You know what’s predictable? Arriving at a party with a nice bottle of wine or a six-pack of craft beer. You know what’s a heck of a lot more fun? Showing up with a batched cocktail—one that you mixed at home, funneled into a pretty bottle, and are now handing over to your surprised host.
Most any cocktail (or mocktail, for that matter) can be made in large quantities and stirred ahead of time, but few people do it. Even fewer walk into a bash with a ready-to-go 750-milliliter bottle (or a 64-ounce mason jar) of whiskey sours, Manhattans, or festive punches. “The message is, ‘Let’s get this party started,’” says Jon Feuersanger, beverage director for Beast & Bottle and Coperta.
The key is to serve the drinks at their prime, meaning the night they are made, so that any citrus in the mix is as fresh as possible. (Or choose a cocktail like a Negroni, which doesn’t rely on carbonation or just-squeezed juice for flavor.) There are tricks to prolonging shelf life and even filling and capping mini-bottles (you’ve likely seen these at Beast & Bottle, where Feuersanger stocks his bar with pre-made sodas, tonics, and novelty cocktails), but for the most part, Feuersanger suggests, think of batching cocktails as a “make it and take it” endeavor.
YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO MAKING BATCHED COCKTAILS AT HOME
When batching cocktails, most any glass bottle will do, but these are Feuersanger’s favorites:
- 187 ml clear Champagne-style bottles (single serving)
- 750 ml clear Burgundy-style bottles (punch portion size; serves 3 to 5)
You’ll also need:
- Red Barron Bottle Capper (hand-operated bottle capper)
- Universal crown bottle caps
- Small funnel
- One-cup measuring cup (for measuring ounces)
You will find all the bottling supplies you need at Co-Brew (1133 Broadway). Need help? Seek out owners Jamie and Janna Williams. You can also order supplies online: Feuersanger often turns to amazon.com and inthepursuitoftea.com.
Do it like this!
A few tips and tricks that will come in handy when bottling.
- Funnels are your friends.
- Always measure for consistency and accuracy.
- Build the cocktails by adding the least expensive ingredients first (bitters, sugar, acids) and ending with most expensive ingredients (liquors, spirits).
- Think of how the cocktail will be served: up, on the rocks, on block ice, down, etc. If the drink will be served with some form of ice, dilution will happen naturally over time, but if you’re planning to serve the bottled cocktail up or down, consider diluting the recipe with water. Proper dilution to an up or down cocktail would be one-quarter to one-third of total recipe volume.
- Keep in mind that any recipe with acid, juice, or bitters will lose integrity over time.
Plan ahead and have a purpose for the batched cocktails you are going to make: Are you taking the drinks to a party tonight? The day after next? The tips below are not hard and fast rules but rather guidelines to help ensure that your bottled cocktails are consistent:
- Stable ingredients include:
- spirits/liquors (any alcohol with an ABV of 20-plus will keep)
- sugars (2:1 ratio syrups) most any simple syrup you dream up on your own should keep indefinitely
- Unstable ingredients include:
- acids (fresh juices such as orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) and juice tend to separate and fade in flavor, and could even begin to ferment
- bitters (over time, bitters will begin to diffuse and separate)
Store it this way!
- To increase shelf life of bottled cocktails with acid, add 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid (citrus salt) to 15 ounces of fresh citrus.
- When planning to bottle cocktails for hosting a party or giving as a gift, they should be consumed within three to four days, max.
- Store bottled cocktails in the fridge to keep proper temperature and help keep stable.
RECIPES: Learn to make these cocktails—which can be made à la minute or by the batch for future sipping—at home.
SAGE IT AIN’T SO
2 ounces Leopold Bros. small-batch whiskey
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ ounce sage–lemon verbena rich simple syrup (recipe below)
¾ ounce water (if batching and serving from a bottle)
3 dashes Cocktailpunk Smoked Orange Bitters
Mix ingredients in a glass and pour through a funnel into a single-serve, 6.5 ounce bottle. When ready to serve, pour the cocktail into a glass, without ice, with a sage leaf and dried chamomile blossoms for garnish.
Sage–Lemon Verbena Rich Simple Syrup
2 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon verbena leaf (loose)*
1 cup sage, chopped
Bring water to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and add sugar and lemon verbena leaf, and steep for 10 minutes. Add sage and steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the herbs and place syrup in the fridge to cool. Then bottle. The syrup will keep indefinitely.
*Find lemon verbena and dried chamomile blossoms at Apothecary Tinctura, 2900 E. Sixth Ave.
HONEY ON MY MIND
9 ounces vodka or rum (Feuersanger prefers Absolut Elyx or Caña Brava 3 Year)
3 ounces Giffard Banane Du Bresil
6 ounces lemon
3 ounces honey-cardamom syrup (recipe below)
18 dashes Fee Brothers black walnut bitters
4 ½ ounces water
Build in a large-format, 750ml bottle to serve 3 to 5 people. For individual portions, serve this cocktail in teacups with nutmeg for garnish.
Honey-Cardamom Simple Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups honey
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
Bring water to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and add honey and cardamom; steep for 5 minutes. Strain and place in fridge to cool before bottling.