The Holidays are always packed with good food, close friends and family, gift shopping, cooking, party planning and more! Sheesh, that's a whole lot to do in a matter of a few weeks, or less. Not to worry folks, we sat down with Mark Addison, entertaining expert and author of the Cocktail Chameleon for some insider tips on how to throw one top-notch holiday soirée.
Around the holidays there’s plenty of pressure to be the perfect host. What advice would you give someone who wants to entertain but not spend a ton of time or money?
"I think the biggest problem people face is over complicating their party plans (and I’ve been there). You want to try new recipes and give your guests lots of options (just in case they don’t like something) and this is where the fear of throwing a party comes in and why many people just don’t do it!
I have a 50/50 rule for home entertaining and it applies on many levels
- 50% pre-prepared (homemade or not, who’s to know) and 50% that you must prepare the day of your party. This keeps you from overloading yourself, because life always gets in the way of best laid plans – am I right?
- 50% of your party plan must be in your entertaining repertoire and you can turn it out in your sleep (you may just have to) and 50% new(ish) to keep things fresh. Taste test at least a week before to work out any kinks.
To answer in two words: SIGNATURE - COCKTAIL!
Signature cocktails are part creative expression and part calling card, alluding to your style as much as your handshake or favorite perfume. It’s wonderful to be able to host a themed evening and mix up a batch of something tailored just to the occasion. The result is a signature cocktail that is as unique as you are. It also simplifies your stock of liquor (saving you money) and gets you out from behind the bar to enjoy your own party.
Batching cocktails is the most efficient way of managing your cocktail offerings. Choose a recipe that can be scaled up into a pitcher by multiplying it by the number of guest you want to serve. Place it into the refrigerator until ready to serve and finish off with a garnish or top off with a sparkling mixer just prior to serving. The 50/50 rule put to the test…!"
What is the most-common entertaining question you get?
"The most-common question I have heard lately is – “Shaken or stirred, what’s the difference and when does it matter?”
It depends on what is being shaken or stirred…the purpose of ‘shaking’ a cocktail is to break-up the ice and agitate the liquids, resulting in a well-combined drink with a thin layer of ice chips on top. The act of ‘stirring’ gently chills and blends the spirits’ flavors without diluting the drink. Both techniques appear in my book according to the ingredients involved and the result that’s desired. Now, keep in mind that there are rules pertaining to ingredients that should never be shaken, such as tomato or pineapple juices, as doing so would cause them to foam and produce an undesirable appearance and texture. I believe the particular cocktail dictates the appropriate treatment.
The second most common question is – “What are the most important things to consider when making a cocktail and how can I make my cocktails even better?”
- Only use fresh ingredients: There is no substitute for all fresh ingredients in cocktail making that deliver the best quality ingredients to make your cocktails the best they can be. Readymade mixers and bottled juices are acceptable only when fresh ingredients are out of season.
- Infuse your own spirits: homemade infused spirits impart the truest flavors with levels of complexity that cannot be matched in artificially flavored spirits.
- Don’t forget to garnish: Garnishes are key to defining a cocktail’s personality and are another place to have fun. From a single twist of lemon to a skewer loaded with meats, cheese and/or vegetables, these adornments look festive but aren’t just for show. They signal what the drink is all about and add complementary flavors. Cocktail etiquette dictates that an even number of garnishes is unlucky, so remember to stick to odd numbers when dressing up your glass."
What is in your holiday entertaining tool-kit?
"3 bar tools that every home mixologist must have:
- A good quality cocktail shaker with a strainer to shake cocktails and use the shaker base as a mixing vessel for drinks that require stirring
- A cocktail spoon for cocktails that require stirring as well as fetching garnishes such as olives, cocktail onions and cherries out of their narrow mouthed glass jars.
- Measuring tools, you can’t wing a good cocktail. You have to measure to ensure a proper balance: an accurate jigger in ½ oz. increments, measuring spoons, glass measuring cup
Can you suggest a perfect hors d’oeuvres and cocktail pairing?
For cocktail parties, I like to create a Meze-style buffet, which is a middle eastern word for a selection of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks. A Meze typically consists of sliced breads and spreads, fruits and small finger food that guest can “graze” over selecting items to make their own small plates. During the holidays, champagne cocktails are very popular and items that go well with sparkling beverages are smoked fish, meat and vegetable spreads or mousse, fresh berries, herbed soft cheeses, spiced nuts and nut encrusted cheese balls. Desert Meze buffets are equally festive to present with Champagne Cocktails with a selection of petite fours, macaroons, sugared fruits and liqueur infused chocolate truffles."
Lucky for you SILO has a champagne-forward cocktail called the Lavender Libation (shown below.) Mix it up at your next get-together, or enjoy with best-friend or S.O.
- 1oz SILO Lavender Vodka
- .5oz Lemon Juice
- .5oz Simple Syrup
- 4oz Prosecco
Combine the vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup in a flute and top with prosecco, garnish with a lavender sprig.