Let’s talk about one aspect of organizing a party at home that we haven’t approached yet. Something you might not think about until the last minute, either because you have no idea where to start or because you think it doesn’t require any planning.
You might have already chosen the perfect theme, prepared all the decorations, sent invites and everything seems to be ready for your party but you’ve got one last problem to solve: "what can I offer you to drink?" is most likely one of the first questions you're going to ask your guests, so you might as well ask yourself this question beforehand!
What are you going to prepare and how are you going to keep up with your guests’ insatiable thirst?
Of course, your fridge will be stocked with beer and wine, and that’s all right! But wouldn’t you like to offer something more sophisticated? I personally like playing the mixologist from time to time, partly because I enjoy it and partly because it’s always fun to surprise your friends with an unexpected well-mixed cocktail. This isn’t too complicated when you have a few friends over for dinner; you can personalize drinks and make everyone a cocktail matching their preferences. You can show-off your skills a little bit and your guests will be impressed and feel special. But past 5 guests, making personalized drinks can become quite a headache, and even if you enjoy playing the bartender too, you don’t especially want to do it all night.
Here are a few guidelines that will help you prepare everything in advance and spend a stress-free night with your friends, but still offer them something special to drink!
First you will have to decide what cocktail(s) to make. Chose something simple (equal parts cocktails are the best!) and something that can be easily adapted to larger volumes. Some drinks are appropriate, some are not. A good rule of thumb is to prepare the spirit-forward cocktail with little to no juice in bottled format (use a clean wine bottle or any clean glass bottle) and the cocktails with lots of fruits and fizz for pitcher and punch-bowls!
Make sure to think about everything in advance: the liquors, the mixers, the ice, the garnishes and the amounts you’ll need. Make a list, check it twice and don’t forget cleanup gear and cocktail napkins! Again, equal parts cocktail will make your life easier, it’s simple to scale up and you can use anything as a measuring tool, as long as you stick to it for everything! The one exception when scaling up your recipe is to use a lighter hand on the bitters. Too much of it can be overwhelming. For larger volumes of cocktail, use about half the bitter than what’s called for in the recipe after scaling up.
The next most important thing to plan for is the ice! To know how much you’ll need, count about 7lb. of ice per 750ml of cocktail (size of a standard bottle of liquor), and then add some more! Better safe than sorry, nobody likes a warm cocktail! If you are planning on having a punch-bowl, do not use ice cubes as they will melt quickly and water down your cocktail. Instead, prepare a large block of ice at least one night before. Choose a container as large as possible but not too large, you still want some room for your drink and to maneuver the ladle in the punch-bowl! The easiest is to use an aluminum loaf or pie pan, fill it up almost to the top and stick it in the freezer one of two days before the party.
Some cocktail suggestions for pitchers or punch-bowls:
In a large pitcher or in large bowl, combine equal parts of each of these ingredients to make about 6 ½ cups (1.5L) and stir well. Add the ice at the last moment or directly into the glasses and stir again to chill. For the punch-bowl version, add the block of ice and a ladle to serve at the last minute.
Serves 10 to 12.
The Hudson mule:
Unfiltered all-natural apple juice
Add some apple wheels to the bowl or pitcher for garnish
Add some lime and grapefruit slices to the bowl or pitcher for garnish
Garnish with mint spring, works better served on crushed ice
Some suggestions for bottled-cocktails:
Try some of these cocktails, mixing equal parts of each ingredient in a large pitcher and about ½ a cup of water to mimic the dilution ice would make, for a total volume of about 6 ½ cups (1.5L). Transfer carefully in two clean wine/glass bottles and chill in the fridge for at least 2h. Pour in coupes without adding any ice. Serves 10-12.
(As mentioned before, spirit-forward drinks work well in bottled version so the following recipes will be stronger and less fruity drinks than the pitcher/punch-bowl suggestions).
Garnish with orange peel
5-10 dashes of Angostura bitters
Garnish with Maraschino cherries on a toothpick
Crème de violette
Twist orange peel over the glass then discard