So you want to throw a cocktail party?
Forget about the last disastrous soirée, that time everyone got sozzled right off the bat, you spent the entire night slaving over the bar and your (ex) boss spilled raspberry juice down her custom-tailored white shirt.
Thankfully, Pinnacle Vodka has come to the rescue. This exceptionally clean, smooth, five-times distilled French spirit is surprisingly affordable, at about $26 per bottle. Better yet, it’s got street cred: in 2013, it won best vodka at the International Wine & Spirit Competition. So for the floundering party planner, Pinnacle’s #HappyHosting how-to seminar was a godsend.
The Vancouver event was hosted by local mixologist extraordinaire Lauren Mote, recently named Vancouver Magazine’s Bartender of the Year, and Jonathan Chovancek, the abundantly talented executive chef of Vancouver’s celebrated Café Medina. He also just happens to be Mote’s partner in life and business: together they run Bittered Sling Bitters, a Vancouver-based small-batch bitters company.
This couple has spent years throwing successful parties large and small. And some of the brilliant tips they shared might just help take your next party from sad to sensational.
Of course you want to get a drink in everyone’s hand right away. But cava doesn’t really pair so well with coffee, cigarettes, garlic and whatever else your guests may have had for lunch. The welcoming cocktail should be a palate stripper – something dry with a balance of sweetness and acidity – that eliminates any staleness lingering in the mouth. Mote made the Maître d’ (see recipe below). In a pinch, you can always try the bartender’s secret: offer soft naval-orange peels to chew. At first guests may find it odd, but once they feel the difference (cleaner than a visit to the dentist!) they’ll bow to your tasting genius.
Once the palate is cleansed, the mouth is ready for a high-impact flavour burst to make the taste buds salivate in anticipation. Chovancek started with chorizo mac & cheese balls with a tomato aioli that was high in acidity but softly piquant. (Mmm, more please!)
Don’t be a slave to the Boston Shaker. Most cocktails can be batched ahead of time. If your event is on Sunday, prep the cocktail ingredients (save for the alcohol) the day before, put them in bottles and stick them in the fridge. On the day the party, all you have to do is add the alcohol, ice, shake and serve. Have several shakers on hand so you can make more at the same time. (So smart.)
If you have time to pre-mix the drinks, you have time to stash a teeny bit in small bottles that your guests can take home. String a little card around the neck with cocktail mixing instructions. You’ll be the belle of the ball for days to come. (And your guests will all feel guilty about not bringing a hostess gift.)
So you didn’t hire a bartender? No worries. Simply whip up a few tent cards with instructions, and be cheeky about it. For example, “Step One: Pick Your Glass.” This is a great opportunity to show off your eclectic display of mismatched glasses, mugs, mason jars and plastic cups. (The only reasons to rent glasses is if you’re anal-retentive about uniformity or too lazy to wash them at the end of the night.)
We’re not 18 anymore. The best parties are not the ones where no one remembers what happened the next day. A responsible host helps their guests maintain a modicum of decorum by serving juicy cocktails with lots of fresh mixer, which can also be drunk sans alcohol without anyone knowing the better. Try Mote’s refreshing Vod Vod Baudet (recipe below), with equal parts ginger syrup and lime juice. Or simply be cautious about respectable pours. Cocktails (and wine) should never be filled to the top of the rim. When using bulbous glasses, fill only to the part where the bulb starts to even out. (It looks sophisticated, to boot!)
Don’t pair it with bubbles, unless it’s Asti Spumante. Good champagne or sparkling wine should be bone dry. As Mote explains, “Sickly sweet birthday cake is the worst pairing in the world because there is no sugar in the wine to cancel out the sugar in the cake.” If you absolutely need something to eat with your bubbles, try toasting with oysters or petit fours. And if you do have cake, add a little vodka or sweet honey syrup to your flute. (Mote’s French 77 will end any party on a happy sparkly note.)
What are some of your holy grail go-to #happyhosting tips? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.