Sunday, October 2

Bottled Cocktails

So you are having a party and you want to serve mixed drinks, but you don't want to be behind the bar all night and your budget precludes the hiring of a bartender.

What to do?

One possibility is the serving of bottled cocktails. This is not those RTD (ready-to-drink) beverages that you get at the grocery store. Bottled cocktails are simply a large batch of a mixed cocktail that is pre-mixed and chilled in a bottle.

Bottled Cocktails were first written about by the Professor himself, Jerry Thomas in How to Mix Drinks published in 1862. In his book he explains how to make a bottle of brandy cocktail and proclaims that cocktails are generally used on fishing and other sporting parties, although some patients insist that it is good in the morning as a tonic. His recipe is as follows:

Bottle Cocktail
2/3 Brandy
1/3 Water
1 pony-glass of Bogart’s bitters
1 wine-glass of gum syrup (simple syrup)
1/2 pony-glass of Curacoa

So what cocktails can we serve as bottled cocktails? I would say any cocktail that does not call for some type of carbonated ingredient would be a candidate to be bottled and served at your party. Cocktails with carbonated ingredients would most likely go flat because they are not being stored under pressure. The process is fairly simple…

First find a clean bottle. This can be a used liquor bottle, coke bottle, or just any plastic container. Next fill the bottle with water and then pour out the water into a measuring cup to figure out how many ounces or milliliters the bottle holds. For our example lets say it measured to be 25 ounces.

Now let’s say you want to make a bottled Manhattan. The following are the ingredients for my recipe for a single serving of a Manhattan:

2 oz Bourbon
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes of bitters

At first glance you might think, “Okay just pour in twice as much Bourbon than Vermouth in the bottle, chill it, and I’m done.” But if you did this you would be missing a major ingredient… water. This is because we are not putting the ingredients in a mixing glass, stirring it, and getting the melted ice water in the drink. Instead we are just chilling it in a cooler. So, we have to add the water to the recipe.

Depending on how strong you like your drinks 1/4 to 1/3 of mixed cocktails are comprised of water. See this article for more information about water in cocktails: Hey, There is water in my cocktail!

So, in our 25 ounce bottle 8 ounces will be water. (25 x 1/3). That leaves us with 17 ounces for the other ingredients (25 – 8). Of the 17 ounces 2/3 is Bourbon and 1/3 is Sweet Vermouth.

Math lesson:
To get the ratio of ounces for the remaining ingredients… add
up the total number of ounces in the drink (2 + 1 = 3) this is your bottom
number. Then use the number of ounces for an ingredient as the top number. So,
for the Bourbon in our recipe is 2/3 is the ratio.
Now for the bitters... Because the recipe calls for 2 dashes it is difficult to scale it up in the same way. So, what I do is think about how many 6 oz servings the bottled cocktail will make. In this case about 4 (25 divided by 6). So I will add 8 dashes of bitters to the recipe (4 x 2 dashes).

All this calculation has gotten us to the following recipe for a 25 oz bottled cocktail:

8 oz Water (25 x 1/3)
11 oz Bourbon ((25 – 8) x 2/3)
5.5 oz Sweet Vermouth ((25 – 8) x 1/3)
8 Dashes of Bitters ((25 divided by 6) x 2)

Pour ingredients in a 25 oz bottle, cap the bottle, shake a few times to mix up the ingredients, and put in a refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.

You can double check your math by adding up all of the ounces. They should total close to the size of your bottle, minus some rounding. This same process can be repeated for just about any cocktail you would like to serve at your party. Just use the same ratio of ingredients and don’t forget about the water.

Now that you have one or two different chilled bottled cocktails in the refrigerator and your guests are due to arrive soon… The last piece of the puzzle is presentation and you will be ready for your party.

One idea is to fill a large tub with ice and then place your bottled cocktails in the ice and then arrange your cocktail glasses upside down in the ice. This will cool your cocktail and you glasses for your guest.

Now your guests can serve themselves and you can enjoy their company without having to mix a drink every 10 minutes.

Another party option is to mix a punch, but that is a post for another day.



Simple Pleasures said...

About 18 months ago, I came across this post when planning a large cocktail party (50+) in my tiny apartment - the bottled cocktails were perfect for keeping drinks pouring and avoiding the bottleneck in the super tiny kitchen.
Even better, the drinks were fabulous - all my guests raved - proof in my mind that water is the secret ingredient in the cocktail!! Now I always have 1-2 bottled cocktails in my frig - they of course vary by season and current interest. They are perfect after a long day at the office as well as unexpected guests.

barmixmaster said...

I'm really glad it worked out for you. I love taking bottled cocktails boating and such...


Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of bottled cocktails as well. (For a New Year's Eve party I made the bottled Manhattans from Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology which came out great)

A big downside, though?

It's much easier to drink too many of them b/c you don't have to take a break and mix a fresh one up. :-)



Alchemist George said...

This is an excellent post, I'd just like to add that in my limited experience, there is a time factor - the mix takes some time - at least a couple of hours - to blend together and taste right