Pitcher-Perfect Cocktail Recipes

Sangria and batches of three-ingredient cocktails make entertaining easy.
Bombshell Cocktails

Photo: Haarala Hamilton

A batch of sangria or a pitcher of cocktails is perfect for a get-together on the deck, patio, or porch. Having a pitcher of cocktails at the ready makes it easy for guests to serve themselves and gives you a little more time to enjoy your own get-together. One easy idea is sangria, which you can personalize in any way you enjoy. Below I include ratios and ideas for a white sangria to try, and three-ingredient cocktails that show simplicity is often a key to delicious drinks.

Sangria

Not only is sangria refreshing and easy to make with the many delicious fruits available this time of year, but it’s also a great make-ahead drink. Recipes vary widely, but the key elements are wine, your favorite fruits, a touch of sugar, a bit of liquor, and perhaps a finish of fizz. Start with a wine you would normally enjoy drinking. And while red wine is the original, rosé or white wine work equally well—such as in the recipe here. Juice from oranges, lemons and limes creates a crisp base, then mix in the seasonal fruit you enjoy, such as fresh peaches, nectarines and strawberries or mango and pineapple for a tropical take. Use regular, apple or peach brandy for the spirit or peach or orange liqueur. Try switching out the club soda with flavored sparkling water for an added flavor boost. Experiment with your favorite mix of ingredients throughout the summer.

For bites to pair with this refreshing twist on wine, pay homage to sangria’s Spanish origins with Manchego cheese, olives, and Marcona almonds. Sangria’s acidic touch plays nicely against soft, creamy Brie cheese and savory-sweet prosciutto-wrapped melon. You can also serve white sangria with a creamy chicken pasta or a cold chicken pasta salad, and seafood such as lobster or lobster rolls and crab balance well with the wine-and-fruit combination.

White Sangria

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

White Sangria

Makes about 6 (8-ounce) servings

1 orange, quartered and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 lemon, sliced into wedges or circles
1 lime, sliced into wedges or circles
¼-½ cup granulated sugar (or preferred sweetener)
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries, peaches or other seasonal fruit, plus more for garnish
1 cup orange juice, pulp-free or strained
1 (750 ml) bottle white wine
½ cup liquor such as apple/peach brandy, peach schnapps or Grand Marnier
Club soda or ginger ale, to top (optional)

In a large pitcher, combine the fruit and sugar and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature, which will help the fruit flavors to infuse the wine. Add the juice, wine and liquor and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours to let flavors meld. When ready to serve, pour in a large wine glass over ice and add a splash of chilled club soda or ginger ale, if desired. Include a little of the fruit in each serving and garnish with more fruit if you like. Store leftovers in the refrigerator; it’s best enjoyed within 1 to 2 days of making.

Three-Ingredient Cocktails

If you’re stuck in a cocktail rut, it’s easy to break free. The secret is simplicity. “I think we tend to be too nervous around cocktails—in ordering as well as preparing them,” writes author Kate Calder in her book, “Three Ingredient Cocktails.” In it, she set out to prove that for most of the world’s greatest cocktails, you only need three ingredients and a couple of minutes to whip them up. Some may be new to you, and others are classics. They are classics because they work, she says, and there is something comforting in knowing they have been enjoyed for decades—or centuries in some cases—before we were born. With the following recipes from the book, you can bring elegance, style and fun to cocktail hour while still keeping it easy and delicious, whether you prefer to mix up one or two drinks or a batch.

Bombshell Cocktails

Photo: Haarala Hamilton

Bombshell

This cocktail will get the fizz-haters out there changing their tune. The grapefruit juice adds strong notes of tart citrus, and the syrupy grenadine rounds off the flavor for a balanced and refreshing drink. —K.C.

For 1 Cocktail
2 ounces grapefruit juice
Dry sparkling wine to top up
½ ounce (1 tablespoon) grenadine
Strawberry, for garnish

Batch to Serve 6
13 ounces (generous 1½ cups) grapefruit juice
Dry sparkling wine to top up
3½ ounces (scant ½ cup) grenadine
Strawberries, for garnish

Fill your highball glass with ice and pour in the grapefruit juice and grenadine. Top up with sparkling wine, give it a stir and serve. For a batch, fill individual glasses with ice and then make the cocktail in a large pouring pitcher or punch bowl with ladle (a couple handfuls of ice in the bowl) and serve. Garnish with strawberries.

Citrus Punch

Photo: Haarala Hamilton

Citrus Punch

Punchy, sweet cocktails for serving a crowd—punch bowls were made for cocktails like this one. The ginger beer and vodka pairing lifts the fruit juice and makes it invigorating. —K.C.

For 1 Cocktail
1 ounce vodka
2 ounces citrus fruit juice
2 ounces alcoholic ginger beer
Orange, lemon and lime slice, for garnish

Batch to Serve 4
3½ ounces (scant ½ cup) vodka
8½ ounces (1 cup) citrus fruit juice
8½ ounces (1 cup) alcoholic ginger beer
Orange, lemon and lime slices, for garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the vodka and fruit juice. Top up with ginger beer, stir and serve. For a batch, add all of the ingredients to a pouring pitcher or punch bowl with ice, stir and serve. Garnish with orange, lemon and lime slices

Rum Runner Cocktails

Photo: Haarala Hamilton

Rum Runner

A tropical cocktail found at practically every beach bar along the shores of the Pacific, it’s made of the classic combination of rum and fruit. It tastes (okay, maybe just looks) better in an overly garnished tiki mug but as it’s unlikely you’ll have one among the teacups, a rum runner tastes great in a highball glass too. —K.C.

For 1 Cocktail
2 ounces dark rum
3½ ounces pineapple juice
1 tablespoon grenadine
Slices of pineapple, a maraschino cherry, pineapple leaves and an umbrella, for garnish

Batch to Serve 6
12 ounces dark rum
21 ounces pineapple juice
6 tablespoons grenadine
Slices of pineapple, a maraschino cherry, pineapple leaves and an umbrella, for garnish

For one drink, fill your tiki glass or hurricane mug with ice and set aside. Fill your cocktail shaker with ice and then add all of the ingredients. Secure the lid and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into your mug or glass and serve. Garnish with slices of pineapple, a maraschino cherry, pineapple leaves and an umbrella.

For a batch, mix rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine in a pitcher and stir. Pour over ice in serving glasses and garnish with slices of pineapple, a maraschino cherry, pineapple leaves and an umbrella.

Recipes and photos from “Three Ingredient Cocktails” by Kate Calder ©2021 used with permission from Hardie Grant London. Photos by Haarala Hamilton.

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.