By David Alan
Photography by Andy Sams
We’ve all been to events where only wine and beer were available, or perhaps to parties where a table featuring a few bottles of lonely liquor and ubiquitous cans of cola and bottles of cranberry juice attempt to beckon. It’s time to take it to the next level with cocktails, people. Cocktails should be fun and creative! For the gardener or farmers market shopper, cocktails can showcase the bounty of the season and challenge the palate. They can also challenge the host, but don’t let this be cause for concern.
Here are some simple ways to throw a beginner’s cocktail party.
Tips for Successful Cocktailery
• Don’t be afraid to make punch. Once the lime sherbet and ginger ale trough of family parties, punch was actually the king of drinks in colonial America. Let it retake the throne at your next cocktail party. Find a recipe for a classic such as Philadelphia Fish House punch, artillery punch or a great holiday punch like eggnog.
• Trust the experts. Every well-stocked home should have a reliable library of cookbooks, and the same goes with your home bar. The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff is one of the most complete sources of cocktail wisdom available.
• Start with the classics, then reinvent. Select a drink that has passed the test of time, then modify it as you see fit. Infuse simple syrup with herbs to give drinks a subtle hint of local, seasonal flavor, and use fresh fruits of the season when possible.
• Buy much more ice than you think you’ll need—at least a pound per person. Designate an ice chest exclusively for clean or “service” ice, as opposed to the chest where everyone puts beer and dirty hands.
• Have fun! Don’t let your cocktail party drive you over the edge. If it tastes good to you, don’t worry if your concoction won’t make it to the Cocktail World Cup (there really is such a thing). If you and your guests had a good time, then you did something right. Cheers!
I like to think in terms of two categories of drinks: bright and refreshing and big and boozy. Offer a drink from each category, and increase the chance of satisfying the most guests. Using the same basic structure as these drinks (below), substitute seasonally appropriate ingredients.
RecipesLemon Basil Margarita
By the Batch
It’s important to have drinks ready when guests arrive. A carafe, pitcher or bowl of cocktails is a great way to be able to serve guests immediately, and also facilitates making several drinks at a time when numerous guests are showing up in quick succession.
Basic guidelines for batching drinks:
1. Select the cocktail you want to batch.
2. Multiply the base spirit by the number of portions you wish to serve.
3. Do the same with sour ingredients or modifying spirits—those spirits second to the base spirit, such as orange liqueur is to tequila in a margarita.
4. Multiply out the sweet ingredients and pungent ingredients such as bitters, but do not add the whole amount to the other ingredients at one time. Some ingredients, like sugar, will overpower a drink if multiplied out in the same proportion as the strong ingredients. Start by adding half of the total and go from there.
Cocktail Party Food
By Paula Angerstein
Entertaining and being entertained should be a pleasure for everyone—including the hosts. For your next party, remember that with a little forethought, a party spread can be put together ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy a cocktail with guests. Our two menus make use of locally sourced ingredients for either warm or cool weather—showing two faces of the same flavor combinations. Here are a few tips for creating a party you can enjoy.
Tips for Success
• Plan the menu in advance of the usual farmers market day so you’ll be sure to pick up the freshest local ingredients.
• Make sure the food is substantial enough to balance the alcohol consumption. Our menus here include hearty items that require a plate and fork but not a sit-down session with a knife.
• Our summer menu illustrates food that can be made and plated before guests arrive. Set out one buffet or serve in courses paired with cocktails or wine.
• Our winter menu items are best served hot. Broil the fish while guests are enjoying their first glass. After the fish course, take the daube and ratatouille straight off the stove to serve.
• Salads and desserts should take advantage of the vegetables and fruits of the season and be prepared and plated ahead of time. Add a little pizzazz to fruits by macerating them in Paula’s Texas Orange for a few hours in the refrigerator.
• Our favorite way to cap off the party is a small glass of dessert wine or Paula’s Texas Lemon liqueur.