of that element you add to the cocktail. Just like cocktail bitters, in batches, they can become more prominent.
And Then You Chill the Cocktail
Once the cocktail is batched, put it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over night. If you like your cocktails extremely cold, you can place it in the freezer an hour before you serve it. This is especially helpful when you’re serving the cocktail at a party as it helps to keep it very cold as its being served.
Because you’re skipping the shaking and stirring to add water directly to the cocktail, you still need to get the drink to the right temperature. Keeping it in the fridge will chill it enough – especially served over ice. If it’s a cocktail that’s served up, without ice, before sure to put the glass in the freezer for a few minutes to chill before serving.
An Easy Example to Batch an Old Fashioned Cocktail
Because my favorite cocktails are bourbon cocktails, Old Fashioned and Manhattans are my go-to drinks to batch for home consumption and as gifts. My favorite Old Fashioned is simple (you can read more about it and the history of the Old Fashioned at How to Make a Perfect Old Fashioned.)
- 2 oz 95-100 proof bourbon
- ½ oz brown sugar simple syrup
- 2-3 dashes of orange bitters
- Garnish: orange peel and a single cherry
With that base recipe, I can batch up to 8 at a time in an empty bourbon bottle, adding the following by converting ounces to cups and adding about 50-75% of the multiplied bitters:
- 2 cups bourbon
- ½ cup brown sugar simple syrup
- 12-16 dashes of bitters
- ⅓ cup water
But if I want to tweak the recipe, and make something with a seasonal syrup, I might do something with flavored syrups and paired bitters. For example, in the fall I love this Chai Old Fashioned.
I substitute chai simple syrup for the brown sugar simple syrup and add my favorite fall bitters, ginger, and smoked cinnamon. Here’s a single:
- 2 oz bourbon
- ½ oz chai simples syrup (1:1 strong chai tea and demerara sugar)
- 1 dash ginger bitters
- 2 dash smoked cinnamon bitters
When batched, it looks like this:
- 2 cups bourbon
- ½ cup chai simple syrup
- 5 dashes of ginger bitters
- 8 dashes smoked cinnamon bitters
- ⅓ cup water
What Kinds of Cocktails Are Easiest to Batch with this Method?
Cocktails that are spirit-forward are the easiest to batch without having to worry about juices that turn bitter over time. As mentioned earlier, cocktails with egg white, milk, and cream don’t batch well either. Egg whites go flat over time and give off a sulphur smell, and milk can sometimes curdle lightly when in drinks with high acidity.
But that leaves hundreds of cocktails that are excellent prospects for batching. Here are some of my favorites to batch:
- Classic Old Fashioned
- Perfect Manhattan
- Old Pal
- El Presidente
- Rum Old Fashioned
- Rob Roy
- Last Word
- Hanky Panky
- Vesper Martini
- Black Manhattan
- Rum Manhattan
Creating a Batch Cocktail with Math
But you can be as exact and scientific as you like if you prefer to get out a calculator and do some calculations.
To make sure the amount of water added to a batch is exact, the first step is to measure a single cocktail with all the ingredients before it’s chilled and diluted.
Place the cocktail glass on a kitchen scale and and add all the ingredients directly to the glass. Make a note of the weight.
Next, you’ll make the cocktail – either by shaking or stirring with ice as directed.
Then, strain the cocktail into the glass, still on the scale, and note the weight again.
The difference between the weight of the two cocktails is the amount of water added by shaking or stirring.
Multiply the amount added by 8 and use that as your water addition to the batched cocktail.
Bitters are still mysterious and unscientific as different bitters react in more or less pronounced ways in dilution according to the individual ingredients.
How to Batch Cocktails with Sour
Fresh citrus juices are critical to many classic cocktails, but they create some issues during batching. The primary issue is that fresh citrus juice, like lemon juice or lime juice, becomes more bitter hours after they’re juiced. After about a day or two, they radically change the flavor in the cocktail.
This means that to batch a cocktail with lemon juice in it, the best method is to batch it just a few hours before you serve the drink and make sure you consume the batch cocktail within a day to keep the drink balanced and delicious.
While some people might suggest using shelf-stable juices for a batched cocktail, I argue that fresh juice is always the best for cocktails, whether you’re making a single cocktail or a batch of 50.
How to Batch Cocktails with Soda, Tonic, or Champagne
Some of my favorite cocktails are classics topped with club soda, tonic water, or sparkling wine. But, they present a challenge when batching. If you add the carbonated element too early before serving, the drink will taste flat and uninteresting.
Carbonated beverages and sparkling wines provide texture to a drink and an intriguing mouthfeel. If you’re expecting to sip on a gin and tonic and the tonic water is flat, the balance and flavor of the drink suffer. The cocktail becomes bland and unappealing.
The answer is to batch everything except for the carbonated items. Then when it’s time to serve, add the base cocktail to the drink and top it with the carbonated portion of the drink. It’s an easy way to make a fancy cocktail.
One of my favorite cocktails to do this with is this Raspberry Bourbon Bubbles cocktail. It’s a mini Old Fashioned topped with Champagne or sparkling wine and it’s a divine cocktail to serve at a brunch (or for a dessert cocktail).
To batch it, I batch everything except for the Champagne and put it in the fridge to chill overnight. In the morning, to serve, I add about 2 ounces of the batch to a cocktail flute, then top with Champagne and drop in a raspberry or two.
Note that you still need to be timely with batching and consumption for fresh juices. The advice about citrus juice applies here as well. You want your juice to be as fresh as possible, so batching with a juice cocktail should ideally take place the same day as the party.
Tips and Tricks to Batch Cocktails for a Party
Speaking of parties here are some tips and tricks to batching cocktails for a crowd:
- Always measure. When you’re making large batches of cocktails ratios matter. Measure every element.
- Don’t forget to add water to the cocktail unless you want to shake and stir at the party to add a little flair. (See note*.)
- Label your cocktails. Guests need to know what cocktail they’re drinking. And it helps you remember what’s in each bottle.
- I’ve found people love seeing a small sign with the ingredients on it. They can take a picture and recreate it at home.
- Use empty bourbon and spirits bottles as containers for your batched cocktail. If your cocktail volume is less than 3 oz for a single after it’s been mixed, 8 batched drinks will fit in a glass bottle.
- Batch two or three cocktails for a party, keeping sets of 8 in carafes or empty liquor bottles. Keep them in the fridge or freezer, or put them on ice to serve.
- Choose easy garnishes. Citrus wheels, cocktail cherries, olives, and dried spices like cinnamon sticks make fun, fragrant and easy cocktail garnishes for a party.
*Note: If you still want to take advantage of the flair and fun of bartending at a gathering and just want to cut down on the time spent pouring ingredients into a shaker, batch the cocktail without water added for dilution. Then stir or shake your cocktail with ice just before serving.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
I often add batch instructions to some of my favorite cocktails. Here are some I love:
- Bold Old Fashioned
- Kentucky Promise
- Bourbon Peach Old Fashioned
- Lemon Bourbon Slushie
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Manhattan
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Old Fashioned
- Fleur de Lis Manhattan
Conclusion: Batching Cocktails at Home Is a Cinch
So take a few minutes to put together a batch of the cocktail you find yourself making most. It makes an easy offer when friends and family come to visit. It’s a perfect hostess gift when you’re visiting for holiday parties. And best of all, if you’re not a great cook, no hostess or host will bat an eye if you offer to bring a couple of batched cocktails in lieu of a potluck casserole. Trust me on this one.