Shareable Cocktails are Here to Stay

From their humble beginnings in the 17th century to the modern practice of sipping from a punch bowl with a floating rubber duck, giant drinks have revolutionized the group drinking venture. The most recent phase of the cocktail evolution speaks to the relationship between community and food, creating a shared experience while emphasizing social media and other technological aspects of our current restaurant culture.

While large-format drinks were once served only in the form of punch bowls, their cultural resurgence has inspired innovative vessels, recipes, and serving styles as America’s cocktail culture continues to mature and develop. Unlike punch bowls, however, modern beverages are about more than practicality and economics. The shareable cocktails pouring into restaurants and bars today are designed to provide quality drinks made with the finest ingredients, enhancing group outings while being a noteworthy experience on their own.

Group cocktails provide benefits for both establishments and their guests. They simplify group outings by offering convenient, various, and diverse options while speeding up the decision-making process when ordering for multiple people. Customers no longer have to decide between blueberry or peach soju – they can get a bucket of both mixed with a couple Red Bulls on the rocks – and bartenders don’t get bogged down making a dozen individual cocktails.

How to Handle This Giant Drinks Trend

While group cocktails may be physically larger than your average cocktail, they become more manageable when split between several people. A hangover will be less likely as the oversized cup or bowl accounts for different drinking styles among the members of a group: More enthusiastic drinkers have a surplus of alcohol, while those who prefer to pace themselves can enjoy relaxed sipping. Taking group size and drinking needs into consideration, shareable cocktails can be a far more economical option than ordering multiple smaller drinks. Not sure how many glasses of Jägermeister you’ll need for your table? Just order a bucket of five mini bottles mixed with ginger beer and lime over ice.

Not only can the amount contained within the group cocktail prove to be a cheaper alternative to individual portions, it can also create a unique bonding experience between colleagues or friends. The trend successfully strikes the fine balance between familiar and approachable and novel and exciting. Its inherently shareable nature extends across multiple levels, from the physical act of sharing a cocktail to customers and staff digitally boosting the drink across social media platforms. The shareable cocktail trend was explicitly developed to improve group social outings and create more memorable experiences, inspiring both face-to-face and digital engagement by encouraging friends, acquaintances, and absolute strangers to come together and try one out for themselves.

Shareable cocktails are an aesthetically intriguing and tasty attraction for groups of all kinds, indirectly urging guests to provide free advertising for the establishment by posting photos of oversized beverages on their personal social media accounts. Looking over the photos, it’s obvious why the trend has caught on so quickly and continues to grow, especially as businesses get more creative with the ways these drinks are served.

Giant Drinks, Big Benefits

The benefits of shareable cocktails are not exclusive to consumers alone: Servers have the opportunity to offer samples, while the batched-up cocktails reduce the overall workload for bartenders. This trend brings in a lot of attention and cash flow for the establishments that offer them, as well as the staff members who serve them. Depending on how playful a restaurant’s bar menu gets, employees may even have the opportunity to make their own unique concoctions.

This doesn’t mean that businesses must establish a new menu and assortment of cocktails altogether, though; oversized versions of an establishment’s traditional beverages can always be listed alongside the original.

Drink possibilities are as endless as the traditional cocktails that informed the trend, from large vessels pebbled with ice and rimmed with flavorful garnishes to ingredients like candied ginger and fresh mint. Some establishments go so far as to create containers out of watermelon, pineapple, and other fruits. Others take a more theatrical approach, with smoking skulls, statuesque tiki gods, and larger-than-life Moscow mule mugs.

The big drinks trend has also brought classic cocktails like the Caribbean-inspired Queen’s Park Swizzle back into the spotlight in the form of pitchers at Libertine Social at Mandalay Bay. Traditionally served in a tall, narrow glass, the oversized version of this drink contains plenty of sharp lime, sweet sugar, and dark rum, all swizzled together with the French swizzle stick, or bois lele.

While distinct in their recipes and appearances, all quality shareable cocktails have five main ingredients in common: alcohol, citrus, spice, sugar, and water. As happy patrons sip from individual straws and operators benefit from serving what amounts to several cocktails at once, the shareable cocktails trend isn’t likely to dry up anytime soon.

Sheri Smith
Sheri Smith

Born in California and raised in New Mexico, Sheri Smith moved with her family from the shores of San Diego to the desert lands of Alamogordo. Being surrounded by NASA's White Sands Test Facility, the mystery of the Roswell UFO incident, and the future building site of the world's first spaceport for commercial flights to space sparked her interest in astronomy and space travel. Sheri spent several years in the Land of Enchantment, living on a street called Tierra De Suenos (Place of Dreams), but her travels took her all over the world – from England and South Korea to Turkey and the Philippines – before she settled down in East Tennessee with her incredible boyfriend and best friend, Nate.