Bartender Tips: Best Make-Ahead Cocktails for a Party
Words Marian Bull
Feeding a crowd is exciting and fun, but can err on the side of exhausting and complicated if you don’t have a game plan. So, too, with serving drinks to a crowd: the appeal of pulling off something more complicated than beer or wine is great, but do you really want to stand behind a bar making martinis for your friends all night? No, you do not.
Here’s where pre-made cocktails come in: you can serve them en masse and prepare them ahead of time, to make both hosting and drinking easier for yourself. (Win win.)
Sangria is the sort of drink that almost demands to be made ahead of time: you want the flavors to meld, the booze to soak into the fruit, the wine to commingle with the brandy. And it’s super versatile—so long as you have wine, brandy, and fruit, you’re probably fine. Sangria is not the time to splurge on fancy wine, so pick a bottle that’s affordable and not too complex.
Makes 8 servings
One bottle of wine (white, red, or rosé)
½ cup brandy
Your favorite fruits, all chopped up (try stone fruits, apples, or whatever else is fresh)
Sugar or fruit juice (optional)
Let the wine, brandy, and chopped fruit hang out in a pitcher in the fridge overnight (or for at least four hours). Taste-test the sangria before serving, and if it’s not sweet enough, feel free to add some sugar or fruit juice. Serve over ice and top off with seltzer if you’re in the mood for some bubbles.
Everyone loves punch, and punch loves everyone. It’s a host’s dream: pour everything into a bowl or pitcher, add ice, and hand your friends a stack of cups. Go for a classic citrus-and-gin combo with 4 parts club soda to 3 parts gin to 2 parts of your favorite citrus juice (I like a combo of grapefruit and lemon). Sweeten the punch with sugar to your liking, shake in some bitters, garnish with grapefruit slices, and whatever you do, make sure to use fresh citrus juice for the best, brightest flavor.
This classic 3-ingredient Italian cocktail is bitter, citrusy, and strong—and hugely popular these days. Our friends at Serious Eats taught us how to make them for a crowd—it’s all about getting your ratios right and adding a bit of water to mimic the way ice normally melts into a single-serving stirred cocktail.
This crowd-pleasing classic is really easy to prep ahead of time, so you get all the entertainment value of shaking cocktails without the labor of measuring and prepping everything when the party’s already going. Mix your liquors and juice and make the syrup a few hours before serving, then shake and strain them to order when your guests arrive.
Photos by Mia Reade Baylor