Arrival drinks set the tone for an evening. If you are hosting six or more guests it pays to extend your planning to include a little prep. Although it’s lovely, in theory, to make drinks on request as guests arrive, in practice it’s a little frantic. Assuming your respectful guests will all arrive within fifteen minutes of each other that doesn’t leave enough time to offer a warm welcome, personalised chit chat and a bespoke drink preparation.By providing well thought out but limited options guests will feel well attended and instead of flitting in and out of your reception area you can join in the drinks and enjoy a chat.Two cocktail options, a beer option and a soft drink is more than enough to get your evening off to a great start. Champagne Cocktail , Dry Martini’s, Estrella and sparkling water with watermelon cubes and mint; Arbikie Gimlet,, Pinot Grigio, Peroni and ginger and basil spritzer. Martini’s and gimlets prepared in a glass jug and chilled beforehand saves time, champagne cocktails can be ready to go with sugar, brandy and bitters with champagne poured in front of your guest so they can delight in the fizzing of the sugar cube as you pour. Beers and sparkling soft drinks can be at hand in a silver ice bucket, no need to go back and forth to the kitchen.
Whatever you decide there are a few tricks which can add a little ‘drama’ to your drinks ( phrase borrowed from popaballs) and elevate guest enjoyment.
Drinks with a little theatre
Unique glassware or glassware with a story attached is a lovely way to add drama to drinks. My favourite glasses are red wine ones we received as a wedding gift. They are from one of our favourite hotel bars in Spain. Huge, long stemmed with an almost inverted oval shape I love drinking from them. I also cherish two art deco champagne saucers I found in a french flea market. Overtime I use them I think about who they belonged to and when they were used.
Bubbles in a box! Recently discovered popaballs at a friends when I was presented with a frozen margarita with lychee spheres perched on the top. Initially I thought they were just for aesthetics but no, they release pops of flavour as you drink them. They dance about when added to sparkling drinks and make sparkling water or ginger beer look enticing. They come in a range of colours and flavours and the same company does shimmer dust for prosecco – find more here
Wild Hibiscus flowers. Buy them in jars preserved in syrup and add them to long stemmed champagne glasses. When champagne is added the flowers slowly unfurls. The syrup adds a pink hue to the champagne but also adds a few raspberry/rhubarb notes. Decide how much suits your palate. I like my champagne unaltered so I give the flowers a little head start in sparkling water before placing them in glasses without syrup. They’re are more translucent and pretty and the unfurling is quicker. Entirely up to your personal taste. Buy at Lakeland
Flowers and botanicals are a lovely way to add flourishing touches before handing guests drinks. Pretty common to see rosemary, cucumber and lavender in gin. Lately dried botanicals are becoming more common, with peppercorns, juniper berries, bay leaves, cardamom and star anise added just before serving.Marigolds, Pansies, Primrose and Nasturtiums flowers are all edible and can be added to cocktails and soft drinks and give a real sense of occasion.
Fancy pants ice cubes! A range can be pre prepared and stored in the fridge ready for use.
- Celery ice cubes – brilliant for bloody mary’s, use the leaves.
- Spherical ice cubes – buy moulds for extra large ice balls. Originally for whisky but I use them for a variety of liquors and cocktails. Buy here
- Watermelon cubes – cut red watermelon into cubes and freeze. Slide onto a swizzle stick. Great with vodka and tonic.
- Coffee ice cubes – adds an extra intensity to an espresso martini or a Black Russian
- Pomegranate sticks ( main picture) Tap out pomegranate seeds onto tray, add water and freeze. Cut into oblong shards and pop into sparkling water. Looks a little like a lava lamp when the seeds break free of the melting ice!
Do you have any tried and tested dinner party tricks we can share with others? Please send pics or text with name and town to email@example.com.