Summertime entertaining calls for copious cool cocktails and other refreshing drinks. But as hostess, you don’t always want to be on-call to mix and serve. Instead, whip up large batches of tasty beverages in advance and allow guests to serve themselves, as thirst requires.
Pitcher drinks are fun, festive and fabulous for multiple types of parties. For garden parties, they can be set out in decorative pitchers in a shady place, ready to pour over ice. For boating, they can be stored more practically in large lidded plastic containers. Even indoor entertaining can be made more seamless with a corner bar set up with a few ready-to-go signature drinks.
With a little advance planning, you can have all your cocktails and mocktails set up beautifully at a self-serve table to wow guests upon arrival. To make for stress-free event planning, select recipes that can be made ahead, so you can mix them up them the night before, let them chill, and then serve just before guests arrive. This will also keep them colder during your event.
Choose appropriate serveware for the type of event you are hosting. For a shabby chic outdoor garden event, choose colorful pitchers, mix and match glasses, and festive napkins. For boating events, find fun and festive plastic cups for deck safety. For a dinner party, keep it classy with clear glasses and pitchers. You can even offer a “salad bar” of garnishes, with bowls of fresh cherries, sliced strawberries, various citrus wedges and sprigs of fresh herbs. Be sure to have additional ice on hand, with nice spoons to scoop it into glasses.
As for what to serve, have a mix of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, so guests can choose appropriately. In addition, have plain water, sodas and sparkling waters on hand, along with assorted beer and wine—so when pitcher drinks run out, guests have other options to help themselves and you don’t have to pause mid-party to mix a fresh batch. After all, a key benefit of pitcher drinks is maximum time for the hostess to mingle with guests.
RUM PUNCH (serves 8–10)
Recipe inspired by Bobby Flay and Food Network
Channel that Caribbean vibe with a pitcher of this classic creation.
- 1 cup lime juice
- 2 cups grenadine
- 2 cups Jamaican white rum
- 1 cup light rum
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 2 cups orange juice Fruit for garnish (orange slices, pineapple wedges, cherries, etc.)
Mix all ingredients together in a large pitcher and chill for a minimum of one hour. Have garnishes sliced and ready for guests.
Inspired by a recipe from A Practical Wedding
Taken from the Prohibition-era slang for “the best,” this cocktail offers guests a vintage treat. This recipe is scalable to serve however many guests you have by multiplying the ratio. Simply measure, mix and chill in a pitcher until serving.
- 2 parts gin
- ¾ part lemon juice
- ¾ part honey simple syrup
To make your own honey simple syrup, mix equal parts honey and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes until honey dissolves. Remove from heat, cool, and chill for several hours before serving.
MINT AND SAGE LEMONADE (serves 6–8)
Inspired by a recipe in The Washington Post
Take advantage of fresh garden herbs to create a unique version of this classic summer beverage.
- About 9 lemons, squeezed, to make 1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice
- About a dozen sprigs of fresh mint leaves (any variety, or mixed, such as spearmint, chocolate, pineapple, or apple) with leaves removed from stems
- About 6 sprigs of fresh sage, with leaves removed from stems
- 1 cup of granulated white sugar
Mix the lemon juice and herbs together in a glass or plastic (not metal) container and allow flavors to marry for at least three hours at room temperature. Do not chill yet. Strain mixture to remove and discard herbs. Pour infused lemon juice into a gallon-sized pitcher. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add just enough cool water to yield a full gallon of lemonade. Chill for several hours. Serve alongside additional (washed) herbed sprigs and lemon wedges for garnish.
STRAWBERRY-BASIL ICED TEA (serves 6–8)
Inspired by a recipe from Down Home with the Neelys and Food Network A mix of herbs and fruit helps infuse fun flavors into a summer sipping staple.
- 8 good-quality, non-flavored black tea bags (with any paper tags removed)
- 16 ounces fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into halves or quarters
- ¾ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, stems removed
Boil four cups of water in a saucepan. Turn off heat, add tea bags, and let steep for about five minutes. Remove tea bags before tea becomes too strong or bitter.
In another saucepan, bring one cup of water and sugar to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, add basil leaves, and steep for approximately 10 minutes. Put strawberries in a large bowl and strain sugar mixture over the fruit, discarding basil. Toss fruit to fully coat with sugar mixture. A red syrup will begin to form. Let it cool for about half an hour. Pour tea into a large pitcher and add sugared strawberries (including any syrup). Refrigerate until chilled. Serve with washed basil leaves and sliced strawberries for garnish.
STONE FRUIT SANGRIA (serves 10–12)
Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit Magazine
Always a popular choice, sangria can be kicked up a notch with delicious, ripe stone fruit.
- 3 pieces of stone fruit, mixed or same (such as apricot, nectarine, plum or peach)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 750-ml bottles rosé wine
- 2 cups elderflower liqueur
- ½ vanilla bean pod, halved lengthwise
- 5 additional pieces of mixed (or same) stone fruit (such as apricot, nectarine, plum or peach)
- About 2 dozen fresh cherries (pitted, but whole)
- Sparkling water Start by making a fruit purée.
Peel all fruits, remove pits and coarsely chop. Puree with lemon juice in food processor or blender until very smooth. (Alternately you can leave peels on, remove pits, coarsely chop and use a hand-cranked or electric food mill to separate peels and to puree. Add lemon juice after using the mill.) Transfer the mixture to a large pitcher.
Add wine and liqueur to fruit purée. Scrape out seeds from vanilla bean and add the sliced bean to the pitcher. Remove pit from additional fruit pieces, cut into chunks or wedges and add to pitcher. Add pitted cherries to pitcher. Chill mixture for a minimum of an hour, and a maximum of two days.
To serve, fill glasses 2/3 full with the sangria mixture and fill the remaining 1/3 with the sparkling water. Alternately add the same ratio of sparkling water to the pitcher just prior to serving.