The made-for-you craft cocktail is the face of modern mixology. But there seems to be a growing role for libations that promise a more communal experience. Batch-mixed cocktails served in pitchers are a hospitable way to encourage the sharing of sips while streamlining service and enhancing consistency.
Take the Pub Mixers line of Asian-inspired cocktails at Tokio Pub in Schaumburg, Ill. Offered by the drink or by the pitcher, they are partially pre-batched prior to service, making them the quickest cocktails to serve, as well as some of the most popular.
One of the five cocktails is the Ginger Mojito, made with white rum, ginger-infused syrup, ginger liqueur, fresh mint and lime. The liquors and syrup are prepped in advance in two-gallon batches. The fresh mint and lime are added just before service because their flavor fades when held.
“We have found that the Pub Mixers actually taste better when made in big batches than they do made to order,” said Jill Koval, general manager of the casual eatery, which is part of the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant group.
Also popular in pitchers are the Passion Punch, made with citron-flavored vodka, pomegranate-flavored liqueur and tropical fruit juices, served with a skewer of robata-grilled pineapple and raspberry for garnish; and the Yuzu Margarita, made with silver tequila, orange liqueur and Asian citrus juice, served with a glass rimmed with powdered ginger and salt.
“The great thing about them, besides the taste, is how fast you can get the drink to the guest,” Koval said. “You can almost knock out two to three rounds of drinks at once. That means less running around with multiple drink orders, and it keeps the bar from getting behind.”
“We started out being small-plates driven, and we wanted to take the idea of sharing a step further so people could share drinks as well as food together,” Koval added. “You know, ‘Let’s order some sushi and let’s get a pitcher of Sake Sangria and Yuzu Margaritas.’”
Pitchers of that sort fall into a loosely defined category of batch-mixed drinks that many mixologists are experimenting with today, including punches, barrel-aged cocktails and cocktails on draft, said wine and spirits consultant Steven Olson of AKA Wine Geek in New York City.
But he warned that batched drinks aren’t always a huge success.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” said Olson. “They all can work, but I think a lot of it depends upon the bar. In certain circumstances they can be great, in others, not so much.”
Olson said he developed batch-mixing techniques years ago to serve high-quality drinks made with fresh ingredients and premium liquors to large crowds at parties and educational events where mixing to order would be difficult.
“Say we have a party of 50 coming in for Smoky Daisies,” Olson said. “I will make up a couple of gallons with the tequila, the mescal, the fresh lime, the agave nectar and the Grand Marnier, but I will still shake each drink over fresh ice.”
He said that for batched cocktails to succeed, bartenders should apply the same standards of high-quality ingredients and techniques they would with made-to-order drinks.
“It’s not like walking into a Mexican restaurant and getting a pitcher of [machine-dispensed] margaritas,” Olson said. “It has to be hand crafted.”