How to Serve Cocktails At Home
You’ve probably invited slew of people under the guise of a cocktail party, then the inevitable “Oh, Shit!” moment hit: You don’t even know how to make a cocktail past a Screwdriver. You also don’t have the budget to hire a bartender.
It’s time to learn how to pour a proper drink at your next affair. Throw out the basic mixed drinks and red Solo cups—here are a few quick tips for becoming a bartending pro today.
Create a Menu
The most important part of serving cocktails is to set a menu. You, obviously, are not a full bar at a restaurant. Your guests do not expect to have a pick of 10 different gins for a martini or to order an off-the-wall cocktail like a Last Word. Decide what base spirit or spirits you want to use. If you want to stick to one, go with a popular choice like gin or vodka. If you’re going to serve two liquors, choose one light (again, gin or vodka) and one dark (whiskey or rum). From there, you can craft one or two cocktails. Make a cute sign in Photoshop or put those calligraphy classes to work: write out your menu next to the bar area, even if that’s your kitchen table or the bar cart.
Get a Bartending Manual
I just told you to pick drinks based on liquors and you’re looking at me like an alien. That’s why it’s SO IMPORTANT to have a bartending manual at your home. Putting a quick search into Amazon yields a saturated market, but you really cannot go wrong with the classic: The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock. Originally published in 1930 by the Savoy in London, the book features 750 cocktail recipes that are just as popular today as yesterday. AND, if you really want to impress that friend with the obscure taste in cocktails, you can really find a doozy in this manual.
Purchase Bar Equipment
Every host and hostess should have proper bar equipment on hand, even if you’re just making a mocktail. That includes a shaker, stirring vessel, jigger for measuring, strainer, and stirring stick. These are easy pieces to find. Head to Cocktail Kingdom to find the same tools actual bars purchase, or go for pretty but still functional styles from brands like CB2, Williams Sonoma, Anthropologie, and Bloomingdale’s.
You’ve decided what to make, you have all the gear, and you have all the ingredients, but there is one small issue. You really don’t want to be staff at your own party. I totally get that. My husband loves tending the bar and that usually means there is a crew of gentlemen all huddled around him and the jigger. But if you don’t have help or don’t want to be the help, I don’t blame you. Here’s the solution: Batch your cocktails. Choose cocktails that you can easily make ahead, like the Negroni, Cosmopolitan, or Margarita, and place pitchers or beverage dispensers of the drinks on the bar. Guests can serve themselves, and at most, you’ll just have to refill the vessel.
Make a Punch
I honestly think punches were created for hostesses, but before you roll your eyes, hear me out. I’m not talking about the 7-Up and sherbet punches your mom made for your brother’s birthday parties nor the infamous jungle juice of your frat partying days. I mean proper punches with something more than sugar and grain alcohol. True punches, like those from the mid-1900s, are fun, flavorful, fashionable, and the easiest thing in the world! First off, it’s an excuse to source a fabulous punch bowl. I actually have an antique, silver-rimmed Dorothy Thorpe, which reflects my love of all things 1960s. However, I often see really great ones at home design shops too. Secondly, a world of punch recipes await on the internet. One of my go-to recipes is the Hennessey Sunset Punch, which not surprisingly, includes cognac. I’m not stranger to digging out old rum punches and even milk punches for parties. You can even take these seasonal, like mixing spiked apple cider in the fall or mulled wine for the holidays.
Use Actual Glassware
I know you think clean up will be easier with red Solo cups, but past the age of college, it’s time to give your guests an actual glass for sipping your well-made cocktail. Invest in a set of “party glasses,” which are study glassware that hold up to the dishwasher and the occasional backhand. I particularly love stemless wine glasses, since they are great for serving wine, punch, and some cocktails, while being harder to actually break. Brands like Crate & Barrel and CB2 make them so affordable, I actually don’t mind if one shatters. After about two parties, they end up being cheaper than buying plastic cups each time. For those fellow tree-huggers like me, they are also better for the environment. If you do live in a small space, like New York, I know you’ll claim you don’t have room. Seriously, dump a few extra beach towels or those two pairs of shoes you never wear, and stash a box of party glasses in the closet instead. I promise you’ll find the space. Then hold a vigil for the days of the red Solo cup and say farewell.