Summer time and the living can be even easier with pitcher cocktails.

Whether mixing up a batch of margaritas for friends in the backyard or ordering a round of mai tais for the table, pitchers are a good way to rethink drinks for a crowd.

At Spoonbar in the wine country town of Healdsburg, Calif., bar manager Scott Beattie -- author of "Artisanal Cocktails" -- knew early on that he wanted to serve cocktails by the pitcher. So he ordered a Kold-Draft ice cube machine capable of making big, dense cubes that keep drinks cold without diluting them.

It's also efficient. With the cubes and a really big shaker, "it takes just about as long to make one drink as it does to make five," he points out.

At Philadelphia's Square 1682 restaurant, one night a week is dedicated to tiki cocktails and they've introduced a new tiki pitcher cocktail: Kama'aina Punch.

The drink blends gin, triple sec, fresh lemon juice, coconut syrup, pineapple juice and black cherry puree and can be given a little extra sparkle with the addition of prosecco.

"Everyone loves a pitcher," says Anna Schneider, general manager. "It's social, fun, basically happy hour in a bowl."

Young Lee of the Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant and Lounge in Las Vegas makes a refreshing cucumber cooler with vodka, fresh lemon sour, white cranberry juice, simple syrup and cucumber puree.

Want to mix up your own jug of good cheer? We have some suggestions.

Two classic summer cocktails -- mojitos and margaritas -- inspired this pitcher cocktail. The lime zest ensures intense flavor to contrast the mint.

>Minted Margarita

1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup water

Zest of 4 limes

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons agave nectar

3/4 cup triple sec

2 cups blanco or silver tequila

Sliced limes, to garnish

Flaked sea salt, to serve

In a blender, combine the mint leaves, water, lime zest, lime juice and agave nectar. Blend on high until the mint is very finely chopped. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Discard the solids. Stir in the triple sec and tequila, then chill.

To serve, moisten the rim of cocktail glasses with a piece of lime. Dip the rims in the salt. Add ice to the glasses and pour the margaritas. Garnish with slices of lime. (Recipe by Alison Ladman)


Sangria is a fruit-infused wine punch. Though often made with red wine, this white wine version is a delicious accompaniment to summer grilling.

>Honey Peach Sangria

11 6-ounce package frozen peaches, thawed

1/4 cup honey

1 cup orange juice

1 750-milliliter bottle chardonnay, chilled

1 cup Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

Soda water or seltzer, to serve

Fresh strawberries, for garnish

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

In a blender, combine the peaches, honey and orange juice. Blend until smooth. Pour into a pitcher, then stir in the chardonnay and ginger liqueur. Chill.

To serve, fill glasses halfway with soda water or seltzer, then top with the sangria and stir gently. Garnish with fresh strawberries and mint leaves. (Recipe by Alison Ladman)


Lemonade and flowers -- two sure signs of summer. So we combined them in this refreshing floral-infused lemonade. If chamomile isn't your, er, cup of tea, feel free to substitute another herbal variety.

>Lemonade in Bloom

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

4 bags chamomile tea

1/4 teaspoon dried lavender

2 sprigs fresh basil

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup elderflower liqueur

1 cup vodka

1/2 cup gin

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, combine the water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Add the chamomile tea bags, lavender and basil. Steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the tea mixture through a mesh strainer into a pitcher, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Add the lemon juice, elderflower liqueur, vodka and gin. Chill. Serve over ice garnished with basil. (Recipe by Alison Ladman)


>Rooibos Relaxer

This red tea is punched up with fruity accents and a bit of rum. Adding the bubbles in the form of lemon-lime soda to each glass as you serve it means not worrying about the whole batch losing its fizz.

8 bags rooibos tea

3 cups water

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1 cup peach schnapps

1 1/2 cups light rum

Lemon-lime soda, to serve

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the tea and water. Heat until simmering, then remove from the heat and steep for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a serving pitcher, combine the pomegranate juice, pineapple juice, peach schnapps and rum.

When the tea has steeped, remove the tea bags, squeezing to release any extra tea. Pour the tea into the pitcher and stir. Refrigerate.

To serve, fill tall glasses with ice. Fill the glasses halfway with lemon-lime soda, then top with the tea punch mixture.