You need not be a mixologist or have a fully stocked bar to serve up something fabulous for your guests.
- Pretty up your bubbly. There is something undeniably convivial and festive about popping open a bottle of bubbly. Prosecco is my go-to to stockpile year round and serve. For summer, doll it up with berries, citrus zest, or a splash of a good quality fruit juice (pear and peach are nice).
- Use frozen fruit as souped up ice cubes. They won’t dilute a drink the way ice does, plus the effect looks summery, adding some colour and flavour as they melt. Grab a few extra ice cubes trays and freeze the fruit of your choice in them.
- Whip up fancy syrups. Bring two parts sugar to one part water to boil in a pot. Once simmering, toss in a handful of herbs from your garden and leave it for a few minutes. Cool and strain, and mix away. Gin is fantastic with savouries like thyme and rosemary.
- Master a sangria. Experiment with a few recipes to get one that you love (weekend drinking assignment!). Sangrias are the stews of cocktails, in the sense that you can add almost anything you’ve got on hand. They are also great for putting otherwise mediocre wines to work. Stick with dry wines as sangria is sweetened by the other ingredients. Try white sangria with Pinot Grigio or cava, a liquer (cointreau, brandy) and any white flesh fruit like peaches or pears. Add your juice of choice to taste. Or, grab a bottle of Rioja, brandy, and pomegranate juice and whatever berries you can find for a classic red sangria.
- Muddle the waters. White spirits like rum and vodka are easily paired with soda and can be muddled with whatever herbs and fruit you have handy. Rum, lime and mint make for a classic mojito, or try blueberries with thyme, or basil with berries. Vodka, watermelon and mint are summer in a glass, too.
We can’t talk cocktails without mentioning responsible hosting. Always stock tons of non-alcoholic options and feed your guests liberally. Be mindful of how much you drink, so you can look after your guests.
(First published on The Huffington Post Canada, June 2012)