If there's one lesson I learned about mixing for parties, it's to choose 1-2 cocktails and create them in bulk to accommodate your guest count. My cocktail journey started with making drinks for my friends on big events like New Year's Eve, graduation and, you know, the occasional Thursday night in college. I loved focusing on the process and making sure everyone got a beverage that fit their palette, but I found that I had very little time to partake in the festivities myself. Granted, sometimes mixing one drink at a time is a nice escape from a large party - you focus on something you love while people come to you and chitchat when they're ready for another drink. You also get to look after everyone's levels of drunkenness and make sure they're getting water if they need it. It all depends on the event and what role you're looking to play.
Last weekend, Will and I traveled back to Minnesota for the annual O'Connor family Christmas, hosted by his parents. Socializing with his family is always a blast so I knew it would be best to whip up a large batch of Valcohol goodness and then sit back to enjoy the quality company. I had never before used a bowl for serving cocktails in bulk, but Will's mom discovered a beautiful punch bowl and glasses that had belonged to her grandmother, and so commenced operation Valcohol Holiday Punch.
My considerations in creating the Punch recipe were to:
- Stay away from colors that would stain clothes, carpets and furniture (always a safe bet for a large get-together),
- Stick with a liquor that is likely to appeal to the most people,
- Use ingredients that are easy to find in bulk, and
- Mix with flavors that made me nostalgic for the holiday season.
Given these considerations, I landed on the following general ingredients: vodka, apple, ginger, lemon and thyme.
I highly recommend using Trader Joe's when you're looking for juices to mix with as they tend to have interesting flavor combinations and less sugary options than your typical grocery store. Another perk is that TJ's juice is usually way cheaper for the quality. For this cocktail, I chose their Honeycrisp Apple Cider because it actually tastes like apples and mixes wonderfully! TJ's also has great deals on ginger beer - they have Reed's brand available for cheaper than most grocery stores and their private label is just as good. When it comes to vodka, you don't need anything fancy for something this flavorful - just a decent bottle that will mix well. I used Kirkland Signature brand from Costco which would roughly be on par with Absolut.
Now let's talk ratios. When making a cocktail in bulk, I start with the ratios for a single cocktail, figure out roughly how many cocktails I expect to be consumed (1-2 per drinking adult is a good start) and then do some multiplication (I may or may not use Excel). The key is not to blindly trust your math. Always sample your creation before serving as you never know if it'll taste slightly different when made in bulk versus on the individual scale. Lucky for you, I've already done all the math for this punch and can tell you exactly what and how much to buy. All you need to do is mix it up and be the hero of your next holiday party!
Valcohol Holiday Punch
(Makes roughly 25 cocktail servings)
- 2 64 oz bottles Trader Joe's Honeycrisp apple cider
- 4 12 oz bottles ginger beer
- 6 cups vodka
- 12 oz lemon juice
- Fresh thyme (for garnish)
Mix all liquid ingredients (preferably chilled) in a large punch bowl (it may be a good idea to start with half the quantity to see if more will fit in your bowl or if you need to split it up between multiple containers). Prep punch glasses with a couple sprigs of fresh thyme. If you have an ice bucket, set that out for guests to use as they prefer, otherwise, also prep punch glasses with ice. Sit back and enjoy your party!