Pre-Mixed Cocktails? ? ?
Is there a reason not mix up a batch of your favorite cocktail just to have on hand. A bottle of ready to drink Martini, or Manhattan, or negroni? Is the taste not as "fresh" as when it's just made?
And in case you're wondering--- Yes, I AM that lazy
First, bottled and batched cocktails are a time honored procedure. Back in the 1800's you could stop by a bar, bring your own bottle, and get a bottle of "Cocktail" to take home.
Batching for parties and to have on hand at home works very well, but it depends upon the cocktail. Boozy cocktails like the Manhattan and Negroni, etc. can be batched or bottled with little problems. Martini's seem a bit more delicate and can be problematic, depending on the gin, vermouth, bitters, etc. I find that barrel aged/brown spirits work best in cocktails that are going to be stored for a period of time.
When citrus, fruit juices, etc. are a main component in the cocktail, they have a limited shelf life. A few hours at room temp or day or three chilled. The higher the alcohol level, the longer they last, without major flavor changes.
There are exceptions. I have batched punches and cocktails at full strength and diluted, and had them stay at a high level of quality for several weeks. Much has to do with the actual ingredients and whether they are shelf stable to begin with, or how much non-stable ingredients are used.
Batching cocktails for events happens all the time. I and many people I know in the bar industry have done it hundreds of times. Punch is basically a batched cocktail.
All batched and bottled cocktails do get changes in flavor after a time. Oxidation, enzyme reactions, flavor reactions, etc. cause this.
Some experts such as Audrey Saunders find the oxidation and flavor changes very noticeable and that they cause deterioration, even in booze centric cocktails. Muddiness of flavor is usually a descriptor for the change. Although Audrey in many ways approaches cocktails from a perfumers direction, and is very discerning, more so than many others. I have picked up quite a few tricks in conversations with her.
Then there are other experts like Tony Conigliaro, who accidentally came across bottle aging cocktails around 20 years ago, has explored the process, and sells booze heavy vintage cocktails like Manhattans, Negroni's, etc. that are around 5-15 years old at his world famous "bar with no name" at 69 Colebrook Row in London. I've tasted them when I spent some time working in his cocktail lab a few years ago, and they are very good, but do not taste like the same cocktail made fresh. They have a much deeper, smoother, and mellower flavor that is also slightly oxidized with a pleasant "rancio" character like that seen in some fine aged spirits. Tony has two very interesting books out about his approach to cocktails. He has both a historical/classic cocktail background, but is at the forefront of modernist cocktail techniques, as well as many of his own inventions..
Then you have Jeffrey Morgenthaler who tried Tony's C's vintage cocktails and when he got home tried barrel storing and aging for a short period of time, a few weeks or so, before bottling and using in his bar in Portland, OR; back around 6-7 years ago. This adds barrel flavors of vanillins and other wood notes, additional sweetness from sugars in the wood, and tannins structure and astringency. He had a good reception to the barrel aged cocktails and wrote about it in his blog. When I heard about this I happened to have a few dozen 2, 3, and 5 gallon used whiskey barrels that I gave out to various bartenders in NYC back in 2008-2010 to make and sell barrel aged cocktails. Some of the folks/places that used these and sold the cocktails were Martim Ake Smith-Mattsson at Madam Genever the hidden bar in what is now Saxon & Parole, Adam Schuman at Fatty 'Cue and the Fatty Crabs, Greg Seider at The Summit (I gave him quite a few barrels, and they are still on display there,) and a half dozen other places in NYC. It caught on pretty big in NYC and also across the US in the major cocktail Meccas and in several less known locales.
Around 2-3 years ago batched cocktails on tap, using wine draft systems or adapted beer draft systems started to be seen. I'm not sure who started it. My first experience having one was the house Manhattan with "leather" bitters, at Saxon & Parole in NYC under bar manager, cocktail and spirits professional Naren Young. Draft cocktails are now pretty big. I even put a Manhattan on tap in a NYC 'burbs bar that I consulted to a few months ago.
Also a different form of batched cocktails is high quality frozen/slushie machine drinks. I've seen this the past 3-4 years, especially notable at Mothers Ruin in NYC, a interesting place that is a combo of a fine cocktail bar, with a limited but exceptional quality beer and wine on tap, with a let your hair down atmosphere. They have been doing all kinds of exceptional slushie cocktails, boozy and citrusy.
For home cocktail bottling and batching there are a few things to consider. How long will the cocktail be stored? Will it be at room temp. or in the fridge? Do you want to batch/bottle at full strength? Or pre-diltued to drinking strength?
Boozy/strong cocktails with out any or with very limited juice, and at full strength, can be kept at room temp. Cocktails with citrus/ juices, or pre-diluted should be kept chilled.
One thing to remember is that chilled cocktails, that are not pre-diluted, may need a small amount of water added when mixing on ice because the chilled cocktail will not dilute as much as a warm cocktail when mixing, and may taste too strong. A batched and pre-diluted cocktail can be kept chilled and just poured straight into a cocktail glass or over ice.
To figure out how much dilution is needed. Batch/mix up the bulk cocktail. Pour the appropriate amount based on the original recipe into a mixing tin/shaker. Stir or shake well and then pour into a measuring cup. Subtract the original volume from the final volume to see how much water to add to pre-dilute.
Uncle Ira please ignore Zin1953. I don't call that lazy, i call it good party management. if you are having 40 people over with no bartender, there is nothing better than a pre-made cocktail! Every Christmas party we put together a "signature" cocktail for the evening. This Christmas, we had to re-fill the pitcher 10 times, and that was just 1 1/2 hours into the party. The cocktail: Hanger Lime Vodka, Cranberry (used white cranberry juice for stain reasons) and soda. we served it with three fresh cranberries and a lime wedge. it did not go flat, but maybe that is because it wasn't around too long. My other favorite is to make White Sangria. I have a large "lemonade" pitcher with the spout on the bottom. the night before i soak apples and oranges in brandy, then that morning, i put the apples and oranges in the bottom of the pitcher (throw away the excess brandy), then I add star fruit, peaches, limes, and lemons. pour two bottles of dry white wine over it, and BAM you have a beautiful cocktail that people can pour themselves. I forgot to mention, that i slice the lemons, limes, star fruit the night before and freeze them. it helps keep the Sangria cold.
actually, right now, we are infusing vodka for our superbowl party. people will be able to drink it over ice at the party. Cherry Vanilla this year.
Ira can ignore me all he wants, but I would respectfully point out he said NOTHING in his post about a party. What the original post said was:
***Is there a reason not mix up a batch of your favorite cocktail just to have on hand. A bottle of ready to drink ___________.***
If someone is having a party -- where, presumably, the cocktails will be served later that evening -- I have no problem with mixing up a batch ahead of time. I do it myself. But I don't think that was the question.
It was mixing up a bottle's worth of a cocktail "just to have on hand." For how long? A day or two? No problem.
A week? Month? Year? Problems.
I get that lazy too. I don't see anything wrong, as long as there aren't any mixers involved (esp soda water or tonic, which would get flat). Back in my sorority days, we used to mix up cocktails in (clean!) trash cans for ease of service so we could just ladle them out. After one we had that featured cosmos, though, I couldn't drink another one for years. I don't know how they would have kept, though - that usually wasn't a problem.
For some reason, my memory of making 30-gallon industrial-trash-can batches of cocktails in college is a little muzzy. The popular favorites were my dad's punch recipe, which combined every white distilled liquor on the bar (ideally rum, but whatever was there: vodka, tequila, the last finger of gin, etc.), a ghastly skid-row-level fortified white wine (Silver Satin and cheap white port were standbys), OJ, pineapple juice, seltzer, and ZaRex Fruit Punch flavor syrup), and -- oof -- the Green Machine, a concoction (limeade, lime sherbet, and really cheap vodka) that only a 19-year-old could love.
re: MC Slim JB
Ohh, that reminds me of the death punch we used to make during graduate school. When we had (close) friends coming over, we'd pool together all our clear liquor and fruit juices (the latter within moderation, the former without), and then add some Crystal Light. I still don't understand why everyone loved it, but we wouldn't touch the stuff - because we knew what was in it. However, our death punch was requested at every gathering.
I usually make cocktails by the batch for parties. Keep it in the fridge, and add about 50 percent of your recipe's volume in water; this will nicely simulate the melted ice that plays a big role in most cocktails. I'm not sure I'd mix them more than a few days in advance, but I was pleasantly surprised that a juice blend I made kept in the fridge for about a month.
this is not exactly the same thing - but i like to make a big pitcher of some cocktail before guests arrive for a party. the last one i made was a pitcher of hurricanes - so i filled our biggest pitcher with the cocktails and that lasted through about 1.5 - 2 sets of initial cocktails when people arrived. i love it b/c people have a nice cocktail - but i don't have to do anything and can chat right away. i served this over ice.
before that - it was pomogranite (sp?) martinis. leave the martini glasses chilling with water/ice so you can just dump out and have a chilled glass.
I'd say for a pure-booze drink like a Negroni, there would be little harm in mixing it up ahead of time, though you'd want to store it in a closed container, just like unmixed booze. You'd save a few seconds when it's time to chill a glass, cut a garnish, shake the stuff over ice, and strain. What you obviously would not want to premix is anything perishable: unfortified wine, juice, carbonated mixers, dairy products, etc.
Pre-mixed bottled cocktails like that Heublein stuff are hideous.
Heublein long sold a series of mixed cocktails in 750ml bottles, and re-named then "CLUB" for little 6-ounce cans you could keep in the 'frige.
If you really are that lazy, and you said you were, they might work for you . . . BUT -- they are indeed stale, flat and dull. They NEVER taste like what you would make yourself, or get in even a dive bar (let alone a good one).