Book Review: Batch Cocktails by Maggie Hoffman


Cocktails are incredibly popular at the moment. They have moved from hard to find, and get into, bars to chain restaurants and homes. With the expanding selection of liquors at liquor stores and the amount of information available about cocktails, entertaining at home has moved from a wide selection of beer and wine to people making cocktails at their home bar. Beer and wine were perfect for entertaining; put them on ice or in a cool pace with a way to open them. Cocktails require more attention. You have to prep ingredients, measure them, stir or shake, have a glass for them, and serve them. If you really want to make it an experience, you would add a garnish or have specialty glass. Specialty cocktails add to a party, as both entertainment and preparation. Fortunately, Maggie Hoffman has a solution.

In her second book, Batch Cocktails: Make Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion (Ten Speed Press, $19.99), Maggie makes it much easier to host a gathering at your home. Anything from an intimate dinner to a big party is covered in this book. She starts with the basics, equipment and some of the little details people need to pay attention to, then offers a flavorful journey through a variety of profiles. There is something for every palate, every season, and every type of drinker. Even if what you are looking for is non-alcoholic. The recipes are enjoyable to read, offering some background on the cocktail and timed instructions on how to put it together. There is a section in the back of the book that offers more details about ingredients, measurements, and things to consider when batching new cocktails.

For people that do events, or want to do more events at home, this is a book you should have on your shelf for several reasons. The first is for the cocktails alone. They are broken down by flavor profile, which for this book works really well. If you need something for a specific season, there is a list in the back of the book of appropriate recipes, from seasonal to event based suggestions. The tool section is excellent, skipping the traditional jiggers and shakers and adding pitchers and measuring cups. Her dedication to the details is impressive, especially when it comes to the key part of batching: the water. She discusses in detail why water is needed, when it is needed, and why it is important to the batch.

The recipes are very well laid out, with all of the ingredients you need right on the page. Even if the cocktail requires a syrup, it is right there. The most complex part of the cocktails can be the assembly instructions, and even those are well laid out. Ingredients needed to be added at certain times, and the reasons for that timing, is explained in each recipe. Unless it is a specific amari or flavor that needs to be added, the cocktails all use non-specific liquors, calling for rum, gin, or tequila. That is very helpful to those on a budget or those who may not have access to certain brands. And if you don’t want any alcohol, or are having a party for young people, there is a section in the back of the book that allows you to batch a few mocktails.

This is not a cocktail book for someone looking for traditional recipes and methods. There are plenty of those out there if that is what you need. There are also no exceptions for making these cocktails in a single serving. If you want a single cocktail out of these recipes, you are going to have to do the conversions on your own. But why, when you can have a few flip lid bottles in the fridge for cocktails at any time?

There are very few books on the market that use punches or batched cocktails as their primary focus. You may find one or two recipes for ones in cocktail tomes, but only a handful come out each year that focus on this topic. This is the first one I have seen in a while that focuses on cocktails for a crowd in a manner that goes beyond making a punch. It considers what you can do to save it and serve it beyond the event that requires the punch. Maggie’s first book, One Bottle Cocktails, was a unique perspective on craft cocktails in the home. Batch Cocktails is a unique perspective on making drinks to please a crowd, and feels just as fresh as her first book.