One of our top tips for holiday entertaining is this: do not make drinks one by one. Do not shake drinks for each of your cocktail party guests. Do not act as bartender all night long, unless you want your friends to start calling you 'Grinchy' by the end. Instead of making drinks to order, it's much more fun to whip up a big batch of punch or some other large-format cocktail so that it's easy for guests to serve themselves.
Here are 9 of our favorite tried-and-true large format drink recipes to get you started.
Rich and Frothy Holiday Eggnog
If you've only ever had the grocery store stuff, you might be surprised how much you like homemade eggnog. The traditional method can be a bit of an arm workout (hey! get started on that New Year's resolution early!) but lucky for you, Kenji developed an easier version that uses an electric mixer.
Want to have a little fun with eggnog? Here are a dozen ways to upgrade the classic, with good stuff like gingersnaps, coffee, Nutella, and more.
Charleston Light Dragoon's Punch
As Roderick Hale Weaver, the bartender at Husk restaurant, tells it, the members of Charleston's 19th-century Light Dragoon militia were more socialites than soldiers. "They would ride around and get hammered," he says. Their drink of choice: this punch, made with tea and lemon, California brandy and rum, plus a little peach brandy to sweeten.
Manhattan Cocktails for a Crowd
Just because you're not going to stand there with a shaker doesn't mean you can't serve classic cocktails at your holiday soirée. The key, though, is batching up a bottle in advance. You'll be adding in a little water, too, then chilling the whole thing down, so the drink is properly diluted, even without shaking. Keep the bottle on ice, then invite your friends to pour their own Manhattans.
Scotch Regency Punch
Everyone feels like drinking Scotch when it's cold outside, but this spiced punch will also appeal to those who prefer mixed drinks. It's made with blended Scotch, fresh lemon, soda water, and an easy cardamom-spiced syrup that you can make up to five days before the party.
Rompope is an eggnog-like combination of milk, egg, spice, and rum, served during the holidays in Mexico, and flavored with blanched almonds (or pine nuts). It's served chilled, often over ice, but you'll sometimes see a warm version served in Nicaragua.
Aperol Gin Punch
If you're into Negronis but looking for a lighter variation to serve at a party, this is the punch for you. It's made with gin and bittersweet Aperol, and sweetened with herbal Yellow Chartreuse and cut with citrus (orange, grapefruit, and lime.) A bottle of sparkling wine (no need to use anything fancy) adds a pleasant fizz.
London Fog Milk Punch
English milk punch is kind of miraculous. No, it's not the creamy stuff you see in New Orleans. This drink dates back to the 1700s, and the process is a bit bizarre. Essentially, you make a rum, sugar, and citrus juice mixture. Then, hot milk and spices are added and allowed to infuse until the milk curdles. (Curdles? Yeah. Keep reading.) The curdled mixture is strained through a fine mesh strainer and several layers of cheesecloth—so the final result isn't gross-looking at all. The end product is delicious—lightly sweet, silky, and totally translucent.
A bright pink, gin-based punch might sound like a light, fruity drink, but it's anything but. In this drink, floral Nolet's gin takes on warm winter spice through allspice dram and a simple cinnamon syrup, while lemon juice and a touch of grenadine bring in citrus and sweetness. Garnish with lemon wheels spiked with cloves.
Anejo Rum Punch
Ginger beer is a great addition to punch, adding spicy flavor without upping the proof. Here, it's mixed with tart lime and sweet orange curaçao, plus aged rum. Don't skip the Angostura bitters; they're a big part of what makes the drink complex and interesting.
Looking for hot drink ideas? Right this way...