The Cocktail Craftsman
How to make Bottled Craft Cocktails
Updated: Feb 15
So you are having a party and you want to serve Craft Cocktails, but you don't want to be behind the bar all night.
What to do?
One possibility is the serving of bottled Craft Cocktails. Just like Craft Cocktails, the bottled variety is handmade but they are simply a large batch pre-mixed and chilled in a bottle.
Bottled Cocktails were first written about by, the Professor himself, Jerry Thomas in How to Mix Drinks published in 1862. In his book, he explains how to make a bottled brandy cocktail and proclaims that cocktails are generally used at fishing and other sporting parties, although some patients insist that it is good in the morning as a tonic. (5) His recipe is as follows:
1 pony-glass of Bogart’s bitters
1 wine glass of gum syrup (simple syrup)
1/2 pony-glass of Curacoa
What to avoid
So what cocktails can be served as bottled cocktails? We would say any cocktail that does not have any carbonated ingredients would be good. Cocktails with carbonated ingredients would most likely go flat because they are not being stored under pressure.
First, you need a bottle. This can be a used liquor bottle, a plastic container, or a nice old-style stopper bottle (see below). Next, fill the bottle with water and then pour out the water into a measuring cup to figure out how many ounces or milliliters the bottle holds. For our example, let's say it measured to be 30 ounces.
Now let’s say you want to make a bottled Manhattan. Here is our recipe:
2 ounces Bourbon
1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes of bitters
At first glance you might think, “Okay just pour in twice as much Bourbon than Vermouth in the bottle, chill it, and I’m done.” But if you did this you would be missing a major ingredient… water. This is because we are not putting the ingredients in a mixing glass, stirring it, and getting the melted ice water in the drink. Instead, we are just chilling it in a cooler. So, we have to add water to the recipe.
Depending on how strong you like your drinks between 1/4 to 1/3 of mixed cocktails are comprised of water. In order to get an accurate read, we recommend making a single version of your cocktail as normal. Mix your ingredients, stir with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Before you die of thirst, but before you drink it, measure the total contents of your glass in a measuring cup. In our case, the total volume measured came to 5 ounces. Since you know the bourbon and sweet vermouth were a total of 3 ounces, the water content would be the remaining 2 ounces or 2/5 of the Manhattan.
Math lesson: To get the ratio of ounces for the ingredients… add up the total number of ounces in the drink (2 + 1 + 2 = 5) this is your bottom number. Then use the number of ounces for an ingredient as the top number. So, for the water in our recipe is 2/5 is the ratio.
Now for the bitters... Because the recipe calls for 2 dashes it is difficult to scale it up in the same way. So, what you do is think about how many 5 oz servings the bottled cocktail will make. In this case about 6 (30 divided by 5). So we will add 12 dashes of bitters to the recipe (6 x 2 dashes).
In our 30-ounce bottle, you simply multiply the ratios in order to get the proper mix for your bottled craft cocktail recipe.
Bottled Manhattan (for a 30-ounce bottle)
12 ounces Bourbon (30 x 2/5)
6 ounces Sweet Vermouth (30 x 1/5)
12 ounces Water. (30 x 2/5)
12 dashes of bitters
Pour ingredients into a 30 oz bottle, cap the bottle, shake a few times to mix up the ingredients, and put in a refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.
You can double-check your math by adding up all of the ounces. They should total close to the size of your bottle, minus some rounding. This same process can be repeated for just about any cocktail you would like to serve at your party. Just use the same ratio of ingredients and don’t forget about the water.
Now that you have one or two different chilled bottled cocktails in the refrigerator and your guests are due to arrive soon… The last piece of the puzzle is the presentation and you will be ready for your party.
One idea is to fill a large tub with ice and then place your bottled cocktails on the ice and then arrange your cocktail glasses upside down on the ice. This will cool your cocktail and your glasses for your guest.
Don't forget about the garnishes. Right before your guests arrive you can cut up your garnishes and sever them in a nice garnish tray with tongs. We like this one.
Now your guests can serve themselves and you can enjoy their company without having to mix a drink every 10 minutes.