Hollywood caterers do it for their celebrity clients and now you, too, can create a buzz at your next party. Ready to take your entertaining to the next level? Then personalize those party libations with a unique signature cocktail. We’ll show you how in six simple steps.
Step 1: Design Your Cocktail Around Your Party’s Theme
Choose a cocktail theme that gels with your event. For yuletide celebrations, think frosty, sparkly, spicy, creamy holiday concoctions — the Santa’s Sleigh, the Jack Frost, the Gingerbread Crumble.
The same goes for a celebration around any major achievement, such as a wedding shower or even a significant weight loss. Dropping the pounds and reveling with friends? How about tall, thin highballs filled with muddled herb creations? Call it The Last Ten, the Skinny Shinny or the New Me.
Step 2: Choose Your Spirits
Selecting spirits has a lot to dowith your party’s vibe. If it’s a quiet gathering around a fire, a full-bodied liquor is in order — something with a slow burn, like bourbon or a creamy chocolate liqueur. An afternoon brunch, on the other hand, calls fora sparkling berry burst of gin or an orangey Aperol spritz. Will there be dancing? Nothing gets a party rolling faster than a flight of festive shooters. Tequila shooters are standard fare, but layered shooters are signature drinks!
Creating a layered shooter: Pick three different-colored liqueurs. Form distinct layers by pouring the liquor over the back of a spoon into a shot glass very slowly. It will prevent the liquor from plunging into the layer below and mixing.
Step 3: Build Your Recipe
Your aim is to deliver a delicious drink with a level of complexity. Take the palate ona ride by firing off several taste buds — sweet, sour, salty, savory, bitter.
Use the fundamentals of perfume formulation — top note, heart note and base note — as a model to build your drink.
Top note: The introductory sensation. Think bright, citrusy fizzes that tickle, or luscious, creamy, chocolatey hits.
Heart note: After the top note subsides,it sneaks in as the body of the main spirit bleeds through. Choose something savory.
Base note: The lingering taste. This is your closer, that herb you mashed in, a spice or that splash of bitters. Go for sour or bitter.
Your three ingredients don’t have to include a mix at all; all three notes could be alcohol. Just keep in mind, you want to take the palate on a ride and give your guests a friendly buzz, not have them crashing into furniture.
Step 4: Mix It Up
Decide how you want to mix your cocktail during the party. Here are your options.
The straight pour: This works for layered drinks and triple-note alcohol drinks.
Shake and stir: Shake or stir your cocktail in front of guests and let them be a part of the show. Have all mixes, herbs, berries and bitters ready ahead of time.
Infuse: Infuse flavor in syrup or alcoholin advance; then just pour and dress it up. Consider spices, herbs, or oral infusions like lavender or elder flower. Simple syrup recipe: 2 cups of sugar dissolved into 1 cup boiling water. Add spices or flavoringsto infuse. Let steep, then strain and cool before using.
Muddle: A muddler is a long, wooden pestle, great for crushing herbs, spices and berries right in the glass. Herbs are de rigueur in signature cocktails. A muddled drink also brings out the strong flavour of an herb or spice.
Step 5: Master Presentation
It’s theatre! The color, the glass, therim, the ice, the garnish. And for the adventurous, smoke, fire and foam. This is where your signature drink will truly shine.
The color: A shot of Blue Curaçao liqueur and you have a sapphire in a glass. Add pineapple juice and you have an emerald. Layered drinks also supply that rainbow explosion.
The glass: Don’t just use highballs, snifters and martini glasses; be creative — jam jars, coconuts, even small bowls can be used as a glass.
The rim: Dip your rim in a syrup, plunge it into a bowl of shredded coconut and you’ve created a snow treatment. Drip puréed raspberry coulis inside the rim and guests relive summer in December. Make your own rim salts using colorful spices and salts. Rub the rim with a lemon, dip in the salt and voila! It adds to the complexity and hits that salty taste bud receptor.
The ice: Plain cubes are so yesterday. Theice for signature cocktails should be unique. Buy molds to create ice balls. Infuse ice with flavor or embed it with flowers, herbs, berries, even gumdrops or chocolates. What a nice surprise when the ice melts and there’s still a treat to be had.
The garnish: You can’t get too crazy here. Swizzle sticks can hold sliders, sushi, candies, fruit and flowers. Make the garnish outrageous enough to fit the event. A baby shower with frothy milky drinks and candy soothers on swizzle sticks? Why not?
Smoke, fire and foam: Molecular gastronomy has entered the world of cocktails, but if you don’t have the wherewithal to create a foamy froth, a little whipped egg white with a spray of flavoring will do. You can also shake a teaspoon of gelatin in a cocktail shaker with your mix to create that velvety texture top.
Smoke guns are a slightly pricier addition to your bar set, but create a spectacular effect that will really impress your guests. Tip: Experiment first.
Step 6: Name Your Drink
Give your signature drink a snappy, fun, memorable name — the Snowball Splatter or Naked at the Off-Ramp are two examples. Guests will love using it and you’ll hear it repeated numerous times around the party. It cements your party’s theme. Bottoms up!