Whipping up some statement-making cocktails can add a festive touch to your holiday entertaining
I love a themed party, whether I’m hosting it or attending as a guest. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and the Super Bowl are good reasons to go all out.And now that it’s Fall, I enjoy creating food and drinks that celebrate the ﬂavors and colors of the season, from pumpkin spice and cinnamon, to cranberries and apples. I have hosted parties that were basically all-day affairs ﬁlled with pumpkin carving, football, food, harvest ales and some delicious seasonal cocktails, like the ones I’m whipping up this month. One of those gatherings turned into my favorite party of all time because my daughter Lauren won the pumpkin carving contest and her “prize” was that my now son-in-law got down on one knee and proposed.
The holiday season offers ample opportunities to spend time with family and friends, even if the past two years have been scaled down from what we’re used to, but that also creates the opportunity to add more special touches to your celebrations. For me, this will often mean creating special cocktails to add a little more fun and festivity to an event. One of my favorite drinks, no matter the season, is a Dry Dirty Martini, but I also love to splash out and introduce my guests to something like an indulgent Pumpkin Spice White Russian or a refreshing Cranberry Apple Moscow Mule.
If you do decide to have more of an outdoor or backyard bash for a larger group, consider hiring a bartender and customize a set of signature drinks for the event. You can even plan your menu to coordinate with your cocktail choices. Some great options might be to serve a charcuterie board of cheeses, meats, olives, pickles, nuts and crackers or a baked artichoke dip with crusty bread or pita to offset the sweeter cocktails and to balance the saltiness of a Dirty Martini, something like brie baked in phyllo dough with cinnamon and pecans would be a nice option.
I personally enjoy prepping for an event, from planning the menu and arranging the table to cutting up fruit garnishes for drinks, like professional bartenders do. The day before a party, I prep as much as I can, so I won’t have as much to do on the day of the gathering. My consistent advice, even for a seasoned hostess, is prep, prep, prep.
Now having said that, I realize that may not be practical for everyone, especially with how hectic the holidays can be. In that case, keep it casual and easy with a pot of homemade chili (let the crock pot do the work) and some corn muffins from the bakery section of your local market. If mixing cocktails is too much to consider, pick up a couple of bottles of your favorite wine or beer and let your guests help themselves.
Gatherings should be about more than the decorations and getting dressed up, it’s about sharing time with friends and family. So, greet your guests with a smile and enjoy the moments. And, if you do decide to try out these delicious seasonal cocktails for your next soirée, I say, Cheers! to you and make mine a Dirty Martini… dry, if you don’t mind
Maple Old Fashioned
2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon water
Dash of Angostura bitters
Orange peel for garnish
Mix whiskey or bourbon, maple syrup, bitters and water in an old-fashioned glass and stir until the syrup is dissolved. › Add a single large ice cube. › Garnish with orange peel.
Cranberry Apple Moscow Mule
4 ounces vodka
1 can ginger beer
1/2 cup sparkling apple juice
1/4 cup cranberry juice
Fresh cranberries and sliced apples for garnish
Fill two glasses with ice and add equal amounts of vodka, cranberry juice and sparkling apple juice. › Stir to combine. › Fill with ginger beer and stir gently. › Garnish with cranberries and apples
Pumpkin Spice White Russian
3 tablespoons graham crackers, finely crushed
2 ounces vodka
1 1/2 ounces pumpkin spice creamer
1 ounce Kahlua
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus extra for garnish
Combine pumpkin pie spice and crushed graham crackers on a shallow plate. › Dip the edge of the glass in honey, then into the mixture to coat the rim. › Fill the glass with ice. › Pour in the vodka and Kahlua, then top with the creamer. › Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Ultimate Dry Dirty Martini
3 ounces vodka or gin
1/2 – 1 1/2 ounces olive juice (to taste) Green olives
Chill a martini glass by swirling in ice or putting in a freezer for a few minutes. › Put ice into a cocktail shaker until it is three-quarters full. › Add the vodka or gin and olive juice (to taste) and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. › Put two or three olives on a skewer and place in the glass. › Strain the martini from the shaker into the glass.