Picture this: you’re enjoying a wonderful outdoor party. Great food and libations are flowing freely, laughter spills through the air, things are good. You notice one of your guests in need of a refresher, so you run back to the kitchen for another round.
Fast forward about 40 minutes. You’ve just burned 3,000 calories, your neatly pressed party outfit is covered in booze and sweat, and all of a sudden this party you’re hosting doesn’t feel like much to celebrate.
A major reason for summer get-togethers is to well, get together, not to spend time in the kitchen playing bartender. That’s why pitcher drinks are the perfect solution.
I love a good martini, a freshly muddled mojito or caipirinha, a perfectly proportioned mint julep, but when it comes to quantity it’s just easier to subscribe to the "make-ahead-in-batches" school of thought. It works, it’s just as tasty, and more importantly it keeps you out of the kitchen and with your guests. And I don’t know about you, but my mixing skills get progressively sloppier the more I’ve had to drink, and sloppy Matt equals bad cocktail and messy counter. Why go through the trouble?
An important thing to remember with pitcher cocktails is that they will be diluted with ice; this requires your basic drinks to be made a bit stronger in flavor than usual. But don’t think summer sipping has to be super heavy like the rum punch pictured. Drinks lighter in alcohol are just as good and cocktails need not knock you off your feet with the first sip.
Here are a few of our favorites to make in large quantites when we’re entertaining. Or heck, even when I’m home alone!*
Basic Rum Punch
This recipe is the basis of a basic rum punch and can be modified based on your flavor preferences. It’s so basic and hard to fumble but be forewarned – rum punch hides a hefty kick underneath its sugary sweetness.
1 quart orange juice
1 quart pineapple juice
1 quart club soda
6 ounces of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 liter of white rum
Mix ingredients and taste for quantity. Keep tasting. Taste again. Sip some more. Why is the room spinning? Once mixed it’s best to refrigerate until ready. Serve over ice and garnish with maraschino cherries or lemon and lime wedges. Are you sure you tasted it first?
White Wedding Sangria
This was served at our wedding last year and always delights a crowd, hence the name. Not that we have anything against Billy Idol…. It is fruity, sweet, on the lighter side and can be made more like a cooler if you increase the juice. Frozen fruit is key here as it keeps the drink cold and stops from becoming too mushy in the liquid. Frozen pre-cut fruit works fine or you can do it yourself.
1 bottle of white wine, something fruity like Chenin Blanc works well
1 cup frozen diced peaches
1 cup frozen diced mango
1 red delicious apple, cored and cubed
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed
8-12 ounces fruit nectar (anything like peach or passionfruit or guava works)
Mix the wine and nectar in a large container, add apples and refrigerate for at least one hour. When you’re ready to serve add the frozen fruit, give it a stir and serve over ice. Garnish each glass with a slice of lemon.
Minted Vodka Lemonade
I never listened to those wise sages that said "Oh Matt, careful with all that mint in your garden and trim it back or you’ll be sorry." Well who’s laughing now suckas? Ok, they are, since I have more mint than I know what to do with. But this is a great recipe no matter what. I’ve found that vodka is the most versatile spirit when entertaining and isn’t usually associated with those crazy stories like "Oh Matt I can’t have tequila cuz this one time in Cabo I –insert innapropriate act here–" or "Gin? You kidding me? I turn into a — insert word here –".
1 packed cup of fresh chopped mint leaves
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of vodka
Combine the mint and sugar in a container and then pour in vodka and lemon juice. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours and then remove from fridge and strain the mixture into a new clean container. When you’re ready to serve pour over crushed ice and garnish with a few whole mint leaves.
I’m not a man of absolutes, but I’m going to put my foot down here. For heaven’s sake, do whatever it takes and splurge on a high quality vodka, please? Sure, it’s an odorless clear distilled spirit, but the cheap stuff is a no-no and should never ever be used. Ever. Got that?
As with all these cocktails the key is continous tasting along the way. No, I’m not trying to get you drunk, but you must taste along the way. Now if you’ll excuse me I must lie down.
*I’m kidding! Well…sorta.