By Gina Cherservani special to EdibleDCPhotography by Hannah Hudson
Its 7pm. Guests are arriving and you are one of them! Doesn’t that sound appealing—being able to be a guest in your own home for the holidays? It’s easy. It requires a little planning and setup, but once that’s done you too can enjoy the spirit of the day with your friends and loved ones.
So how do we achieve this state of entertaining nirvana? And what does that mean? Step one, make lists: Who is coming and what to you want to serve? How many people? What space is available for an area to set up the libations?
OK, you’ve made the list. Step two: How do you set it all up? When entertaining guests at home, no real estate should be left unused. For example, a nontraditional table that normally wouldn’t make an ideal bar can be retrofitted with some easy DIY steps.
Party Tip Number One: PUNCH! Well, because punch is perfect! Nothing is more welcoming than a punch bowl filled with a holiday elixir and garnished with ribbons of citrus and fresh herbs. It practically screams “Drink me!” Here is a super-easy recipe that can be adapted to any spirit.
Gina’s Easy Punch Recipe for Any Spirit
Take 16 ounces cranberry-rosemary syrup (see recipe), 1 bottle of spirit (rum, gin or whiskey), 1 gallon of apple cider, 2 quarts of grapefruit juice, 30 dashes of Angostura Bitters and 2 bottles of dry bubbly wine, such as champagne or cava. Pour all the ingredients into a punch bowl or some other large bowl that you may have on hand. Then garnish it with grapefruit peels and rosemary and fresh cranberries for a pop of color. Add one large block of ice. (Pro tip: Use an old milk carton that has been washed out. Fill with water and freeze 24 hours beforehand. Once frozen you can peel the carton off the ice block and now you have punch ice.)
Traditionally, I like to serve punch as close to the entrance as possible and since the ice is already in the bowl, you can do this anywhere. Place the bowl in the center of a ring of glasses, whichever kind of glass or plastic cup you are using (mixed-matched is always a nice touch). Make sure you put out a ladle and some sort of napkin. An extra-special touch is having a little card or picture frame with the list of ingredients, saving you from having to tell every guest what is in the bowl.
Party Tip Number Two: The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is a cocktail consisting of simply whiskey, sugar and bitters. Does it get easier? Not really, and people love them. Well, you don’t want your guests waiting around for these drinks of beauty. What to do? Set them and forget them … here is how: Go out and buy a flat or two of 6-ounce Mason jelly jars (available at any hardware store or grocery store). First unscrew and clean all the jars, then allow them to cool. Then in each jar add 2 ounces of whiskey or bourbon, 1 ounce simple syrup or flavored simple syrup, 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters and 3 dashes of orange bitters, screw the lid back on and set them in the refrigerator, until 30 minutes before the first guest arrives.
Now for the setup: Find an area in your house that people can gather around, such as a kitchen island or round table. Pile the jars like a store display (see photo), put out a bowl of orange peels and ice for the cocktails. Don’t forget an ice scoop, otherwise people use their hands (um, yuck). Make a little card and frame it saying, “Serve yourself an Old Fashioned, just add ice and orange peel, and enjoy!”
Party Tip Number Three: The Moscow Mule Bar
Setting your home into stations keeps the flow moving and people from gathering right in front of the libations all night long. Everyone has a lazy side when it comes to preparing, so this is my couch potato saving grace, a Moscow Mule bar.
Go out and buy a variety of ginger beers, a couple of bottles of Prairie Vodka, limes, mint for garnish, couple bags of crushed ice. Set out ginger beers on either sides of the vodka, then prepare bowl of limes cut in half with a hand juicer on top. Put crushed ice in the bucket with a scoop. On the table leave out a bottle opener for the ginger beer and the recipe: Pour vodka into the glass, squeeze one half of a lime, fill with crushed ice then top with ginger beer (pick one) and garnish with a sprig of mint.
1 bag fresh cranberries 4 cups sugar 3 cups water 2 sprigs rosemary
In a pot, combine all ingredients, bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook until cranberries pop open, remove from heat, strain hot and reserve syrup for cocktails. The syrup will keep for 3–4 months in the refrigerator.