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How to make a shopping list for cocktails

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Good vibes at a party often depend on good drinks. Whether it’s wine (watch out for our forthcoming tips article dedicated to wine), beer, or mixed cocktails, one of the best ways to welcome and impress friends is with a finely crafted cup of party-starter. As stated in our "How to Serve Drinks at a Socially Distance Party" article, we're a firm believer in pre-batched cocktails. They're fun, easy to create, simple to shop for and most importantly, can keep the beverage flow of your party sanitary and your guests safe. You'll find plenty of recipes online to pick from and our main recommendation is to keep things simple. You're meant to enjoy your party as much as your guests, not get stuck bartending.


So, where do you start? To get started, you'll need the tools of the trade to make your crafted liquid fun.



Get a sharp cutting knife (dull blades are actually more dangerous so it's best to keep your kitchenware in good condition) and a sturdy cutting base. You'll also want to grab a lemon/lime squeezer, a vegetable peeler, and a couple "bar towels" or some kitchen towels that you won't mind should they get stained. You'll also need a serving vessel for your cocktail. Something like a lemonade dispenser will work perfectly. If you opt to make individual cocktails for your friends using a shaker, go ahead and add a full bartender’s kit to your shopping list, but be aware you’ll be needing someone just to make drinks all night (and we have a solution for that!).


Okay...let's get to the good stuff! Which recipe do you go with? First, consider the base. Tequila, gin, and vodka are fun places to start your list. Brown liquors and dark rums can be great in the winter time while lighter liquors are typically served in spring and summer. Be sure to keep your cocktails seasonal! Whichever way you'll go, make sure you pick a recipe that you'll like as much as your guests.



Now that you've selected your liquor base and your recipe of choice, the next question becomes how much do you get of everything? The recipe will usually get you enough for a single batch, but you may need more. It can depend on the cocktail recipe you're using, how many guests are coming, how long the party is, and if you're serving other types of beverages, but we'll try to keep things simple. We generally recommend having enough for two batches or double what your recipe calls for. Let's break it down.


A fairly safe assumption is that you'll have beer and wine in addition to your batched cocktail as well as some basic liquors and mixers. For a 3 to 4-hour party with up to 25 guests , we recommend you get at least two 750-ml or 25.4-ounce bottles specifically for your batched cocktail. That'll be plenty to get you through and if for some reason you go through both bottles, it'll probably be time for everyone to call a cab.


Some recipes also call for some bubbly on top. Two bottles of an affordable prosecco will probably do the trick here should you pick a sparkling recipe.


Special mixers and syrups: A lot of batched cocktails rely on infused simple syrups that you can either make at home, although you can also buy them pre-made if you want to cut down on the work load. Then comes things like tonic water and seltzer, which are sometimes also used. We suggest you make or buy twice as much of these special ingredients as the recipe calls for. It's always better to have a little extra than to run out early if your guests love the batch!



Typically, there will be a fruit and/or herb element. We wouldn't have it any other way. Not only does it enhance the aesthetic of your cocktail, these can be essential in bringing the recipe together and turning a college party mojo juice into a cocktail that's elegant and special.


If your recipe calls for it, get plenty of lemons or limes, grapefruit, berries or apples (they make for a great snack if you have left-overs).


Let's consider herbs. Rosemary, thyme, and sage are often popular. For self service bars, you won't need as much of these as guests are unlikely to garnish their drinks on their own. And we do not recommend it. So only get enough to meet the needs for a two-batch recipe.


Salts, sugars, and spices: Some drinks will call for these to be rimmed around the glass of your cocktail. While we LOVE these added touches, for the time being we do not recommend this route for the sake of keeping things as sanitary as possible.


Ice, ice baby! It will be the rare occasion when ice is not required for your bar and batched cocktails. Always buy enough. Don't rely on your refrigerator to push out enough for 25 people. Five to ten lbs of ice will be a great start for a smaller party depending on your particular bar setup and whether or not the event is located outside. If it's warmer and you're trying to keep a lot of beer and wine chilled, as well as offer additional mixed drinks, you'll want to increase the ice order.



That'll take care of the shopping list. Now...who's going to make it and serve!? It can be a lot of fun creating your own batch and setting it up for service to our guests. However, the best way for you to enjoy your party while getting great-tasting cocktails batched and mixed to perfection into the hands of your guests (while keeping service items clean and safe) is by having a dedicated bartender mixing, pouring, and refilling your guests’ empty cups. On Tray Services has the industry’s best bartenders ready to go.


Let us sling the drinks so you and your friends can knock 'em back with joy and peace of mind.


Contact us at www.ontrayservices.com to book one of our experienced bartenders for your next party or event!



Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice and is for entertainment purposes only. For official guidance please consult your local laws regarding gatherings and events. Below are links to the CDC, WHO, and NY State Department of Health websites for your convenience.


CDC : https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html


WHO : https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019


NY State DOH : https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home


NYC : https://www1.nyc.gov/site/coronavirus/index.page


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