21 Make-Ahead Pitcher Cocktail Recipes for Memorial Day
Memorial Day is coming up, and that means that cookout season is officially starting. Arguably the most important part of any holiday bash is having good drinks on hand, and we have two requirements for great cookout cocktails. First, and most obviously, they should be refreshing—this is the time for bright spirits, bitter aperitifs, and fresh fruit. Second, they should be easy—who wants to spend all their time at a party mixing drinks (especially when there’s a grill to tend to)?
Batched cocktails are the best choice for a large gathering, since you can do the lion’s share of the work before your guests arrive. Once they walk in the door, all you’ll have to do is pour the drink over ice; top it off with a little fizz in the form of sparkling wine, beer, or soda, as needed; and hand it off. Below, we’ve rounded up 21 of our favorite make-ahead, big-batch cocktails for warm weather: an effervescent pineapple-rum punch, a tequila-based twist on the Salty Dog, a fruity rosé sangria, and more.
This vibrant tequila punch is made with crème de cassis, a rich, earthy liqueur flavored with black currants. It pairs nicely with black tea, which serves as the base for the punch. For sweetness and acidity, we turn to a simple lemon syrup, while a few ounces of seltzer or club soda keeps it light and drinkable.
Cocktail purists, look away now! While we usually juice fresh limes for a margarita, that can be a lot of effort when you’re expecting a big group of guests. Frozen limeade concentrate is a much quicker path to a pitcher drink that your guests will still love. Here, we mix it with reposado tequila and a light style of beer—pilsner or lager works best.
This take on the Salty Dog replaces the traditional vodka or gin with blanco tequila, which we mix with freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice and tonic water. To serve, pour the mixture into salt-rimmed glasses and finish with a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters. If you want something with a little bit more of an edge, try using smoky joven mezcal in place of tequila—our guide to mezcal can help if you’re looking for recommendations.
Bitter Campari can be a nicely refreshing choice on a hot day. For this lovely sunset-colored cocktail, we mix Campari with bright, sweet tangerine juice and añejo tequila, which has a deeper flavor than a blanco or reposado. Make sure to buy an extra tangerine for cutting into wedges to garnish each glass.
This cocktail gets its floral flavor and striking pink color from a hibiscus syrup, made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers and lime zest—or another citrus zest of your choice—in simple syrup for 15 minutes. Apart from a final addition of bubbly tonic water, everything in the drink can be mixed several hours ahead of time, well before your guests show up.
Combining fresh peaches, dried apricots, lemon juice, white tea, and rum yields a summery punch that’s fruity without being overly sweet. We use the peaches and apricots to flavor a simple syrup, and add a split vanilla bean to help connect the fruit and the barrel-aged liquor.
Vanilla and pineapple are a standard tiki combination—the aromatic vanilla helps bring out the tangy fruit’s sweetness. Along with the vanilla and fresh pineapple and lime juices, we flavor this rum punch with a generous amount of muddled mint. Finishing with sparkling wine makes it fun and festive.
A little sweet, a little salty, and a little smoky, this big-batch drink is something like a lighter, more refreshing version of a Bloody Mary, and perfect for a crowd. It couldn’t be simpler to make: Throw some cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and pineapple into a blender with the adobo sauce from a can of chipotles, plus agave nectar, water, and lime juice. Blitz it up, strain the mixture, and combine it with an equal amount of vodka, and it’s ready to go.
Freshly juiced lemons are a standard part of any bartender’s mise en place, adding brightness and acidity to all sorts of cocktails. But as tasty as fresh lemon is, the flavor of charred lemon may be even better. Searing halved lemons in a pan gives them a mellower, richer flavor that perfectly complements a botanical-heavy gin and woodsy rosemary in this make-ahead drink.
We often think of whiskey as a cold-weather spirit, but there’s no reason to put it away when the temperature starts to rise. This summery bourbon drink brightens up the booze with lime juice and a five-spice-infused simple syrup. For the best flavor, though, you’ll want to skip the jar of five-spice powder and make the syrup with whole Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and fennel seed.
There’s no beef in this recipe, but it does include an unusual ingredient—steak sauce, such as A1, which adds an extra savory note to this beer cocktail. That’s not the only unexpected component here: Muddled bell pepper gives the drink a subtle vegetal flavor. Don’t break out the fancy beer for this one; an easy-drinking lager is the way to go.
If your Memorial Day festivities are starting early in the day, ease into it with this light, brunch-friendly cocktail. Start with pisco (Peruvian Encanto has an herbal flavor that works well), then mix it with a homemade grapefruit syrup, muddled thyme and salt, and lime juice. Keep it in a carafe or swing-top bottle until you’re ready to serve over ice.
This punch also pairs pisco and thyme, but brings sweet fresh strawberries to the party as well. Here, the pisco is joined by equal parts lemon juice and Bonal, a French aperitif bittered with cinchona and gentian. Bonal has plummy flavors that pair well with the strawberries, and just enough bitterness to keep the drink from being too sweet.
The honey, grapefruit, lime juice, and dash of hot sauce in this drink pair perfectly with pisco, but they also go well with vodka or blanco tequila. All you have to do is make a honey syrup—mixing two parts honey with one part hot water—combine it with the other ingredients, and stick it in the fridge to chill until your guests arrive.
Light enough for all-day drinking, this cocktail is made with Suze, a French aperitif flavored with gentian root. We pair the bitter Suze with a tart, woodsy lemon-sage syrup to make a mixer, then combine it with a bottle of sparkling wine, like Cava—something on the cheaper side is fine.
No list of cookout drinks is complete without sangria. For this version, we spike a bottle of sparkling wine with fresh grapefruit juice and citrusy, bittersweet Lillet Rosé. We also muddle in aromatic fresh mint leaves, a natural match for the tart grapefruit. It’s best to prepare the base the night before to let the flavors meld.
Reminiscent of an Aperol spritz, this sangria recipe pairs the fruity, bitter aperitif with fresh peaches, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, sparkling water, and a dry rosé wine. You can make the syrup up to a week in advance, though it takes only about 15 minutes.
You won’t find any fruit chunks getting in the way as you sip this sophisticated sangria—just red wine, sweet vermouth, orange juice, and a ginger-cardamom simple syrup, made with green cardamom pods and fresh ginger juice. If you don’t have a juicer, making the ginger juice can be a little bit of a pain, but an immersion blender and a strainer will get the job done.
This simple punch calls on grapefruit juice to bolster and intensify the bittersweet flavor of Aperol. To brighten up the mixture and balance out the bitterness, we also add lemon juice, sparkling wine, and a piney gin. Depending on the sweetness of your sparkling wine, you can adjust by adding more lemon juice before serving.
Starting with a barrel-aged tequila brings this cocktail grassy notes from agave, along with hints of vanilla. The tequila blends seamlessly with oloroso sherry and orange bitters, while a little simple syrup rounds it all out. Chilled directly in the serving bottle, it’s a hard-hitting drink that’s still perfect for a daytime party.
This fruity, herbal cocktail is a real crowd-pleaser. Montenegro, a mildly bitter Italian liqueur, is paired with vodka and a full-bodied blanc vermouth, then mixed with a fresh mint tea syrup, lime juice, and club soda. It’s a punch that tastes complex and layered without demanding a whole lot of time.
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