Cocktails outdoors

Spring is a feast for the senses, and after a challenging year, this spring brings the hope of reuniting with friends and family for some long-awaited outdoor get-togethers…and cocktails!

Since we’re all easing our way back into entertaining, embrace convenience! For drinks, that means batch cocktails. Batch cocktails are built in multiple servings rather than one at a time, meaning you can put out a pitcher of spicy margaritas, negronis, punch, or whatever it is your guests love to drink.

Just like my chef friends here at the CIA, I like to use local and seasonal ingredients in cocktails. Thyme, lavender, and rosemary are beginning to bloom, and so I incorporate these beautiful flowering herbs in cocktails with a simple lemon or lime juice base, like a thyme and cucumber lemonade. Grapefruit is especially refreshing on a hot day, and I love pairing its juice with rosemary vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

One foolproof way to add an herbal or floral flavor to a cocktail is infusing the ingredient in a homemade simple syrup.  Making simple syrup is as simple as its name implies.Heat one part water with one part sugar until the sugar dissolves. Then, steep the herb or flower in the hot mixture for about 20 minutes before straining.

Though nearly any cocktail can be batched for parties, there are some things to keep in mind when preparing your mixes. Just like some baking and savory recipes, you can’t always multiply your ingredients by 10 and expect it to be quite right. Since most cocktails are served over ice, it’s important to factor in that the flavor will become diluted as the ice melts. A good rule of thumb is that a cocktail should be about 20-30 percent water, so be sure to taste before serving and adjust the mix accordingly to account for the melt factor.

Garnishes are an essential part of every cocktail, both for flavor and fun presentation! Batch cocktails are no different, so be sure to include garnishes for partygoers to add to their glass, or even in the pitcher or punch bowl itself. Remember that some garnishes are meant to balance out the flavors in the drink, which is why we love a slice of lime or a sprig of mint in so many of our go-to cocktails. Adding these ingredients too early may overwhelm the mix, so you may want to stir them in at the last minute.

When in doubt, keep it simple. For a neutral, anyone-will-love-it batch cocktail, stick with a sparkling wine or vodka base. Take inspiration from classic drinks, and add your favorite spring flavors, like a Tom Collins with blackberry and lavender, or a gimlet with St. Germaine elderflower liqueur. Use the season as your guide! Try this lavender simple syrup to get started on your spring cocktail journey. Cheers!

Fabien Jacob is a lecturing instructor in hospitality and service management at The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio.