how to throw a cocktail bash in four easy steps

[by john]

this past weekend, i threw a two night cocktail fête. it was perhaps the closest i will come to opening a bar, with different guests every night, waves of drink orders, and gourmet bar food. (mad props to mike and andy for the crispy shredded pork awesomeness, gravlax, and bone marrow.) i had tremendous amounts of fun without drinking anything, save for a few dozen milliliters from test-straws. homing in on each guest's taste proved to be a delightful challenge. i will certainly do this again.

now, easily:

create a menu

i put up my menu last time, but gave no indication of how hard it was to make. i tested tens of drinks over the course of a week to see which would appeal to a wide sample of palates. and, in addition to the pet pet, i created two originals - a st. germain/applejack marriage (la pomme rouge), and a constantly varying - popular, too, it turned out - tequila cocktail (the ho[a]rfrost).

everything on the menu got great attention and compliments, except for the poor martinez. being the oldest drink on there, maybe it couldn't hang with this hip crowd. noted. but otherwise, i am elated for converting many guests to the wonders of sloe gin, regular gin, spicy finishes, and flamed chartreuse.

go into debt

having settled on a menu, i then biked around boston/cambridge for another week trying to gather the necessary ingredients. the word is out on rittenhouse, quality bourbon, and old monk rum, apparently, because i had to discover several new liquor stores to hunt them all down.

after all my shopping, i went (a predicted) $200 over my normal budget for the month. i calculated the cost of each drink: usually around $3, and $4 for the tipperary. i figured each guest would go through ~3 rounds, so asked for $10 donations. in the end, i recouped exactly $200, perfect!

for the nth time, i'd like to reiterate how cheap home bartending is, compared to going out.

focus on the freezer

at some point, maybe 10 days before the party, i realized with growing dread that i would need a lot of ice. like, 200 cubes per night. only the brute force solution was viable: i bought two more tovolo trays and pushed out batches each day and night into ziploc bags. by friday morning, i was satisfied with five gallon bags, four trays in reserve, and five non-cubical trays in super-reserve.

some further creative maneuvering allowed me to fit cocktail glasses in there, too, so they could chill before service. good thing we weren't serving gelato or something.

stand around

the hard parts are done. now you only need to stand in one place for three hours and shake or stir the shit out of lots of drinks. stand, and also listen, steer, cajole, charm, engage, introduce, rinse, muddle, crack, and pour.

i had not expected the rush i got from bartending. it's like being on a kitchen line, but colder and solo. some hardcore multitasking - remembering orders, mixing, chatting people up, and monitoring the glassware situation all at once, with outward aplomb. and the repeated delight on guests' faces with the first sip made it even better.

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