As we approach the season that Andy Williams claims is “the most wonderful time of the year,” many of us will entertain our dearest friends and family. As a hostess this is your opportunity to shower these special people with delicious food, good company and happy memories. One of the easiest ways to have an impressive soiree is to offer your guests a signature drink when they first enter your beautifully decorated house. It’s an unforgettable touch that will set the tone for a great evening.
Your festive drink can run from the tried and true holiday standbys like egg nog, a hot toddy or wassail, to a preferred drink like a cosmopolitan, martini, or punch with a special holiday-themed name. What could be more fun than drinking a Jack Frost, a Holly Jolly or a Snowball? Use your imagination and create a memorable moniker for a perennial favorite. Better yet, take this opportunity to experiment with seasonal flavors and bright colors to enhance your party’s atmosphere with a new recipe that will bring your guests back for more.
When selecting your libation, think about the other flavors, scents and colors that will be a part of your guests’ experience and choose something that will complement the tone of the event. Be sure to use fresh, high-quality ingredients as well as some of these helpful hints to add pizzazz to your presentation.
THE PERFECT POUR
Most of us have a decent selection of standard wineglasses, but consider renting attention-grabbing glassware for added impact. The glasses can be a bold color, an interesting texture or a festive design. Use champagne flutes, martini glasses, highball glasses or even shot glasses—the options are endless, so have fun making a statement.
If you decide to use a shot glass, consider floating a drink, which is layering the ingredients in your glass in order of density (heaviest to lightest) to create a fun tiered effect. Thatsthespirit.com has a list of gravity levels of various liquids and recipe ideas to help you plan an impressive way to serve your drink.
FLOURISH AND FLAIR
After you decide what to pour your drink in, think about what finishing touches you can add to the beverage. As with all food, the flavors should complement not compete with the recipe. The adage “less is more” always applies!
Natural ingredients are usually the easiest and most available items to add to your glass. Citrus elements (think oranges, lemons or limes) enhance fruit-based drinks, while a squirt of whipped cream and mint leaves will make the most basic hot beverage more decadent. Just take care that the items are not so small that your guest can choke on them.
In addition to the items listed above, here’s a list of everyday items to consider (but don’t limit yourself to): frozen or fresh berries, cucumber slices, round apple slices with a star cut in the center with a paring knife, star fruit, kiwi, celery stalks, olives, pineapple, sugar, cranberries, cherries or mini candy canes.
Take the time to create interesting shapes and textures—create twists with citrus peels, use lime peels wrapping around frozen cranberries on a toothpick, rim your glass with crushed sugar, salt or candy canes, or drizzle rich chocolate sauce inside the glass. Everything and anything is acceptable. Experiment with the zesters, paring knives and peelers to create flourish and interesting shapes to your garniture.
SERVE IT WITH STYLE
Depending on the scope of the party, you may want to have wait staff serve the specialty drink to guests as they enter the door or for a more low-key affair, have a tray available for guests to serve themselves. Whatever you choose, your service is sure to pamper your guests.
Recipes to get you started
Holly Berry (Virgin Cosmopolitan)
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice (fresh is preferable)
Frozen cranberries and/or lime twist
Mix all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Strain ingredients into a martini glass, preferably chilled. Garnish with frozen cranberries and lime twists for color.
Yield: 4 drinks
¾ cup white crème de cacao
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup peppermint schnapps
Crushed candy canes
Put all ingredients in a shaker; mix well. Strain liquid into a glass that has been dipped in lemon juice then dipped into a bowl of crushed candy canes.
Yield: 4 drinks