Friday, May 21, 2010

Mixology & Getting Your Guests Involved

This week there has been a lively discussion on a post from the Merry Gourmet about crafting cocktails for a hosted party. Being wine drinkers, we very much are too, she and her husband wanted to find a cocktail they could unveil at an upcoming party that would be easy to make, AND crowd pleasing.

Check out the post and the comments at The buzz around the post got it into the Foodbuzz Top 9 today.

When my wife and I first started hosting parties at our house we often had beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks available. This satisfied most guests, but we did notice a few guests preferred spirits or a cocktail. If we were lucky we had something around and I could whip a drink up. That didn't satisfy me at the host.

As my winemaking got going I started seeing lots of shows about mixology and realized some of the spirits being used are really wines, fortified and not. Vermouth and Lillet Blanc are two that immediately come to mind. I started experimenting using my wines with other spirits in martini style drinks. I have included a recipe below from one of our Friday night happy hours that my wife and I (just us!) often do to bring the week to a close.

This experimentation required a more complete bar, bar tools and some knowhow. I have to say it was fun to bring my knowledge to a functional level and now I experiment all the time. These days when we host parties we typically have a list of commonly requested drinks available, some left field selections we have come up with or like and of course enough range in the bar for me to pick up the bartenders bible in response to a request I am not familiar with.

The final dimension that has really made this a wonderful journey to be on is getting our guests involved. Not long after the first party where the "bar was open" our friends starting asking how I learned how to make the drinks and often professed fear at trying it at home. I love to share and I had to answer this call. At the holidays in 2009 we held mixology lessons to demonstrate how to approach making drinks, how several were made and then asked guests if they would like to give it a try. I had good expectations, but the response was overwhelming. Several friends have said since that they have gotten positive feedback from their own bar skills when hosting at home. I couldn't be happier.

Nothing in this was all that surprising once I stepped back and considered that our friends have always been interested in the the dishes we make, how I make our wines and now how we tend bar. Margot has even gotten into challenging me to come up with new drinks. That is never a bad thing!

Here are some recipes for drinks that you can make at home or have your guests make to add some fun to an upcoming party.

Old Fashioned

2 oz bourbon whiskey
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 splash water
1 tsp sugar syrup (make ahead, more if sweeter is desired)
1 maraschino cherry
1 orange wedge

Mix first four ingredients in a rocks glass. Add ice. Squeeze the orange slightly to add some juice to the drink. Place orange and cherry in glass and serve.

Devils Kiss (this is an original martini with homemade wine)

2oz Strawberry Wine (a berry liqueur will work in place)
2oz Pomegranate Vodka
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1 oz Grenadine
1 twist of lemon
1 maraschino cherry

Mix with ice in a shaker for 20-30 seconds. Strain into martini glass. Serve with a lemon twist and cherry.
On a recent visit to Jamaica I experimented with a few combinations requested from the very willing bartenders.
White Jamaican (White Russian, Caribbean style)

2 oz Appleton 12 year old rum
2 oz Rum Cream
1 oz Tia Maria

Mix and serve over ice.

Street Pharmacist

2 oz Appleton 12 year old rum
2 oz Rum Cream
1 oz Amaretto

Mix and serve over ice.




Sandy said...

Jason, I know very little about mixed drinks. There is a liqueur called Domaine de Canton, it's a ginger liqueur. I'm curious as to what you would do with it.

merry jennifer said...

Great post! You are so right - mixing cocktails is fun and a great way to get people talking and interested at a party. Our event was last night, and the cocktail I made was a big hit, if for no other reason than it was unusual. I have a lot to learn about cocktail making, but it's sure going to be fun!

Jason Phelps said...

Ginger can be fun but too much can actually hurt if it is fresh! I have used cheaper ginger liquers to make ginger and cokes, and I have heard of ginger liquer and butterscotch being mixed for something like gingerbread, but no first hand feedback.

For what I would do, I am thinking I would make a slightly sweet cake donut dough and roll out small donut hole sized ones and fry them. I would use the liquer to make a sugar syrup with crushed nuts that I would roll the donuts in. I'd pair that with a Vin Santo dessert wine.


Jason Phelps said...

@merry jennifer
I was just telling my wife this week that I want to work with something called Galliano, also an elderflower liquer, and actually make some basil and peppered vodkas at home. I can make a bunch of drinks with those and some basis vodka, gin and mixer options. I'm thinking there is a party in there somewhere.