Know your proportions. You don’t have to be a math major to mix up recipes large enough to serve a crowd. But instead of busting out the calculator, break the drink down by proportions. “It’s the easiest, most effective way to ensure your bigger-batch cocktails taste the way they were intended,” says Chicago-based cocktail consultant Todd Appel. Think about it: how quickly can you multiply 3/4 ounces by 12 and then convert that into cups? Not so easy, right? Instead, think about ingredients in terms of their proportions in the finished drink—for example, a cocktail comprised of 1 1/2 oz., 3/4 oz, 3/4 oz. breaks down into a ratio of 2-1-1. Once you figure that out you can easily apply the same proportions to ounces, cups, gallons, etc., making even on-the-fly mixing a cinch. “Even if you only have a juice glass on hand,” adds Appel, “if you know the proportions you can mix the drink without exact quantities.” Talmadge Lowe, the Los Angeles-based cocktail caterer behind Pharmacie, also puts the proportions principle to practice and lets guests customize their own cocktail once he has the base of the drink built. His suggestion? Batch out a pitcher of Whiskey Sours with 1 part each of whiskey, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, then put out several different flavors of bitters for guests to dash into their own drinks.
Avoid eggs. Unless you’re mixing up a big batch of egg nog, reserve eggs for single-serving drinks. They require an armload of shaking to incorporate into a batch of drinks and might separate from the rest of the ingredients.
Use flavored syrups and teas. Want a quick and easy way to infuse layers of flavor into your pre-batched drinks? The answer for Harris is simple—simple syrups. “You’re probably already making a simple syrup,” says Harris, “so why not throw in some fresh mint or some other herb for added flavor?” Teas are another great way to amp up the nuance. “We add tea in all our big-batch recipes,” says Harris, “they offer both dilution and flavor.” Not to mention the end results will impress your guests. “Think about it,” Harris says, “you start with a Gimlet as your base and can quickly turn that into a combination of gin, citrus, mint syrup and maybe a chamomile tea.”
Save sparklers for last. Want to serve a festive fizzer? Just because you’re mixing things up ahead of time doesn’t mean you have to nix the bubbly. “Anything with bubbles—like sparkling wine, club soda and tonic —will go flat,” says Talmadge, “so add those in right before serving.” But if chilled ahead of time and poured at the very last second, bubblers can add a spritzy finish to big-batch drinks.