The Easiest Cocktails To Make For All Your Holiday Parties

Holiday party season is upon us. And if you’re hosting, the question of what drinks to serve is almost as pressing as gift lists.

As with most things, the trick, of course, is to not overthink it.

“People are looking for more streamlined drinks,” says Kara Newman, spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast. “I think it’s a backlash to years of overwrought cocktail books written by bartenders who mean well but have access to a bar that’s so much more vast than anyone has at home. No one should need 10 bottles to make a single drink.”

In  Shake. Stir. Sip. More than 50 Effortless Cocktails Made in Equal Parts for a Crowd(2016, Chronicle Books), Newman has found that the easiest “easy” cocktails are the ones that have equal proportions of ingredients. She advises prebatching the drinks and chilling them in the fridge. Skip the bitsy jigger and simply pour cupfuls into a pitcher, stir, and decant into bottles.

“That’s the beauty of equal-parts drinks, they scale beautifully,” enthuses Newman. “You don’t really need a recipe. You don’t even really need a measuring cup—you could use a Quaker Oatmeal canister, and as long as you measure the same amount of every ingredient, the drink will work.”

There’s one caveat: If the drink is meant to be shaken or stirred with ice, but you opt to pop it into your fridge instead, be sure to add a little water to approximate the dilution you would have gotten as you mixed each individually.

Robert Simonson, the celebrated drinks and liquor writer at the New York Times, has also written a book that doubles as a resource for stressed hosts. His 3-Ingredient Cocktails: An Opinionated Guide to the Most Enduring Drinks in the Cocktail Canon(2017, Ten Speed Press) points out that classic cocktails have endured because they are, by and large, simple.

“If the Manhattan had eight ingredients, nobody would be making it today—at least not at home and probably not at many bars,” he opines in his book. He doubled down on that in an email, noting that there’s a move at present toward simplicity. “After many years of bars serving up rococo cocktails with elaborate presentations, I do think there is at present a movement back toward simplicity. Complex cocktails will always have their place, but that place should be in the bar, in the hands of professionals.”

He notes that besides his and Newman’s books, more are on the way, such as Maggie Hoffman’s upcoming The One-Bottle Cocktail.  “They are a reminder that excellence is within the grasp of the home bartender without maxing out your credit card at the liquor store and renting a U-Haul to bring your purchases home.”

Whatever you decide to make—and we have five can’t-fail recipes below—use top-notch liquor and think about having two instead of five. To paraphrase venerated mixologist Jim Meehan, this holiday drinking season make it quality, and make it count.