I’m always on the lookout for ways to remove stress when friends come over. I scour my files for recipes I can make in advance, set out the serving dishes and make notes to keep myself organized.
This summer, I’m embracing cocktails that can be mostly assembled ahead of time and chilled in pretty pitchers. In most cases, these pitcher cocktails get a flourish of something sparkling just before serving to make them light and refreshing.
When adding that sparkling element, I like to place a card with assembly instructions near the pitchers with their accompaniment, glass rimmers and ice so guests can serve themselves. Less stress yields a better party for all. These cocktails allow guests to choose how strong (or weak) to make their beverages and add an interactive element to your party.
In addition to being easy and fun for guests, pitcher cocktails also help with party budgets. Top-shelf brands of liquor and wine are not necessary when mixing them with juices. Use moderately priced products—local if you have that option—and fresh juices.
Another benefit of pitcher cocktails is that the amount of alcohol in these drinks can be adjusted to taste. Except for the red wine spritzer, these cocktails can be prepared without the alcohol, transforming them into mocktails everyone will love. Just replace the booze with an equal amount of seltzer, coconut water, iced tea or kombucha.
For a successful cocktail gathering, serve hearty appetizers alongside your beverages. Meat and cheese pinwheels, chilled crab dip with pita chips and a classic cheese ball can be made ahead of time. A charcuterie board filled with cured sausage slices and soft cheese as well as bowls of nuts and olives offer salty counterpoints for sweet cocktails. They are always a great go-to. For tips, read our complete guide to curating the perfect charcuterie board before entertaining.
Though you can use sparkling water to give this batch cocktail fizz, ginger beer really accents the fresh ginger flavor. I like our local natural ginger beer, brewed by Zingabrew in Arlington Heights, Illinois, for its spicy, intense ginger flavor with hints of cinnamon, cardamom and clove.
Bright, refreshing and slightly floral, this cocktail would be a delightful addition to a spring or summer baby shower. But it would even work at a winter gathering when you need a sunny pick-me-up.
Bursting with freshly squeezed citrus flavor from lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit plus a pleasant bitter kick from campari, this margarita recipe is sure to wow. Use mezcal instead of tequila if you like a smoky flavor and don't skip the spicy-sweet rim.
Similar to sangria but with the addition of tea, this refreshing, summery drink is fruit-forward, sparkling and everything you could want out of a party pitcher. You can customize it based on what fruits are in season and you can switch up the flavor depending on whether you use seltzer, lemon soda or kombucha.
It doesn't get more refreshing than this summery mocktail recipe. The cucumber, lime and mint add fresh flavor, while the chia seeds add a fun texture that's not unlike bubble tea. You certainly could add a splash of rum to this, but it's always nice to have a creative option for your teetotaling guests.