Prev Next

How To Prepare Pitcher Cocktails For Your Wedding


Because no one is going to muddle a hundred drinks in an hour

by Dana Eastland, Production Intern

How To Prepare Pitcher Cocktails For Your Wedding | A Practical Wedding

It’s a common dilemma: you want to have a signature cocktail at your wedding during your super-fabulous cocktail hour, but your bartenders are your brother’s friends from college. You love them dearly but also know that there is no way they can froth, swizzle, and shake drinks to order, and keep the drink line moving. In fact, even your hired bartender probably doesn’t want to muddle a hundred drinks in an hour (unless you’re having say, a craft bar wedding, in which case please invite us). There is a practical solution here, which is pre-batching your drinks so that your bartenders only have a couple of steps to mix each drink. These are big batch cocktails, or pitcher cocktails. They allow bartenders to move quickly and let you make sure each drink is balanced without working too hard. Here’s how it’s done.

Select a drink that is reasonable for an amateur (Or rushed) bartender

That means: no muddling (though we’ll be showing you a muddling cheat soon, hang tight for that), no flames, no egg white frothing, no “rinses,” no blended drinks. Select drinks that can be made ahead of time. The key is to create a cocktail base that you can make in a large batch, and then on the day of your wedding, your bartender just needs to shake your mix with ice and pour (and possibly affix with a prepared garnish).

Batch out your cocktail ahead of time

This is easy. It’s a simple matter of multiplication and a couple of special supplies.

First, look at your cocktail recipe, and multiply the recipe by the number of cocktails you want to provide. Keep in mind, most cocktail recipes are simple ratios, with this Brooklyn being an example of an 8/4/1/1 ratio (or, if you rock the fractions, 2/1/.25/.25).

Brooklyn

2 oz rye or other whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz maraschino liqueur
.25 oz AmerPicon

For 100 cocktails, you need

2 oz x 100 = 200 oz rye or other whiskey
1 oz x 100 = 100 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz x 100 = 25 oz maraschino liqueur
.25 oz x 100 = 25 oz AmerPicon

You may need to do some math at the store when you are buying your booze. Unfortunately, some spirits are sold in ounces, others in liters, others in quarts, pints, or gallons. I highly encourage using this smart phone app, or this one, or this website for your conversions.

A NOTE ON GARNISHES: We’ll be doing a more in-depth post on batching garnishes and preparing the bar, but an easy cheat for a Brooklyn is to garnish with a cherry. Drop one in, and you’re done. Voila!

Basic Tools

This is where the special equipment comes in. You’ll need the following:

  • Large (4 quart or more) liquid measure pitcher, available at Smart&Final, Cash&Carry, any restaurant supply shop. Or here. About $10.
  • Stirring spoon
  • Funnel
  • Storage vessel (Clean bottles, juice pitcher, carafe, anything you can store your drinks in at your bar. These are an excellent choice, and you can get a lid.)

Mix it up

Your standard four-quart pitcher will hold 128 ounces at a time, so you’ll mix together four smaller batches to serve a hundred cocktails. First, fill your large pitcher with 50 ounces of rye or other whiskey. Then add 25 ounces of dry vermouth, then 6.25 ounces of maraschino liqueur and 6.25 ounces of AmerPicon. Stir your concoction, and taste it to make sure it tastes right. If it’s not quite right, adjust to taste. (Pro tip: make yourself a single serving of the cocktail before you start, and tweak it till you get the proportions the way you want them. That way you’ll have a standard to aim for with your big batch.) Give the whole thing one last good stir, and then use your funnel to fill each carafe (leave a little space at the top). Repeat three more times. Be sure to taste each batch as you go.

EASY, PEASY (LAZY)

Keep your vessels in a refrigerator or on ice at your bar, until cocktail hour. Be sure to provide either a stirring spoon for your bartenders, or make sure that your storage vessels can be shaken without leaking. Your mix can settle and will definitely need a shake-up before it is poured out. After that, your bartenders can just add your mix to a cocktail shaker with ice, pour it, and serve!

Easy peasy. This is what we call lazy girl wedding preparation: a little math, a little mixing, and a lot of booze. (Or non-booze. This will work just as well with virgin drinks.)

Open containers

If you batch your cocktails offsite and are planning to transport them to your venue, be sure to check your state’s laws regarding open containers in vehicles. In many places, keeping them in the trunk is fine, but make sure you are transporting your booze legally! Arrested best men and ladies are no fun for anyone.

Dana Eastland

Dana went to Tufts University in Boston. Now she lives in San Francisco, where she is the Editorial Assistant for tablehopper.com, a website and newsletter all about food and restaurants in the Bay Area. She can often be found harassing her dog, organizing her clothes by color, and perfecting her cocktail party tricks.


The Info:

Photographer: Eyes and Hart for APW | Styling: Meg Keene

More in Food & Drink Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Laura C

    Every time I suggest anything that would require any work at all the week of the wedding, my fiance is like “NO. Nothing that might lead to frustration and meltdowns.” I wonder if he’d change his tune if I was suggesting really good punch at our rehearsal dinner…

    • Meg Keene

      OH! Good clarification. You can make these well in advance of your wedding weekend. (By which I mean the weekend before). They’ll settle, and the flavors will mellow a bit, so I’d suggest making a cocktail, jarring it up and drinking it a week later to see if you want to tweak the recipe. We’ve been barrel aging cocktails around here (where you let them sit two to three weeks with a bit of barrel aged wood). I think aged cocktails should start out a little less sweet, since mellowing brings the sugar forward.

      I ALSO don’t think you should do any work the weekend of the wedding.

      • Steph

        Depending on the vessel (i.e., especially in barrels) you can lose some volume to evaporation as well so if you are batching the weekend before you may also want to test in advance to see if you want to add more ice/water/tonic/soda/whatever to help cut the strength a little.

  • http://jenniferkonikowski.com jmkoni

    We did a serve yourself open bar with wine, beer, and two pre-made cocktails in pitchers: old fashioned (bourbon + bitters, plus we threw some orange peels in for a few days before hand, then took them out) and wong’s grog (http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/2011/07/wongs-grog.html). Didn’t take too much time for us, everyone loved them. Only thing I would’ve done differently is to put a note saying they should be poured over ice… I think some people missed the fact that they were 100% booze.

  • C.

    My sweetheart and I are both bartenders, so we know we’re gonna have to suck it up and serve our two most family-loved cocktails: margaritas, and daisies. A daisy is the supposedly the original margarita, and began as the same ratios, but with lemon, gin, and honey-simple0syrup rather than lime, tequila, and agave. It’s delicious and highly recommended. Between this article and the *at cost* booze hookup we have, I am suddenly about 80% less terrified of providing enough alcohol for 150 at my low cost wedding.

    • scw

      yum, definitely going to try daisies as soon as the weather warms up enough to drink outside! do you put cointreau or grand marnier or anything in them?

    • Meg Keene

      We haven’t shot it yet, but we’re going to do a bulk margarita for y’all.

    • Amy March

      Adorable play on words!

    • Sarah E

      Um, daisie sound like they might be my new fave. Especially since I was gifted great gin for my birthday. Thanks for the intro :-)

  • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

    This is fantastic for any party. My friends brought us a signature cocktail for Thanksgiving last year and now I think I have to do it more often. I love it!

  • Amy March

    Warning note: make sure that your bar tenders are properly shaking these with ice, or add water to the blend. Serious Eats has some great posts explaining this, but really shaking can add as much as an ounce of water. If you don’t account for that in your pre-mixing, the drinks will be too strong.

  • emilyg25

    We had a self-serve bar with beer and wine, plus gin and tonic and ginger beer and dark rum for dark ‘n’ stormies. We just put the bottles out and let folks mix their own, since those are both pretty simple and carbonation makes pre-mixing difficult. We also had a punch bowl full of summer sangria from this post: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/06/easy-summer-signature-cocktails-weddings/.

    • Alyssa M

      Did it go well? Any hints or suggestions? That’s exactly what we’re thinking of doing… only maybe pre-mixed Hot-toddies instead of dark ‘n’ stormies.

      • emilyg25

        Yeah, I thought it went really well. We had a pretty casual wedding, so it wasn’t out of place. And our families and friends are laid back. The only issue is that, even though we had extra beer under the table, people didn’t realize and slowed down on their consumption because it looked like we were running low. But then someone noticed and put more beer out. So just make it really clear where the extras are (we had a sign but I guess it was too small), or delegate someone to restock regularly.

        Also, double check your area’s social host liability laws. Here in PA, we’re only held liable for minors who drink. But your area might hold you liable for anyone you serve. So if, God forbid, they drove drunk and got in an accident, you could be sued. You might not be comfortable taking on that risk.

  • H

    Can you suggest some good cocktails to make this way? Obviously anything with carbonation is out, no muddling – what are good options?

    • Meg Keene

      This is the beginning of a whole series.

      And carbonation isn’t out, it just needs to be added when the cocktail is served. Plus there are a few muddling cheats, which we’ll get to with some testing.

      • Sonora Webster

        Meg, I just wanted to selflessly volunteer my cocktail testing/ tasting services for this series. I’m very generous, you see.
        So excited for this series! It’s so fun that it is relevant to wedding planning but not totally specific to it.

        • Meg Keene

          Like me, you’re clearly a giver, and I applaud you for it ;)

          Yeah, I like the relevant but not specific part too. MORE PARTIES! MORE DRINKS! (And yeah, we’ll throw in some virgin drinks at some point too, hey, pregnant people and non drinkers.)

  • Katelyn

    Can’t wait to see the rest of this series! I hope you have some fancy non-alcoholic drink recipes on the way as well.

    Just a quick note – the linked carafes are only a quarter of a liter each. You’d need a LOT of them to hold enough for 100 cocktails – just one of those 4 quart measuring cups would fill 16 carafes, and you need 4 batches of 4 quarts to make 100 cocktails, making 64 carafes. Yikes!

    Here’s a link to the same brand in a 1.5 liter version – you’d need 10 or 11 to fit the whole batch of 100 servings.
    http://www.webstaurantstore.com/cambro-ww1500cw-camwear-camliter-polycarbonate-beverage-decanter-1-5-liter/214WW1500CW.html

  • Oakland Sarah

    I made this delicious sangria for my friend’s wedding this summer: http://food52.com/recipes/184-ginger-sangria

    It was easy-peasy. I subbed mango for peaches (b/c it’s easy to get ALREADY CHOPPED frozen mango at Costco). The night before the wedding, I made the simple syrup and mixed everything together to soak in a HUGE punch bowl. I think it took less than an hour. We didn’t have to worry about transporting because it was a weekend wedding at a summer camp and we were able to stash the large punch bowl in the camp’s walk-in fridge.

  • mojitomaker

    My husband loves mojitos, so with the help of some seriously fantastic friends, we made 8 gallons of them the day of our wedding. They were a HUGE hit. If anyone wants to try it, here’s what we did:

    Mojitos (112 servings):
    1. Days in advance, buy 8 sturdy 1-gallon bottles of water. Use the water for plants or drinking, then keep the bottles to transport your mojitos/ingredients (or rather, designate a friend to transport them…)
    2. Days in advance, make simple syrup: First combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan, stir, and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, stir again, remove from heat and add 8-10 ice cubes to cool it quickly.
    3. On the morning of the wedding day, have a friend combine and stir the following for 112 servings:
    RUM: 224 oz = 28 cups = 6.63 liters = 1.75 gallons (1.75 liters bacardi from costco: bought 4 bottles)
    LIME JUICE: 112 oz = 14 cups = 3.32 liters = 0.875 gallons (12.5 oz Lakewood Organic Fresh Pressed Pure Lime juice from Henry’s: bought 9)
    SIMPLE SYRUP: 112 oz = 14 cups = 3.32 liters = 0.875 gallons (homemade)
    After mixing, distribute evenly between the 8 empty gallon bottles.
    4. To prevent carbonation loss, have a friend wait until an hour before the reception to do the following:
    Muddle LOTS (~ 500-1000 leaves) of mint with 1 gallon of SODA WATER. Distribute evenly between the 8 empty gallon bottles.
    Distribute the remaining 3.375 gallons SODA WATER between bottles (for 2-liter bottles of soda water: buy 9 bottles)
    DO NOT add ice to the pitcher as this will water down the mixture.
    4. To serve, add a few mint leaves to a glass, fill with ice and pour cocktail over the ice.

    Note: 1 shot = 1.5 oz = 0.1875 cups (1 cup = 8 oz). You will end up with a total of 9oz/drink x 112 = 1008 oz = 7.88 gallons of mojitos.

    for a small-batch taste-test, one serving is:
    rum 2 oz
    soda water 5 oz
    lime juice 1 oz
    simple syrup 1 oz
    muddled mint 5-10 leaves

    Enjoy! :) (oh, and these are pretty weak as far as cocktails go, which was good for us since people drank them like water)

    Have your friend muddle the mint with the soda water an hour before the reception starts, and similarly add. Otherwise, you’ve got the obvious problem with carbonation loss.
    DO NOT add ice to the pitcher as this will water down the mixture.
    4. To serve, add a few mint leaves to a highball glass, fill with ice and pour cocktail over the ice.

    Note: 1 shot = 1.5 oz = 0.1875 cups (1 cup = 8 oz). You will end up with a total of 9oz/drink x 112 = 1008 oz = 7.88 gallons of mojitos.

    for a small-batch taste-test, one serving is:
    rum 2 oz
    soda water 5 oz
    lime juice 1 oz
    simple syrup 1 oz
    muddled mint 5-10 leaves

    Enjoy! :) (oh, and these are pretty weak as far as cocktails go, which was good for us since people drank them like water)

  • Claire

    New favorite series!

  • Rachelle Reese

    We totally did this with margaritas for our wedding last September! I mixed them the night before (like an idiot – so stressed out at my rehearsal BBQ) along with lemonade and iced tea. I think doing just the margs and scratching the lemonade and icea tea would have been fine. Our friend/bartender had enough work cut out for him with pouring wine and opening beers, so we stored the full batch in a 10 gallon orange plastic water cooler with a nozzle at the bottom and just re-filled one of these babies http://www.amazon.com/Buddeez-Gallon-Insulated-Beverage-Dispenser/dp/B00DM3Z74Q/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1395336766&sr=1-4 whenever it got low. Worked like a cham and they were delicious!

  • Pingback: Currently, Weekly Treasures (Wedding Edition) - Treasure Tromp