How to Make Great Drinks but Not Stay Behind a Bar All Night
Keep your guests plied, and enjoy your party too with these tips for better bartending.
A successful party is equal parts food, fun, and cocktails, right? Of course — and for the consummate entertainer, nothing is worse than hosting an epic party, only to be stuck behind the bar serving guests instead of mingling. Fear not, the perfect party balance is not impossible. Here are four pointers on how to make delicious drinks without resigning yourself to bartender duty all night from two award-winning pros in the know.
Concoct a Crowd Pleaser
Toronto-based bartender Marta Ess explains that accessibility is the first step to success.
"Crowd pleasing is the name of the game when it comes to entertaining, and the holidays mean gathering with people from all walks of life with varying tastes," Ess says. "It's important that any cocktails served contain familiar, comforting flavours so we can all share in their mutual appreciation. Keep it simple, balanced, and easily recreatable — your guests might love it so much, they'll want to make it at home themselves!"
David Yee, founding member of All Due Respect, a monthly cocktail party and consulting company, suggests not being afraid to create a cocktail base, then letting guests take the reins.
Sprinkle in Just a Hint of Holiday
Burnt out on holiday flavors? Yee stresses that a great holiday party drink doesn't have to be overloaded with traditional holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
"Something classic like a champagne cocktail — a sugar cube soaked in angostura bitters, dry sparkling wine—can walk that line between festive elegance and ease of execution," Yee says. "Keep a kettle of cider hot on the stove and infuse some whiskey, or several whiskeys, with cinnamon sticks. If you want to lean into holiday flavors, steeping these spices in water then adding sugar is an easy way to infuse them into a classic recipe."
It's All in the Details
The duo agrees that details are what takes a cocktail to the next level, so take a minute to focus on the glassware and garnishes.
"Work your garnish and glassware game," Ess explains. "A simple, balanced, and easily batched cocktail immediately becomes an event when the glassware you serve it in or the garnish you use is memorable. The holidays are the perfect reason to get crafty with your cocktail presentation and take it over the top. Cute mugs, fresh herbs, cinnamon sticks, jewels, frosted stemware — think of the presentation of your holiday batched drinks like carefully wrapping a special gift."
Yee agrees, adding that functionality of a garnish creates a useful component to the drink being served, so you won't have to feel like money is being wasted.
"I'm a proponent of functional garnishes or garnishes that mirror something in a drink — think a sprig of rosemary to pair with a drink using rosemary syrup, or an orange peel for an old fashioned for the sweetness on the nose," he says.
Make a Plan
Not everything needs to be made the day-of, so alleviate some stress by preparing what you can before your shindig gets started.
"Knock out some of your prep out ahead of time," Yee says. "Sugar syrups and juice will keep for a few days before the party."
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