Tag Archives: cocktails

Some Spring Cocktails and Entertaining Goodies

Apparently it is finally supposed to turn warm in DC this weekend (and by finally I mean again, since it was 80 degrees in February).  Nothing like seeing patios opening and flowers blooming to make me want to set down the heavier drinks of fall and winter and start sipping spring flavors.  I thought for the weekend I would pull together some of my favorite spring cocktails to inspire some deck parties.

IMG_1798

Thyme Vodka Lemonade

Mule with a Kick

Blackberry Mojito

The Cherry Blossom

This time of the year also makes me want to run out and buy everything in fun springy colors so I am sharing some of the spring entertaining items I have been drooling over lately (hint hint Mr. Easter Bunny!).

How cute are these Mark and Graham gingham plates?  Perfect for a picnic.

ceramic-dessert-plate-set-of-4-gingham-1-c

They would look super cute on this Kate Spade lemon tablecloth that I already have (I found it at Home Goods for $12!!).

157623OB8_974

How about these adorable cheese boards from Anthropologie?  It’s hard to pick just one.

I love these peacock blue glasses from CB2 – great for water glasses or any of my spring cocktails.

marta-peacock-double-old-fashioned-glass

And last but not least how cool is this ice mold from Crate and Barrel?  You can put flowers, fruit, leaves etc in the mold and it perfectly fits a bottle of wine.  It chills your wine and makes a functional and beautiful centerpiece!

ice-mold-wine-bottle-chiller

I hope wherever you are it’s warming up there to and you have a weekend full of friends, flowers and festivities!

 

ACC Parties: A Classy Cocktail Affair

Happy Valentines day!  This post is a perfect fit for today – romance and cocktails.  This party plan is for a classy cocktail party which I threw to celebrate the engagement of our dear friends, Erikka and Michael.  They are such an amazing couple so I wanted to go the extra mile to make this one memorable which meant dressing up, gold everywhere and thoughtful touches.  One tough issue to tackle as a hostess is either guests who you aren’t super familiar with or guests that don’t know each other all that well.  That was the case here, with family and friends coming in from all over so I wanted to keep the mood light while still making it feel special.  My solution – a make it yourself cocktail bar.  The centerpiece of this party certainly gave me some sleepless nights leading up to the date (are people going to think I am a jerk asking them to make their own drinks???) but it was a hit!  It really encouraged mingling and being engaged in the party and also freed up myself and Patrick to make sure everyone was felt taken care of with food etc.

dsc05110

Pick a couple of classic cocktails that are relatively easy to make – I went with the  classic martini, manhattans, negroni and vesper.  I printed out the recipes and framed them so even a cocktail neophyte could be their own mixologist.  Then set out everything people will need to make the cocktails – the key here is in the luxe touches.  Instead of setting out giant bottles of vodka and gin I put them out in pretty decanters.  You will also need a selection of liqueurs like vermouth for the martinis.  We also had sparkling wine (my favorite house one of course) for those who didn’t want to do the cocktail thing so I set out casis, framboise and St. Germain as good toppers for the bubbly.  Red and wine wine as well as some beer rounded out the bar.

dsc05111

Ramekins with all the garnishes needed like stuffed olives, maraschino cherries and citrus twists meant it was super easy for guests to customize their drink.

dsc05114

Real glasses are a must here, plastic just won’t do.  Shop around to find something that fits your style and budget. I went with these martini glasses from World Market, that were perfect because of the slight bend in the glass they also worked for sparkling wine, almost like a coupe.  I couldn’t help myself and got custom made martini glasses for the happy couple.

dsc05118

I always like to give out favors and for this party they served a purpose as well.  I found these great mini shakers on a restaurant supply site and got one per guest.  People used them to make their cocktails and then got to take them home to remember all the fun we had.  The shakers set out out on the table added even more metallic glamour.

dsc05129

If people are knocking back cocktails all night you want to make sure the food is substantial.  I kept with the classic theme and did old school appetizers, just classed up a little.  Pigs in a blanket are always a favorite but made with puff pastry and poppy seeds they have way more flavor than the original.

dsc05159

Who doesn’t love a cheese puff?  Gougeres are amazing french cheese puffs and best of all they can be made in advance, frozen and then reheated right before the party.  These went FAST.

dsc05158

The chicken salad veronique cups that I posted a couple of weeks ago were a perfect one bite so people didn’t have to mess around with forks or knives.

dsc05146

Add a very substantial cheese board, bowls of olives and nuts, and some dips (I made the groom’s favorite with crudite) and people will have plenty to nosh on while they mix and mingle.

dsc05139

I ordered these beautiful napkins from For Your Party – they are my favorite resource for customized items and they always turn out beautiful.

dsc05122

Finish off the party with something sweet – I did my Individual Tiramisu because they are a sentimental favorite of the couple.  You could always head to your local bakery and get a selection of cookies, brownies etc to make things even easier.

dsc05209

It was an incredible night for an incredible couple.  But don’t wait for friends to get engaged to throw this party – this would be a great way to break up the winter doldrums by getting dressed up and shaking some cocktails.  Wishing everyone a very happy Valentines day and congratulations Erikka and Michael!!

dsc05148

 

The Ballot Puncher

If any election day calls for a stiff cocktail it is this one!  No matter your party affiliation or level of involvement I am sure we can all say we are glad this campaign season is almost over.  This drink is the perfect anecdote to election night stress – espresso to keep you up for late night results, gin to keep you smiling and some bitter Campari to well…I think you get the bitter part!

dsc04452

You are going to have to take a leap of faith with this drink – I realize it sounds disgusting.  It all came about when my friend Erikka was travelling and texted a drink menu pic with a negroni that had espresso in it.  Her boyfriend and I immediately decided to try it out and were totally impressed – I honestly have no idea why it works but the floral, bitter and sweet notes all come together for an awesome drink.  Just remember to GO VOTE before you start downing these!

The Ballot Puncher (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  GO VOTE!
Special Equipment:  cocktail shaker

  • 2 ounces fresh espresso, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces Campari

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold.  Strain and serve up.

The Ballot Puncher

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 30 seconds
  • Print

Special Equipment:  cocktail shaker

  • 2 ounces fresh espresso, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces Campari

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold.  Strain and serve up.

A Nautical BBQ

The 4th of July is the perfect time to hang outside with friend and family, especially if you have a great deck like we do.  We are really lucky to have a view of fireworks from ours so usually we just post up on the deck and hang until it gets dark and the show starts.  But you don’t have to wait for 4th of July to roll around to have a lovely and really easy BBQ at your place – this menu is designed so that almost everything is made in advance and can be served at room temperature so you can relax and enjoy your guests.  I decided to go with a nautical theme for the table and even some of the food since it works well for 4th of July.  I also just so happen to have a “boat load” of nautical entertaining gear.

DSC03893

A party like this screams for disposable serve wear but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style.  I love bamboo plates for this because they are really sturdy, are eco friendly, chic and you don’t feel bad throwing them away.  Paired with cute wooden utensils and a large charcoal napkin your guests won’t even care they don’t have the real stuff.  Always remember when you are outside to think about what may blow away – I used my gorg turtle bottle opener as a paper weight but it did double duty with the beers.  I used lanterns filled with citronella candles to keep the DC bugs at bay and just set out all the dishes in the middle of the table so people could help them selves.  Scroll to the bottom for the sources of all this fun nautical stuff.  On to the menu!

Thyme Vodka Lemonade

DSC03888

Just posted this Tuesday, this drink is perfect for a BBQ.  Not too potent and so refreshing.  I created a self serve bar by setting out glasses and an ice bucket so people could help themselves.  I love stemless wine glasses for parties because they work as a wine glass, water glass or cocktail glass (also my friends seem less prone to breaking these and Crate and Barrel sells them in 12 packs!).  We also had a bucket with summer beers and some crisp summer whites set up next to the bar.

DSC03899

Open and Serve Snacks

My favorite kind!  The best way to round out a menu is to have some items where you have to do zero work at all.  Since I was already going “overboard” with the nautical theme I even went with nautical snacks.  These Wye River Crabbers are easily available in the Mid Atlantic – I buy them on the Eastern Shore but have seen them in local Harris Tetters – but you could definitely sub goldfish crackers here.  Sandbaggers are these awesome Virginia peanuts that are tossed with salt and fresh black pepper.  Again you can find them locally here in stores but go online and get some if you live elsewhere – they are a revelation.

DSC03884

Of course I also had to go with Cape Cod Potato chips to make sure New England was represented.  A pretty bowl will class up any snack so make sure to use your best here (ie not disposable) and keep an eye on the levels throughout the party and replenish as needed.

Corn Fritters with Jalapeño Jelly

DSC03896

These fritters were by far the most popular thing on the table.  The sweet corn is such a good foil to the spicy jelly.  I was nervous about making them in advance but they turned out really well – fry them off earlier in the day and then just reheat in the oven.  Even at room temperature they were delicious.  I topped them with my new obsession, Woodberry Pantry Chile Pepper Jam.  Made in Baltimore with fish peppers that are native to the Mid Atlantic region, it’s pretty spicy but with a nice sweet finish.  You can buy it on line or at Salt and Sundry in DC.

Crab Stuffed Grilled Bell Peppers

DSC03894

Another really easy make ahead snack set out on a cute whale cutting board.  Crab can be expensive for a crowd but a little goes a long way with this dish.  I grilled the peppers ahead of time and made the filling in advance as well so all I had to do was scoop the crab mixture into the peppers and set them out on this cute whale cutting board my mom got me.  Delish.

Sausage and Peppers

Ok I didn’t take any pics of the main dish of the night – mostly because I was having way too much fun!  Not sure if you all need to know what sausage and peppers look like anyway.  I did a mix of hot and sweet sausages that I just picked up at the grocery store.  I par boiled them for 10 minutes until they cooked through so all the grill master needed to do was throw them on the grill for a couple of minutes to get a nice char on the outside.  I also sauteed up some onions and bell peppers earlier in the day until they were caramelized and soft.  Reheated in a skillet on the grill and with a quick splash of balsamic vinegar they were great piled on top of the sausages in their buns.  You could also sub for regular hot dogs to make life even easier.

Salted Caramel Brownies

DSC03902

I have to admit – these were not the easiest brownies to make.  When I saw this recipe in the New York Times I immediately printed it out and made it that weekend.  The results were delicious but as you can see from the pic pretty messy!  All the caramel makes them pretty tough to cut but if you have the patience go for it!  If not I think brownies and cookies purchased from your favorite bakery would be a great way to go.  Some fresh strawberries are a great way to decorate the dish and add some fruit to the mix.  Have a great 4th of July – hope you get inspired and whip up some of these dishes!

Sources:  Gurgling Cod pitcher by Shreve, Crump & Low; Silver table lanterns (similar) from Pottery Barn ; Table runner from Serena and Lily no longer available – similar from World Market; Bamboo Plates and wooden utensils from Amazon; Stemless wine glasses from Crate and Barrel; Buoy bottle opener (similar) from Marc and Graham;  Nautical bowls no longer available – similar from Stonewall Kitchen; Fish plate serving the fritters from Come by Chance in St. Michaels, MD; Whale cutting board (similar) from Anthropologie.

 

Thyme for Vodka Lemonade

I am taking next week off for a little R&R but wanted to leave you all with some great ideas for the 4th of July.  We usually go see the Nationals play in the morning and then have people over to grill and relax until the fireworks start.  An informal BBQ like that will be just fine with a cooler of beer and some chilled wine but I always like to have a signature drink as well.  Pitcher drinks are a girl’s best friend in the summer.  Even better if the recipe makes two pitchers!  This spiked lemonade is perfect for the 4th when you have lots of people coming and going.  Also feel free to omit the vodka so it’s good for all ages (or do an adult friendly and a kid friendly pitcher.)

DSC03880

I love lemonade – really anything made with lemons – but sometimes it can be a little cloying.  The addition of thyme adds a nice herbaceous note that compliments the fresh (yes fresh!) lemon juice perfectly.  I make a thyme simple syrup to infuse the whole drink with the thyme flavor but also have some extra fresh thyme on hand to garnish the drinks.  Simple syrup rather than straight sugar ensures that the lemonade mixes together perfectly – just make sure to use really cold water and a decent vodka.  After juicing all those lemons it would be a shame to use crappy vodka.  I used a new favorite from a local DC distiller, District Made Vodka from One Eight Distilling.  Right in our neighborhood, this distillery takes its vodka making seriously by using a special Russian technique to get a nice smooth finish.  Check back in on Thursday for a whole menu ideal for a 4th of July BBQ to pair with this drink.

DSC03882

Thyme Vodka Lemonade (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  Summer BBQ’s
Special Equipment:  juicer (optional)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bunch thyme (extra for garnish)
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups ice cold water
  • 3 cups vodka

In a saucepan combine the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved, usually a couple of minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the thyme.  Let the syrup steep for 10 minutes, then remove the thyme and place in the fridge to cool.

DSC03883

While the simple syrup is cooling you can juice the lemons – make sure to use fresh juice.  In two pitchers or 1 large drink dispenser combine the chilled syrup, the lemon juice, 3 cups of cold water and 3 cups of vodka.  Stir to combine.  The lemonade can be made earlier in the day and stored in the fridge – serve over ice.

DSC03891

Thyme Vodka Lemonade

  • Servings: 2 pitchers
  • Time: 15 minutes (plus lots of juicing time
  • Print

Special Equipment:  juicer (optional)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bunch thyme (extra for garnish)
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups ice cold water
  • 3 cups vodka

In a saucepan combine the sugar and 1 1/2 cups water over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved, usually a couple of minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the thyme.  Let the syrup steep for 10 minutes, then remove the thyme and place in the fridge to cool.

While the simple syrup is cooling you can juice the lemons – make sure to use fresh juice.  In two pitchers or 1 large drink dispenser combine the chilled syrup, the lemon juice, 3 cups of cold water and 3 cups of vodka.  Stir to combine.  The lemonade can be made earlier in the day and stored in the fridge – serve over ice.

 

 

Blackberry Mojito

What better way to kick off a long weekend then with a fresh and fruity drink?  My friend Jim just got back from Vegas where he told me about a blackberry mojito he sipped by the pool.  Regular mojitos are a great summer drink already but the addition of blackberries got me super excited to make one.  A little extra tartness and the beautiful color!  Back in my bartending days mojitos were my mortal enemy but making them at home is way easier than making say 12 of them at happy hour in 2 minutes!  Really all you need is a muddler (this one is the newer version of mine and actually even better with a larger face to smash with) but even if you don’t have one you can just use the handle of a wooden spoon.

DSC03778

I muddled right into my highball glass as these are pretty solid but if you are using a more fragile glass do yourself a favor and do it in a cocktail shaker and then pour it into your glass. Many a pretty tumbler has been lost to overzealous muddling.  Mix up one of these, sit back and relax and enjoy the official start of summer!

Blackberry Mojito (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  sipping cocktails by the pool in Vegas
Special Equipment:  muddler or wooden spoon handle

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 3 blackberries (plus 1 for garnish if you would like)
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a lime wedge for garnish, also optional)
  • 2 1/2 ounces white rum
  • ice
  • club soda

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved (about 4 minutes).  Turn off the heat and add 4 or 5 sprigs of mint.  Let the mint steep for 10 minutes, then pull out the sprigs and put the simple syrup in the fridge to chill.  This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a week (you only need 2 ounces for the cocktail so you will have plenty of left over for more mojitos or to stir into iced tea).

DSC03773

In a highball glass, or in a cocktail shaker, add 8 mint leaves and the blackberries.  Using your muddler smash the leaves and berries together to release the oils of the mint and the juice of the berries.  Add the lime juice, 2 ounces of the mint simple syrup, and the rum.  Fill the rest of the glass with ice and top with the club soda.  Stir to combine and garnish with a blackberry and lime if desired.

DSC03771

Blackberry Mojito

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 30 minutes for syrup, 1 minute for cocktail
  • Print

Special Equipment:  muddler or wooden spoon handle

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 3 blackberries (plus 1 for garnish if you would like)
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a lime wedge for garnish, also optional)
  • 2 1/2 ounces white rum
  • ice
  • club soda

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved (about 4 minutes).  Turn off the heat and add 4 or 5 sprigs of mint.  Let the mint steep for 10 minutes, then pull out the sprigs and put the simple syrup in the fridge to chill.  This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a week (you only need 2 ounces for the cocktail so you will have plenty of left over for more mojitos or to stir into iced tea).

In a highball glass or in a cocktail shaker add 8 mint leaves and the blackberries.  Using your muddler smash the leaves and berries together to release the oils of the mint and the juice of the berries.  Add the lime juice, 2 ounces of the mint simple syrup, and the rum.  Fill the rest of the glass with ice and top with the club soda.  Stir to combine and garnish with a blackberry and lime if desired.

Mule with a Kick

May has already been pretty nuts so I am taking the day off Thursday.  However, I couldn’t leave you all hanging without something great to make this week.  This cocktail is a twist on the Moscow Mule.  Vodka, ginger beer and lime combine with ice and copper glasses to make an amazing spring/summer cocktail.  When you have such simple ingredients you need to make sure they are the best.  Belvoir Ginger Beer is so incredible (how adorable is the label?).  Ginger beer is already more gingery than ginger ale but this stuff is our ginger with the perfect amount of fizz.  Pretty hard to find as its a UK soda but World Market has started carrying it and sometimes you can find it on Amazon.

DSC03353

I swear it is worth tracking down – I recently bought a whole case to have for summer drinks.  The ginger beer is already pretty spicy but add in some chipotle vodka and you get a Moscow Mule with a big kick.  I like this Hangar One version but there are lots on the market or you could infuse your own.  Make sure to go ahead and get the copper glasses.  They keep the drink incredibly cold and are classic for a Mule.  My mother-in-law got me there but there are tons online.  Prices can run the gamut so I recommend getting them on a flash sale site like One Kings Lane or checking out your local Home Goods.  You can usually find them for much less.  Enjoy this porch sipper and I will be back next week.

DSC03343Mule with a Kick (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  best ginger beer EVER
Special Equipment:  copper glasses

  • 1/4 cup chipolte vodka ( I used Hangar One)
  • lime wedge
  • ginger beer
  • ice

In a copper glass pour the vodka over ice.  Squeeze over the line wedge and drop in.  Pour over enough ginger beer to fill the glass and stir to combine.

Mule with a Kick

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 1 minute
  • Print

Special Equipment:  copper glasses

  • 1/4 cup chipolte vodka ( I used Hangar One)
  • lime wedge
  • ginger beer
  • ice

In a copper glass pour the vodka over ice.  Squeeze over the line wedge and drop in.  Pour over enough ginger beer to fill the glass.

 

1 2 4
%d bloggers like this: