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Oct 11, 2013 04:14 PM

Question about batch cocktails, ice and dilution.

Hello all :)

There are a number of cocktails that I often shake or stir with ice before straining into a glass either over ice or not? My question has to do with these same drinks being translated to large batch cocktails that are served over the course of an evening. Obviously when you shake or stir a cocktail with ice you are getting some dilution. But if you are serving large batches over a course of an evening, where everyone is pouring their own, ice is only involved in their glass. So I guess my question is should I be adding some water to the mix and if so how much per drink? How much ice do you think melts into a shaken or stirred drink before it is poured into its drinking glass? Thanks in advance for all your help.

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  1. I find that most spirits-driven drinks gain 25-30% volume after shaking and a little less from stirring. Like a 3 ounce pre-melt becomes 4 ounce post-melt and perfect for a 4.5 ounce cocktail glass.

    If you batch the drinks and do 3 parts mix to 1 part water (or perhaps a 4 to 1 for the more juice containing drinks) and put the bottle/container on ice until it is served (meaning the drink only sees the initial water and only the cooling factor of the ice), it will work well.

    For a specific cocktail, you can shake it or stir it and take the measurements before and after for volume and then do the water + chilling steps above to get a good reproduction.

    8 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      Thank you so much for your response. I was figuring it would be less. But I totally trust your judgement and am going to give the cocktail a test to see how much water to add? Again, thank you very much

      1. re: yarm

        I was thinking about doing a large batch Mai Tai mixture - however i was assuming the ice would melt down the drink enough to give proper dilution assuming the mixture is room temperature

        Would that not be the case?

        1. re: Dapuma

          Yes. If you don't pre-chill the batched cocktail, then don't add water. Just add ice and shake.

          Be aware that lime degrades. Squeeze the lime as close to service time as possible.

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          1. re: EvergreenDan

            will the lime be less limey as the day wears on

            I.E. Should freshen up the batch with another oz or two of lime later in the day if it is going to sit out for 4 hours (assuming it isnt all gone)

            1. re: Dapuma

              No. It oxidizes and changes character. That said, there was an experiment where old lime was preferred. My experience has been that lime cocktails taste best when relatively fresh.

              I wouldn't worry about your batch. Just don't squeeze the limes earlier than you have to.

            2. re: EvergreenDan

              Dan, have you read the research that lime, lemon, and grapefruit juice improve over time. Lime improves and tastes best 6-10 hours after squeezing. Lemon juice is at it's best up to around 10 hours after squeezing. Grapefruit hit's it's peak improving over 2-3 days, then holds for two weeks. Orange juice immediately degrades, but then stabilizes after a few hours and stays the same for several weeks.

              But I have found that some batched cocktails get sort of muddy tasting. These tend to be ones that have citrus and are kept at room temp.

              1. re: JMF

                I have read both experiments preferring lime fresh and others preferring it a few hours old. The difference may depend upon the drink used to test this.

                I base my preference purely on what drinks taste like when I batch them and bring them to a guest. The piercing lime quality -- the very quality that makes me choose lime over lemon -- degrades. It could be that others like a more mellow lime (lemony?) flavor.

                Kevin Liu's book, Craft Cocktail at Home, has a chapter on this (more-or-less agreeing with you).

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  Could it be that lime ends up tasting different if it's pre-mixed than if it's squeezed and then mixed hours later? I'd imagine that whatever chemical changes happen would be different if it's sitting with other liquids for at least a few hours than if it were just exposed to air and nothing else.

        2. What temperature are the batched cocktails going to be when they're served?

          I don't have that much experience with doing cocktails in large batches, so I'm just speculating here. I'd imagine that when it's poured, unless the cocktail is the same temperature as if it had just been shaken, then the ice in the glass it's poured in would melt at a different rate. Not sure how to adjust for that, but it's something I'd consider.

          [Edit: Just noticed yarm's advice for putting the container on ice. That sounds about right. My comment is now unnecessary.]