PHOTO: Teri Lyn Fisher/Chronicle Books; Negronis from Cocktails for a Crowd by Kara Newman
Laura Brehaut/Postmedia News
Originally published on October 7, 2013;
Calgary Herald: October 12, 2013; page I3 
The StarPhoenix: October 12, 2013; page E8
The Windsor Star: October 9, 2013; page C3
It only has to happen once – a guest requests a mixed drink just as you’re readying to take the bird out of the oven. Maybe you begrudgingly mix it, maybe you tell them to stuff it, either way it’s enough to make you appreciate the concept of batching drinks for a crowd.
As spirits and cocktail writer Kara Newman tells it, it was her own shortcomings as a hostess that led her to pursue the concept of batching mixed drinks for guests. Not that she’s an ungracious host, but she has often found herself behind the bar for the entirety of parties; mixing rather than mingling. It was attending a cocktail conference where bartenders batched delicious drinks for hundreds that inspired her to learn how to do it herself.
In the process, Newman talked to the experts – bartenders, including Jim Meehan of PDT in New York – asking for their tips and tricks. Newman highlights one piece of advice she received: the importance of dilution when it comes to batched drinks and using the right ice for the job. She explains that when you want ice to melt quickly, in a strong tiki drink for example, crushed ice is best. When a slow-melt is what you’re going for, say in a punch, a large block of ice will do the trick.
“One of the first things you need to do is take control of the dilution in your drinks. You don’t want to just toss a bunch of ice cubes into your carefully-made pitcher of mojitos or whatever you’re making,” Newman says. “Sometimes you want to pre-measure the water in – that was a revelation that you could do that – instead of using ice. You can put the exact amount of water in and then chill the whole vessel from the outside.”
This advice, as well as other set-up suggestions regarding equipment and techniques, and of course garnish and cocktail recipes, are all included in her third book Cocktails for a Crowd (Chronicle Books, 2013). When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When feeding a group you likely wouldn’t prepare single servings of a pasta dish for example, you would serve it family style and have each guest see to themselves. Newman suggests that cocktails are no different, and batching doesn’t just mean a punch bowl either.
Newman shares more than 40 drink recipes in Cocktails for a Crowd, ranging from punches to pitchers, and tiki and tropical to cool and classic drinks. The recipes are seasonally inspired, and reflect a nice variety of spirits, including: gin, brandy, bourbon, cachaça, rum, rye whiskey, tequila, and vodka, a variety of liqueurs, sherry, sparkling wine and sake.
While a punch bowl is certainly a showstopper, and a pitcher of margaritas is always welcome when warm weather hits, you can also successfully batch classic cocktails, such as Negronis, Cosmopolitans and Manhattans, which are all included in the book. “I think everyone at this point knows how to make a Negroni – three ingredients, equal proportions – Campari, gin and sweet vermouth. Maybe you put a little bit of club soda on top, maybe you don’t,” Newman says. “You can batch those drinks in larger amounts, put it into a bottle and then you have Negronis for eight people.”
You don’t need to wait for a party to try batching; bottled cocktails such as Bobby Burns (Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth and Bénédictine) and Japanese Cocktails (recipe below) keep well for a couple of days in the refrigerator and can be pulled out whenever you’re up for a tipple.
Recipes excerpted from Cocktails for a Crowd (Chronicle Books, 2013) by Kara Newman.
8 whole allspice berries
10 cinnamon sticks
32 oz (4 cups) apple cider
16 oz (2 cups) brandy or whiskey
4 oz (1/2 cup) honey
1. Put the allspice berries and 2 of the cinnamon sticks in a square of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine, creating a spice sachet.
2. In a large saucepan, combine the apple cider, brandy, and honey and stir until thoroughly blended. Add the spice sachet. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir again. Discard the spice sachet.
3. To serve, ladle into glass mugs or footed mugs and garnish each drink with a cinnamon stick.
serves 8 (total volume: 6 1/2 cups)
16 oz (2 cups) cognac
4 oz (1/2 cup) orgeat syrup
2 oz (1/4 cup) water
1/2 oz (1 tbsp) Angostura bitters
8 lemon twists, for garnish
1. Using a funnel, decant the cognac, orgeat syrup, water, and bitters into a bottle that holds at least 3 cups, such as a 750-ml liquor bottle. Cap tightly, shake, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until chilled.
2. To serve, set out a bowl or wine bucket filled with ice. Shake the bottle to ensure the cocktail is well mixed, then set it in the ice so it stays chilled. Shake the bottle well before pouring the cocktail into martini glasses. Garnish each drink with a lemon twist.
serves 8 (total volume: about 3 cups)
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