For big groups, go with a batch cocktail

11/23/2013 7:20 PM

11/23/2013 7:20 PM

If you’re hosting a large group for Thanksgiving, consider a drink station with at least one batch cocktail. Otherwise, you or a designated drink-maker will spend most of your precious spare time mixing and refilling instead of socializing.

Last year, Scott Beskow, bar manager at Austrian restaurant Grünauer, managed to do it all. Then again, he’s a pro.

“I did a whole dinner for friends and family who have a variety of food choices, including my mom, who is practically a vegan,” he said. “I also made batch drinks. I’ve done that when I go to other people’s places as my contribution. It’s a lot easier than cooking.”

Beskow was kind enough to share a drink recipe that nearly everyone will like, that primes the palate for turkey and all the traditional fixings and that can be prepared ahead of time in batch quantities.

He calls it Spike-able/Interactive Mulled Cider. It can be served hot or cold, sans alcohol, with bottles of whiskey, bourbon, rum, vodka, gin and other liquors sitting alongside.

“Kids and teetotalers can feel included because the cider, the garnishes and any Fee Brothers brand bitters are all sans alcohol,” he said.

According to Beskow, mixed drinks don’t go well with Thanksgiving dinner. He suggests wine or beer for that.

“But before and afterward, for sure,” he says. “You can play off the basic stereotypical ingredients people associate with fall and Thanksgiving, like cinnamon and cloves. You could also go with herbs like sage, which grows into fall and gives stuffing its distinct flavor. Rosemary would also be good.”

His personal favorites, he said, are Manhattans and sage mojitos. He also concocted recipes for individual cocktails that he calls Sage Honey 75 (find it at

KansasCity.com)

and Rosemary Old-Fashioned (at right). Both capture the flavors of the holiday.

As for the liquor to spike the cider, Beskow said that when it comes to large groups, it’s safe to go with relatively flavorless clear alcohols such as vodka, gin and light rum.

“There’s nothing wrong with them, but they have a broader appeal,” he says. “And for parties like this where you have people who have varying levels of drinking (experience) and palates that are broad, you need something everyone will like.”

Spike-able/Interactive Mulled Cider Batch Cocktail Apple Cider Mulling spice bag (such as a tea bag or muslin bag) Cinnamon bark Allspice Cloves Orange peel Peppercorns

Prepare spice bag by tying the cinnamon bark, allspice, cloves, orange peel and peppercorns inside. Submerge it in a large pot of the cider and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low heat until spices have steeped to your liking. Serve hot or cold.

The nice thing here, Beskow said, is that it is not an exact science. “It’s up to the individual as to which of the spices to use and in what quantity. You can use one bag to effectively flavor up to 2 gallons of cider.”

Optional garnishes:

Apple slices dusted with cinnamon sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, clove-studded lemon wheels (cut lemon into 1/4-inch thick wheels and spike each with a whole clove), grated nutmeg

Recommended liquors for spiking:

Boyd Blair Potato Vodka, Berneroy Calvados, Old New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum, Gosling’s Black Seal dark rum, Rittenhouse Rye, Tuaca Vanilla Citrus Liqueur

Recommended bitters to add spice:

Fee Brothers Old-Fashioned Bitters, Angostura Aromatic or Orange Bitters, Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

Sage Honey 75 4 large sage leaves (divided) 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon honey 1 ounce Small’s gin (or gin of preference) 1 ounce dry sparkling wine Lemon wheel

Muddle three sage leaves with lemon juice and honey, add gin and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon wheel and remaining sage leaf.

Rosemary Old-Fashioned 2 ounces Corner Creek bourbon (or bourbon of preference) 1 1/2 teaspoons Rosemary Cherry Syrup (see below) 2 dashes Angostura bitters Orange half wheel Rosemary sprig

Stir all ingredients in a large rocks glass 2/3 full of ice. Garnish with orange half wheel and fresh sprig of rosemary.

Rosemary Cherry Syrup 1 cup water 1 cup sugar 3 spears of fresh rosemary, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 12-15 pitted, chopped whole Bing cherries (Dole offers nice frozen ones)

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve. Add the rosemary and cherries and stir.

Turn the burner to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool for 1 hour at room temperature, stirring occasionally. This gives the rosemary and cherry time to infuse. Pour the syrup through a strainer into a container and discard the solids.

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