When you need cocktails for a crowd, make a pitcher drink.
Strawberry-Ginger Smash Recipe
Credit: Paola + Murray

Gathering with friends, neighbors, and loved ones is one of our fundamental joys in life. We're all about creating clever ways to make entertaining simpler and less stressful so we can do it more often—which is why pitcher drinks belong at every party from casual cookout to swanky soirée. Pre-mixed beverages allow the host to prep ahead of time and the guests to serve themselves, so everyone can relax and have fun as soon as the party starts.

Planning Ahead is Half the Battle

Most of the work of having a get-together happens well before the first guest rings the doorbell. The more components the host prepares in advance, the more everyone will enjoy the party. Drinks are essential to entertaining, but unless you have an in-house bartender, forget about mixing cocktails or taking drink orders while the party's underway. When you choose drinks you can prep in large batches, the hustle is out of the way beforehand and your party can be all full glasses and smooth sailing.

Exceptions to the Mix-Ahead Rule

Most punch and big-batch cocktail recipes can be mixed together up to 24 hours in advance. There are a few ingredients that should be held back until just before serving though.

Any bubbly beverage—champagne, prosecco, or sparkling wine of any kind; as well as sodas, ciders, and seltzers—will lose their fizz if mixed in advance. For best results, your bubbly should be nice and cold when you add it to the mix. No room in the fridge? Use a cooler or dishpan to ice down your bottles.

The other elements that should wait until party time to join the drink are bitters and any other strongly flavored amaro or liqueur—anything that has strong flavors of spice, herbs, or bitterness. If left for too long to mingle with the other drink ingredients, these bold flavors will take over. (The same way that one peppermint patty can make a whole box of chocolates taste minty!)

Our Favorite Party Punches and Big-Batch Beverages

Before you try to simply multiply your favorite cocktail and pour it into a pitcher, remember that many single-drink recipes are formulated to be mixed in a shaker full of ice and/or served in a glass full of ice, which adds the essential element of water to the drink. If you set out a pitcher of full-strength margaritas or negronis and let guests serve themselves, it could end up being a short, messy party. Better to choose recipes that are already designed to be mixed in batches, and consider lower-proof variations on favorite cocktails, such as the Negroni Sbagliato, which swaps the gin for prosecco.


Sangria of Every Stripe

This fruity, wine-based punch is a perennial party favorite with endless variations so you can customize it for every season and every taste. Beginning with a base of red, white, rosé, or sparkling wine, sangria can be spiked with brandy, tequila, rum, triple sec, amaretto, or other liqueur. And don't skimp on the fruit! Depending on the season and your mood, go for berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries); stone fruits (peaches, cherries, and plums), like in our Stone-Fruit Sangria above; citrus (orange, blood orange, lemon, Meyer lemon, lime, Key lime, grapefruit, kumquat); melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew); or tropical fruits (pineapple, passion fruit, mango, guava, kiwi). And try this hot-weather hack: freeze some of your fruit and add it at the last minute to keep the sangria cold.

Ready to start mixing and mingling? Some of our other favorite pitcher drink recipes that are so right for summer parties are the light, zesty and just slightly boozy Strawberry-Ginger Smash, there's a touch of vodka along with strawberries, lemon juice, and ginger beer, and the fizzy and refreshing Aperol Jasmine Spritz, a gin-and-Campari based delight that's topped off with seltzer.

To Spike or Not to Spike?

It's always a good idea to provide plenty of non-alcoholic drink options at a party (other than water!), regardless of whether you're expecting teetotalers or kids. Talking, laughing, and sitting in the sun is thirsty work, and you want everyone to stay hydrated without getting inadvertently sloshed. Lemonade, iced tea, agua fresca, and other fruity coolers will appeal to everyone, and they can also be a base for a boozy beverage. Make signs for the drink table listing what's in the pitcher, and if you choose, include instructions for adding a splash of spirits. Next to the bottle of booze, set out a few measuring implements like shot glasses or jiggers so guests don't have to guess what 1 ounce looks like.

Some of our best-loved pitcher drinks work well sans alcohol. Though it's name wouldn't lead you to think so, Watermelon-Tequila Refreshers are crowd pleasing without the tequila, and the gorgeous Hibiscus-Ginger Spritz truly doesn't need the light rum, though we often add it!


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