Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen: Cocktails for a Crowd

This week guest blogger Kara Newman offers up smart tips for the upcoming holiday, plus a fabulous recipe from Cocktails for a Crowd.

Cocktails for a Crowd

Fourth of July Entertaining: 6 Reasons To Pre-Batch

When it comes to entertaining guests for your annual Fourth of July bash, pre-batching is the way to go.

A “pre-batched” drink is one that is measured out and mixed together ahead of time. There still may be small touches to add in at the last minute – adding ice, for example, or pouring in a bottle of sparkling wine – but the more that I can do before the first knock on the door, the more likely I am to be found enjoying the party. Here’s why I prefer to pre-batch:

1. No one waits for a drink. Thirsty guests aren’t happy guests! And no one needs to wait for me to measure out a French 75, ounce by painstaking ounce. But writ large into a punchbowl, guests can ladle out their own portions.

2. No one feels weird about going back for seconds! See above…

3. Less mess. Splashes from syrups. Peels from garnishes. Sticky, near-empty bottles. No one needs to see that, right? I prefer to do all the prep work and pouring before guests arrive, and then I can clean up my workspace (and myself!) so everything at least looks effortless.

Cocktails for a Crowd

4. Controlled dilution. No one likes a watered-down cocktail courtesy of sloppy, melting ice cubes. But a little advance planning means you can control how much ice/water gets added: creating large blocks of ice means a slower melt in a punch bowl or a pitcher, while adding a modest amount of water to a bottled cocktail simulates the effect of ice rattled about in a cocktail shaker.

5. Festive centerpiece. A well-placed large-batch cocktail can be striking. Gorgeous punchbowls made from silver or cut glass? Tiki drinks in a fishbowl? (A well-cleaned one, of course.) A galvanized bucket filled with ice and bottles of pre-mixed cocktails in different colors? Just imagine what might look best at your party.

6. I get to enjoy the party! If I’m not stuck behind the bar squeezing lemons, that means I’m free to ladle out my own helping of a French 75 punch, and can head off to socialize with friends and family. Now, that’s what I call Independence Day!

French 75 recipe from Cocktails for a Crowd

French 75 Punch

Serves 8
Total volume: 7 3/4 cups (without ice)

The French 75 is a classic cocktail usually made with cognac, though gin is sometimes substituted, and that’s the spirit I call for in this recipe. It typically isn’t served as a punch but works quite well in this format. Serve this fresh, fragrant variation at any occasion that calls for toasting, like a brunch or a bridal or baby shower.

A simple chunk of ice, such as one frozen in a loaf pan or bowl will suffice, but for a special, decorative touch, consider freezing orange wheels inside the ice.

16 ounces (2 cups) gin (preferably a London dry gin, such as Tanqueray)
8 ounces (1 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces (3/4 cup) Simple Syrup (see separate recipe)
1/2 teaspoon orange bitters
32 ounces (4 cups) dry Champagne or other sparkling dry white wine, chilled
1 large ice block or two smaller blocks
8 orange wheels, for garnish

In a punch bowl, combine the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters and stir until thoroughly blended.

Just before serving, pour in the Champagne and stir gently. Add the ice and garnish with the orange wheels.

To serve, ladle into punch glasses.

You can find Cocktails for a Crowd here.

Kara Newman

Kara Newman

Kara Newman is the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast magazine and the author of Nightcap, Shake. Stir. Sip, and Cocktails for a Crowd. She lives in New York City.
Kara Newman


1 Comment

  • Genny July 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I made this cocktail for an Easter party this past spring (with a lovely lemon and orange slices in an ice mold made in a vintage tin gelatin mold) and it was a huge hit. Everyone loved the bubbly twist to a punch bowl cocktail and it was easy to refill as the day went on. Mmm, gin and champagne–my favorites.
    Thanks for the recipe, Kara!


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