Guys. It's POOL SEASON. Part of me still can't believe that summer has actually arrived, and that it's time to break out the bikinis. But there's nothing better for jumpstarting an insta-vacation-mindset than an icy, refreshing cocktail by the water. I plan on spending my Memorial Day weekend camped out by the pool, with a cooler full of these bad boys.
Pre-batching cocktails is trickier than you may think -- you can't just multiply a shaken margarita recipe by 10 and call it a day. Not to get all technical, here, but one of the most hard to control aspects of cocktail making is dilution, or the amount of melted ice water that makes it into your final drink. When your drink tastes too weak or too strong, dilution is often to blame. It also controls the temperature of the drink, which in turn affects flavor. We taste sweetness more strongly at warmer temperatures -- go figure -- so a warm drink is going to taste too sweet.
In so many words, dilution (whether too much or too little) is often the culprit in a bad drink. And since you can't shake or stir pre-batched drinks to order, you're skipping the step that typically controls dilution. Countering this handicap effectively takes some creativity, and is partially dependent on the context you're serving in. I love making granitas (like these coffee ones) for indoor shindigs where I have constant access to a freezer, but that's not an option for outdoor occasions or whenever I'm hitting the road.
Another way to counter the dilution issue is to create a recipe that can stand up well to a little OR a lot of dilution -- like a Negroni or an Old Fashioned, which is meant to change in flavor as the ice melts and the drink gets more watered down. This cocktail, my absolute favorite thing to drink by a pool, falls into that category. I pre-mix a batch, refrigerate the whole thing, then pack it in my cooler with ice to-go. To serve, I pour each serving over a lot of ice, which will cool the drink without much stirring, and melt/chill the drink further as time progresses. You can't leave it sitting out in the sun forever -- no drink will stand up to infinite dilution -- but you have a solid 30 minutes to enjoy the thing before it gets too watery.
The other reason I love this recipe so much for pool season is that it's technically a 'Skinny' recipe -- just watermelon juice, coconut water, vodka, and lime. No added sugars, except what's in the coconut and watermelon (which of course come packed with nutrients, too). And no added fats, like you get from the coconut cream in a piña colada. Easy and guilt free is pretty much where I want to be at all summer long.
A final tip: if your cooler has dividers and compartments like this one from Sovaro (which has an awesome built-in cutting board for garnishes, too), make sure to pack an ice scoop and keep your cocktail ice separate from the rest of the cooler. You don't want to be using the same stuff people are reaching their dirty hands into! If your cooler doesn't have dividers, a few big ziplock should do the trick.