Entertaining – The Cocktail Party, Part 1
The holiday season is over. Depending where you live, warmer weather may be just around the corner. Why not have an informal outdoor gathering the first time a weekend looks nice? You can hold it on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon if the evenings are still chilly, or invite a few friends for an after-work cocktail party on Friday.
The key to a good cocktail party is for the guests to know what to expect. If you’re not planning to serve much food, have a start an end time (roughly two hours is good) and don’t hold the party during the lunch or dinner hour. A weekend afternoon from 2-4 or a Friday evening from 8-10 (or 5-6 if it’s just some friends from work) would be perfect.
I would recommend having pretzels, nuts, and maybe some crackers and cheese for your guests to munch on.
If you invite the guests a day or two ahead of time, a fun theme will really make a great party. The following are a couple of suggestions to wave winter goodbye.
Cuban/Latin/Salsa The key here is bright colors. Citrus fruits, pink and red tablecloths on the bar, lots of greenery. If you are serving any appetizers, put them on banana leaves. If the party is on the patio, drag any green houseplants outside for the evening (of course, palms work best, but there is no need to buy them if you don’t have them lying around). Serve your guests a rum-based drink like a mojito.
Tex-Mex Another brightly colored event, great for the end of a dreary winter. The colors here are red, green, and yellow. Decorate with hot peppers of all shapes and sizes. Serve your guests margaritas and have some chips and salsa for them to much on.
Another fun idea is to serve just one particular cocktail. You can even mix it ahead of time and let your guests shake and pour themselves. Just be sure to have something for those who don’t drink, and maybe a little bit of wine and beer (probably slightly less than one bottle for every two people since most people will drink the cocktail, and two beers per person should more than do it). The following are a few recipes to get you started. This month they are all vodka-based.
Sour Apple Martini
There are many great recipes, but I’ve dicovered that the following makes a great drink:
1 part vanilla vodka (I use Stoli Vanil)
1 part sweet and sour mixer
1 part Sour Apple Pucker
Mix in a pitcher beforehand and leave shakers on the table. Let your guests add ice, shake, and serve themselves, so you don’t have to play bartender all night.
If you don’t have a specfic theme, you can play up the color of this drink by having dark green tablecloths with light green fruits (green apples or limes) to add a splash of color.
Bay Breeze (A sweet twist on the Sea Breeze) Not a true cocktail, since it’s served on ice, but nice for those who don’t have a bunch of martini glasses. Can be mixed in a pitcher ahead of time and the guests can add ice and a lime wedge and serve themselves.
1.5 parts vodka
2 parts pineapple juice (can be up to 2.5 parts, depending on how sweet you like it)
3 parts cranberry juice
1 lime wedge
Don’t leave out the lime! It is a very important part of the flavor.
This is another drink you could serve at a Latin-themed event, as it is very brightly colored. You could also serve it with brunch.
1.5 parts vodka
2 parts cranberry juice
2 parts orange juice (can be up to 2.5 parts, depending on how sweet you like it)
Vodka Gimlet Here’s a classic that you don’t see much anymore. Like the martini, it was originally made with gin. I have also adapted it to use fresh lime juice instead of Rose’s.
2 parts vodka
1/2 part fresh lime juice (up to 3/4 part, depending on your tastes)
1 part cold soda water (optional)
Place ice in a glass. Add vodka and lime juice. Stir. Top with soda water if desired and add a lime wedge.
I wouldn’t mix this ahead of time. You can put the recipe in a picture frame and set it by the ingredients for guests to serve themselves.
Of course, people’s tastes differ, and you should try these recipes before the party and adjust according to your taste.