A quick guide to keeping your guests happy and the drinks flowing all night!
First impressions are important, so have a drink to hand to your guests at the door. It’s better to have limited drink choices to begin with, as this saves you from being a barmaid/man and allows you to socialise more easily. A glass of bubbly – prosecco, champagne, cava – is always a good choice, and is an effective social lubricant. It is also a good idea to stock an alcohol-free alternative, such as elderflower cordial, in case some people don’t drink.
For the meal itself, I suggest choosing the wine yourself as you’ll be able to select a wine which pairs well with what you are cooking. Alternatively, if you’re opting for BYOB, I sometimes like posting recommendations of which wines will go well with the food I am serving and where my guests can purchase them from. The traditional pairings are white with fish, red with meat. However, I think shaking up pairings can add layers to flavour. I believe that wine should not just go with the meal but be used to enhance the meal. Here are some excellent food pairings that expand the simplicity of white vs red wine:
- Pinot noir with salmon, fatty fish and duck
- Chardonnay with chicken, scallops, lobster and brie
- Sauvignon Blanc with shrimp, oysters and white fish
- Red Bordeaux with lamb
- Zinfandel or red/white Burgundy with turkey, pheasant and quail
- Beaujolais with pork
- Sauternes with bleu cheese
- Burgundy with braised meats and game
As the meal comes to a close some might ask for coffee; if you want to keep the party going, this is your opportunity to show off your taste and sophistication. Bring out a decanter of port or, as we’re in Scotland, whisky. Put it out with some glasses and ice and allow guests to serve themselves. This will help them to feel at home. Having a little designated bar corner helps, perhaps on a coffee table at the side of the room. If you want to step this up a notch, you could serve a signature cocktail for that night. Two of my favourites are the Eastside elder gin cocktail and whisky sour.
Eastside Elder Cocktail:
2 oz gin
1 oz St-Germaine
¾ oz fresh lime juice
2 cucumber slices
A couple of mint leaves
In a shaker, muddle the cucumber and mint. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with cucumber slice and mint leaf.
Whisky Sour Cocktail:
2 oz bourbon
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup
Combine the bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker. Fill with ice, cover and shake until the outside of the shaker is cold. This should take about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass. Squeeze orange peel over glass and use as a garnish. Add the maraschino cherry for a final touch.