Confucius had it right when it came to holiday entertaining. At least the ancient Chinese philosopher once wrote words that could easily apply to the New Year’s Eve party that you are planning.
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”
When you invite more than a dozen thirsty guests into your home, you can easily find yourself stuck behind the bar making an endless parade of complicated cocktails. Save yourself from that cruel holiday fate by mixing large-batch cocktails beforehand and serving them in punch bowls, buckets, jars or even iced tea jugs. Anything will do in a pinch, and a variety of household vessels can be dressed up to jolly effect.
“I have batched cocktails and mixers into plastic gallon containers several times so that they are easily poured,” says Jason Bran, a head mixologist at the chic new Hollywood hot spot called Warwick. “It’s pretty easy to fancy that container up with festive designs too, if you want to go the extra mile.”
Bran says he would advise a host to pre-mix 10 or more servings of whatever cocktail you plan to serve so when party time comes the only ingredient left to add is the alcohol. In the case of a Moscow Mule, for example, which is a mixture of ginger beer, fresh lime juice and vodka, you would make the ginger base in advance and combine it with lime juice and soda water or water in a large container. Add vodka and a lime wedge for garnish, and voila! A perfect cocktail.
Sub bourbon for vodka and you’ve got a Bourbon Buck instead.
Another great way to go is to pre-mix a quality punch that serves eight to 12 people (punch differs from a large-batch cocktail in that it is completely pre-mixed and requires no further work). This is probably the easiest and most popular option, say cocktail and bar consultant Marcos Tello of Tello Demarest Liquid Assets and Giovanni Martinez, the head barman at Sadie in Hollywood.
“Punch bowl sets are really easy to come by,” says Martinez. “You can just go to Goodwill and find a good vintage set for $10 or so.”
You can usually fit about 5 quarts of punch in each bowl, so if you set out two bowls you should be good to go. Both men say they add color to their punch bowls by freezing water in a mixing bowl or a Tupperware container filled with ingredients that complement the punch in question.
For Tello’s Rose Parade punch, which features cucumber-rose syrup and gin, he freezes a large block of ice studded with sliced cucumbers. He then decorates the serving table with rose petals.
“When citrus is introduced to alcohol, it preserves it,” says Tello of the punch, which also features lemon juice and lemon peels. “So you can make it about four days in advance. It’s good at two days, great at three and at it’s peak at four days. So you can serve it on Day 3 for New Year’s Eve and serve it [again] on Day 4 for your hangover brunch.”
Martinez uses ingredients from his backyard garden in the large blocks of ice he uses in his punch, which is called Highland punch and features 12-year-old Chivas Regal, lemon juice and ginger beer.
“I fill my ice with pomegranate arils, lemon twists and lime wheels,” he explains. “You can also get silicone muffin molds in cool shapes for baking and use those as ice molds for smaller batches.”
All this preparation will pay off in the long run, so you can do the thing you most wanted to do over the holidays: spend your time celebrating life’s constant forward churn with family and friends.