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Pitcher-perfect summer cocktails

By now it’s no secret that serving cocktails is the fashionable way to entertain these days. But you only have to be the designated bartender once to realize that it’s not much fun being the person stuck making the drinks all night and not the one drinking them.

That’s where big batch drinks come in.

Instead of crafting individual cocktails for your guests—a Manhattan here, a Margarita there, a Ramos Gin Fizz just to make you crazy—decide ahead of time on a couple of signature cocktails for your event, then make them in quantities big enough for everyone to enjoy a glass or two. Guests can even serve themselves. When the cocktails are done, they’re done, and the crowd can move on to beer and wine.

But before you start pouring litres of gin into your drink dispenser, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Not every cocktail lends itself to batching it, or at least not without some caveats. Drinks shaken with egg whites, like fizzes and some sours, are a definite no go, for instance. If you’re serving a drink with bubbles, like a French 75 or Tom Collins, you can make the base ahead of time, but add the sparkling wine or soda just before serving. Some fruit juices, especially citrus juices such as lime and grapefruit, start to change flavour once they come in contact with oxygen, so don’t make them more than a few hours before you serve them.

The other important thing to remember is that when you make an individual cocktail, you’re typically stirring or shaking it with ice, which not only chills it, but adds a substantial amount of dilution, especially for shaken drinks. With a batched drink, you’ll have to add water, as much as an ounce per drink, to get the right balance. Avoid too much dilution by keeping everything well chilled until you’re ready to serve and adding ice at the last minute.

One of the great things about batching cocktails is that you can use lovely vessels like punch bowls and crystal decanters to serve them. (Just make sure they’re made of non-reactive materials—glass is best, especially for anything that’s going to spend a lot of time in it.) For summer parties, we love pitchers, which are as practical as they are pretty.

Besides, the summeriest of drinks just seem to go best with pitchers—a pitcher of Margaritas, a pitcher of sangria, a pitcher of Mai Tais.

Thirsty yet? Us, too.

Three to try

When buying tequila, make sure it is 100-per-cent blue agave; while we love a bit of oak, white tequila (also called silver, plata or blanco) shows the spirit’s crisply peppery profile best.

Espolon Blanco

Clean, balanced and light bodied, with bright, zesty flavours of pineapple, vanilla, pepper and spice. An elegant tequila at a cocktail-friendly price. $36

Casamigos Blanco

The brand launched by George Clooney and friends. Full bodied, crisp and clean, with flavours of citrus, vanilla, mint and ripe agave, and a long smooth finish. $67

Olmeca Altos Plata

A medium-bodied mixing tequila, created in collaboration with bartenders. Herbal, fruity and sweet, with hints of citrus, pepper, grass and brine. $35

Big Batch Pineapple Ginger Margaritas

Who doesn’t love a Margarita on a hot, sunny day? Add extra flavour with ginger, pineapple and a chili rim. This makes enough for six drinks; if you want a bigger batch, just double (or triple!) the quantities.

For garnish: salt or Tajin, a chili, lime and salt blend, available at gourmet stores

Place all the ingredients except the salt or Tajin into a large, sealable glass container such as a Mason jar. Stir well and keep chilled until ready to serve. You can make this up to six hours ahead of time.

Rim the glasses by running a lime wedge around each lip, then dipping it into a saucer of salt or Tajin.

Pour the Margarita into a pitcher or drinks dispenser, add plenty of ice, and let your guests help themselves. Makes 3 cups (750 mL).

Ginger Simple Syrup

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Add the ginger and bring syrup back to a simmer. Remove from heat and steep at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Strain out ginger and discard. Store syrup in an airtight, immaculately clean glass container; refrigerated, it will keep up to two weeks. Makes about 3 cups (750 mL).

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