It starts with the sound of laughter through the open window as the light stretches later in the sky. Then the smell of grills being lit in the 5:00 hour. Before long, you’ve pulled out the sandals and shorts, paired them with a sweatshirt, of course, and that’s when you know. Spring is finally here, Minnesota.
Spring means gardens awaken from a long hibernation, ready to party till October. But it also means we get to do that too! Woo Hoo! We’ve been cooped up inside in our cocoons all winter. It’s time to stretch our wings and say hi to the world!
*Insert GIF of Forest Gump wildly waving.* HELLO WORLD!
Springtime always brings plenty of reasons to gather–graduation parties, retirement parties, Memorial Day gatherings, end-of-school-year celebrations, Mother’s day, Father’s day, etc. But you don’t need an excuse to celebrate with your friends. A random Thursday night with the neighbor kids running around and a patio hang is exactly the kind of pace we crave this time of year.
And you know what makes that even better? A pitcher of drinks to share.
I am known as the girl to ask when you need cocktail advice in my friend circles. I have already been asked for recommendations for a drink to serve to a crowd three times this week. We’re talking about something that maybe is a step beyond simply opening the cooler and popping something into a Koozie.
When it comes to serving a crowd, no one has time to shake individual drinks. So batched cocktail pitcher drinks or a self-serve bar are always the best way to go. Here are a few of my favorites spring inspired pitcher cocktails just right for your next big backyard bash or even your next small spontaneous “hey ya doing anything wanna come over for dinner” shout out to the neighbors.
Sangria is my favorite pitcher cocktail to mix up because it drinks like a fruit salad, am I right?
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1/2 cup orange liqueur, like Cointreau
1 (750-milliliter) bottle dry white wine or sparkling white wine, chilled
2 cups seltzer or club soda, chilled
Extra cucumber and strawberries cut up for garnish
- Combine the strawberries, cucumber, and orange liqueur in a large pitcher. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- When ready to serve, add wine and club soda. Stir gently to combine. Taste and add more seltzer if desired. To serve, fill glasses with ice. Add a few pieces of strawberry and cucumber from the pitcher to each glass before pouring in the sangria.
Margarita is always a crowd pleaser but made even easier with the help of limeade. Add fresh limes and other garnishes to give it a fresh boost. A spicy salt rim isn’t a bad idea either.
32 oz jalapeño limeade (my favorite is from Trader Joe’s), or regular limeade
12 oz tequila
4 oz orange liqueur
Lots of fresh garnishes like lime slices, jalapeño slices, cilantro, and spicy salt for the rim.
- Mix limeade, tequila and liqueur. Add ice and stir gently.
- Rim glass with salt, add ice and margarita, and garnish.
This one is great to serve as a non-alcoholic option that is easy to take to the next level with a splash of your favorite spirit. First, make the lemonade, set out a few choices of clear liquor and sparkling waters to let guest mix their own. Also, if making your lemonade is too much, just substitute the simple syrup, lemon juice, and water for 4 cups premixed lemonade, and maybe toss in some mint leaves for flavor.
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
¾ cup lemon juice
8 cups chopped watermelon
4-6 cups ice
Sparkling water, wine, or liquor of choice
- To make the mint syrup, combine the mint, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve and let it cool to room temperature.
- Make the lemonade. Add the lemon juice into a 4 cup measure. Add the mint syrup and enough water to reach the 4 cup mark. Then pour the lemonade into a pitcher.
- Put the chopped watermelon into the blender and blend until smooth. Strain the watermelon in the fine mesh sieve into the pitcher with the lemonade. Add the ice and stir to combine.
- Drink the watermelon mint lemonade as is, top with sparkling water for a little bubblies, or add a shot of your favorite spirit.
Ok, I know I said I was going to give you drinks that don’t involve the cooler. But sometimes you just don’t want to take the time to mix a pitcher drink but you still want it to feel festive. It’s all about the ice–flower ice, that is.
- Gather edible flowers from your garden or at the grocery store (there might be so many more you didn’t know were edible! Like dandelions (as long as you have a lawn free of pesticides.)
- Add flowers to ice cube trays and freeze.
- Serve ice with cans of your favorite sparkling water, hard seltzer, or sparkling wine. You can even set out more flowers for guests to add to their glasses for garnishes.