How to make cocktails for a crowd

The friends are coming! The relatives are coming! Whether you’re looking to ease the stress of a huge family that isn’t always on their very best behavior or to raise a glass to celebrate all the many things you’re deeply thankful for, it’s nice to have a special cocktail available for the crowds that gather together to celebrate all the holidays at this time of year.

But the last thing you want is to be stuck measuring, and squeezing, and shaking for hour after hour while everyone else is enjoying the festivities. This is why at this time of year, I advise you to become friends with pre-batched cocktails.

We often do distillery events with multiple cocktails for hundreds of people and just a couple bartenders; pre-batching the cocktails is the only way to survive. But not all cocktails can be treated the same as you prepare them for a large group.

Luckily, we’ve discovered some helpful rules of thumb that we abide and prep by, for stirred cocktailsshaken cocktails, and bubbly cocktails—and they work just as well at home as behind a bar.

1. Stirred Cocktails

The first, and in many ways easiest, category for pre-batching is stirred cocktails. Stirred cocktails are made up of all ingredients that are booze of some sort (another way of thinking about it is cocktails where none of the ingredients are cloudy). This includes cocktails like the NegroniBoulevardierManhattanmartini, Rob Roy, and so on. To prepare these for a crowd you just need math, water, and a refrigerator.


First, look at the ratio or recipe of the cocktail you’re preparing. Let’s say you’re making a Manhattan with 2 ounces rye whiskey to 1 ounce sweet vermouth. To scale this up for 10 people, you could multiply by 10 and discover you’ll need 20 ounces whiskey and 10 ounces sweet vermouth.

This is just short of a 750-milliliter bottle of whiskey, so you could decide instead to look at the ratio in the recipe, which was 2:1, and base your measurements on using one whole bottle of whiskey. In this case you’d use half a bottle of vermouth for every bottle of whiskey. With me so far? Great. Now just stir those ingredients together in a large container, bowl, or pitcher. After this we’ll deal with the bitters, which unfortunately don’t scale as nicely as spirits or vermouth.


With bitters, start by adding half as much as your math tells you you should use. So, in a Manhattan recipe that calls for 3 dashes of bitters, scaled up for 10 people, instead of adding 30 dashes right away, start with 15 and take a tiny taste. It may already taste like enough. If not, add several more dashes at a time until you like the balance.


Next you add water to mimic the dilution that you’d get from the process of stirring the drink with ice. Stirring usually dilutes a drink 20 to 25%. So, calculate what 20% of the total volume you’ve mixed so far is: 20 ounces whiskey + 10 ounces vermouth = 30 ounces total; 20% of that is 6 ounces, so you can dilute by stirring in 6 ounces of water (taste again and add more if you think it tastes too strong).

Now, take your pre-batched drink, put it into containers that are easy to pour from (think pitchers or empty bottles) and refrigerate until party time. When people start arriving, all you have to do is pour your drink into cocktail glasses, over an ice cube if you’d like, add a garnish if that’s your style, and hand them out. You may have sweated a bit earlier in the day during math time, but in the moment of the party, you’ll be breezy and graceful!

2. Shaken Cocktails

The next category is the shaken drinks: that is, drinks with fruit juice but no bubbles. Examples would be margaritas, sidecars, sours (of the no-eggs variety), daiquirisgimlets, and so on. I do not recommend pre-batching drinks with eggs or dairy.

For shaken drinks, you can do the math just like we did for stirred drinks, and mix all the ingredients ahead of time, but don’t dilute with water.

Also, if at all possible, don’t prepare them earlier than the day of your party because fruit juice, especially citrus, degrades in flavor quite quickly.

Store your pre-mixed big batch of drinks in the fridge. Come party time, these are a bit more complicated than stirred drinks because you’ll still have to shake them right before serving. The dilution, emulsion, and texture you get from shaking is important in these drinks.

In a regular shaker or a big Mason jar, add enough pre-mixed cocktail for 3 to 4 drinks at a time (9 to 10 ounces of pre-batched drink should be good for 3 drinks), fill the shaker three-quarters full of ice, and shake as you normally would. You’ll just have to hold tighter because the shaker will be heavier. I don’t recommend trying to shake more than 3 to 4 drinks at a time because it becomes unwieldy.

Strain the drink into 3 or 4 glasses and hand them over to 3 or 4 eager guests. Repeat. It’s a bit of work, but churning out several drinks at a time like this is still far easier than measuring every ingredient and shaking and straining for one drink at a time while the crowd gets impatient.

3. Bubbly Drinks

Last we have drinks that you would normally build in a tall glass or a Champagne flute and that have a sparkling ingredient like soda water, Champagne, or ginger beer. Drinks in this category would include theTom CollinsDark and StormyFrench 75, Air Mail, Pimm’s Cup, etc.

I like to use these kinds of drinks as pitcher drinks or punches, but you definitely can’t pre-batch them with the fizzy component, and you also don’t want the whole batch sitting out for too long once there’s fizz because it might go flat before the bowl or pitcher has been emptied.

What I like to do with these kinds of drinks is calculate and pre-mix together all the non-sparkling ingredients, just as I would for a shaken cocktail. Keep this mixture refrigerated separately from the sparkling portion until game time. Then, as guests are about to arrive, add enough of the non-sparkling base for about 10 drinks—around 20 to 25 ounces of base—to a large pitcher or punch bowl. Top this with enough sparkle for 10 drinks—around 45 ounces—and add a large ice ring or some large ice cubes.

Start by serving this to your guests, and when it runs very low, refresh it by adding more base, more sparkle, and more ice in increments. I like working in increments of 10 drinks, but you could do smaller or a bit larger depending on the size and conviviality of your crowd. If I’m being very precise, I shake the non-sparkling base with ice, one-third of it at a time, before adding it to my punch bowl. But, truth be told, I often don’t.

On the other hand, if I’m feeling more whimsical and spontaneous, I like to make punches and pitchers by following the ratio 3:2:1:sparkle! That is to say 3 parts strong (this includes any spirit, be it gin, tequila, bourbon, rum, etc.); 2 parts sweet, like liqueur, flavored syrup, or very sweet fruit juice; 1 part sour, like lemon or lime juice; and then any sparkling ingredient I want (usually Champagne!).

Starting from this ratio, you can get creative with your favorite flavors and build a drink that you, ahem, punch-drunk love.

-Emily Vikre

Originally published on

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Bonus Day!


We promised you 20 days of TMI.  But, we've got one more tidbit to offer: a list of stores that should have Sugarbush Whiskey in stock and ready to sell, beginning November 21st, 2015.

-Mount Royal Bottle Shoppe
-Lake Aire Bottle Shoppe
-South Lyndale Liquors  (available instore and online)
-France 44 (available instore and online)
-Zipp's Liquors 
-Up North Liquor
-Super One of Baxter, MN
-Edina Municipal Liquor
-Pour Wine & Bar Bistro

On Saturday, November 21st, 2015 Vikre Distillery will be sampling Sugarbush Whiskey at South Lyndale from 2-4pm and France 44 from 4-6pm.  You can also find Vikre's very own Chelsy and Emily making cocktails at Wilson & Willy's one year celebration.

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 20 of 20!

Today is the day! We've been working hard all week, getting the whiskey ready. & FINALLY, Sugarbush Whiskey is here. 

Watch us put the final touches on Duluth's first ever whiskey, and be at Vikre Distillery to celebrate with us from 2-11pm today. 

2:00pm- opening ceremony
4:30pm- music by Clover Street Cronies
every hour on the hour- barrel room tours and a toast 

There will also be...
-bottle sales*
-free Vikre glencarin glass with your first glass of whiskey
-bourbon glazed mini donuts by the Zenith Bread Project

We can't wait to share a glass of Sugarbush Whiskey with you! Cheers!

*one bottle per customer per day (tis the law)

Join us TODAY, @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 19 of 20

Sugarbush Whiskey is almost here.  The historic release of Duluth's first ever whiskey is TOMORROW!  It tastes amazing.  If you don't believe us, we'll just have to "proof" it!

Be sure to check out our Facebook event page for information on the release party. 

Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 18 of 20

Day 18 of 20 Already?  Woah.  Pretty sure that means it’s time for a drink.

How about a easy-to-make Manhattan featuring our very-soon-to-be-released Sugarbush Whiskey?

"The Bianco Manhattan" featuring Sugarbush Whiskey

a recipe by Nicholas Pascuzzi

Head Bartender, Vikre Distillery

  • 2 oz Sugarbush Whiskey 
  • 1/2 Sweet Vermouth (Dolin Blanc or other) 
  • 3-4 dashes Orange Bitters (we like the brand Dashfire Bitters) 

1. Build in a pint glass 

2. Add ice 

3. Stir for 15-20 seconds

4. Julep strain into a fancy drinking glass

5. Garnish with a fabrri cherry

Click the video below to watch and learn!

Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 17 of 20

Only 3 more days to the release party. We can't wait to share Sugarbush Whiskey with you!

In the meantime, we've got some more information! (Because that's our thing, doncha know?) Yesterday you met the man who makes the maple syrup we use to season our bourbon barrels. So naturally, we want to tell you about aging maple syrup in bourbon barrels. We hope today's concepts stick.

Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 16 of 20

4 days away… can you can almost taste it?  If you can, you're probably picking up hints of maple!
After it’s stay in the port barrels, #sugarbushwhiskey moves into bourbon barrels.  But not just any bourbon barrels.  While the bourbon barrels were waiting for their turn to season Sugarbush, they were full of delicious maple syrup (adding even more flavor!) made by Dave Rogotzke.  He has known Emily Vikre, “since she was a wee little girl,” and makes a delicious product.  Dave says he takes great pride in being the caretaker of over 5000 maple trees on his farm in Lakewood Township.  Rightfully so! 

You can find more on Dave, his story, & his syrup at




Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 15 of 20

Sugarbush Whiskey is only 5 days away!  Freaking out? Us too. But don't hold your breath.  That's not good for anyone, especially our barrels.  So how do we get our barrels to do the ole inhale/exhale?  No, not yoga.  We put our waste heat to use, creating barrel room conditions that allow the barrels to breathe better and enhance the process of interaction between the barrel and the spirit.  

Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 14 of 20

We've got 6 days to go.  You can rest assured we pulled out all the stops to make Sugarbush Whiskey a unique and delicious spirit.  Even some crazy stuff, like playing loud music in our barrel room all night long.  This method helps facilitate contact between the whiskey and the barrel. Also, it helps the barrels sleep.  ZZZZZZzzzzzzz




Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 13 of 20

Duluth's first ever whiskey is here... and it's called Sugarbush.
Come get your hands on a bottle of Lot 1, limited release, Sugarbush Whiskey

Join us on November 20th (starting @ 2pm) for a day full of...
-bottle sales*
-delicious spirits tastings and cocktails
-tours of the barrel room (every hour)
-music by the Clover Street Cronies
-bourbon glazed mini donuts by the Zenith Bread Project
-a special performace by Joel Vikre (perhaps a song)

We only have three barrels of this stuff, and we are expecting it to go fast. Feel free to line up the night before. (People line up for iphones, why not whiskey?)

*We can only sell one bottle per person per day. It's a state law. Tell your Aunt Carol if she wants a bottle, she's gotta join you. ;)


Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 12 of 20

8 days left.  By now, you probably think we've provided enough information on Sugarbush Whiskey.  Oh how wrong you are.  We have provided just enough information.  But we promised TOO MUCH INFORMATION, so we’ve got much more to share.

Today we cover another behind the scenes component of our process: how we use maple wood staves from Black Swan Cooperage to add yet another flavor dimension to Sugarbush Whiksey

Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 9 of 20

With 9 days down and 11 to go, 

you’ve learned a lot about Sugarbush Whiskey, 

but there’s still more to know!

So in today’s video, at long last, 

Joel is telling us of Duluth’s distilling past.

Find more information on the history of Duluth at the Zenith City Online.

Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey, and also, make history! 

Sugarbush Whiskey TMI: Day 7 of 20

Having 13 days to go means we get to introduce you to Jon Otis, co-owner of Duluth Barrel Works.

To achieve the distinctive #SugarbushWhiskey taste, we use a variety of types of wood.  Duluth Barrel Works supplies us with used barrels,  adding both another layer of flavor, and another collaboration to our craft.  While traditional bourbons are aged in new oak, we opted to first age Sugarbush Whiskey in used port wine barrels.  The ripe and dried fruit flavors of the port carry over to the whiskey, balancing out the subtle caramel and vanilla notes from the aged oak.  But that’s just the beginning…     


For more information on Duluth Barrel Works, visit: or e-mail: 


Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey! 


Sugarbush Whiskey is only two weeks away!

We really shouldn't be telling you about this, but Sugarbush Whiskey just has a way of making us talk...

In this video, Joel Vikre discloses the distillates we pour into our barrels, 

eventually "becoming the delicious Sugarbush Whiskey, that you will drink."  


Join us on November 20th, 2015 at @VikreDistillery to get your bottle of Sugarbush Whiskey!