Mixologist and food stylist Ryan Jennings reveals everything you need to know for throwing gorgeously stress-free parties this holiday season, from lighting to music and, of course, the perfect cocktail to set any scene.
These delicious cocktail recipes are from his latest book,
Entertaining with Booze (Whitecap Books, 2008), available in major bookstores and online. For more holiday entertaining tips visit
. The Marilyn Monroe Champagne cocktails are simple to prepare and instantly make a celebratory statement. There also a good way to elevate a not-so-great bottle of sparkling wine into a remarkably delicious drink. 1 tsp (5 mL) grenadine 1 oz Calvados (apple brandy) Sparkling wine Spoon the grenadine into a cham¬pagne flute, add the Calvados and top with sparkling wine. The Marilyn Monroe is best served with crisp salads, seafood and fruit-based desserts.
Caipirinha As a tribute to Rio de Janeiro, which we’re quite sure has one of the largest New Year’s bashes south of the equator, we give you Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha (pronounced kay-pi-ri-nya). It’s very similar to a mojito, with muddled lime and sugar, but instead of rum the booze of choice is cachaça, a sugarcane, distilled alcohol with a flavor somewhere between rum and tequila. Feliz ano novo! 1/2 lime, quartered 2 tsp (10 mL) unrefined brown sugar (if available) 1 1/2 oz cachaça Muddle together the lime quarters and sugar in the bottom of a rocks glass with a wooden spoon. Cover with crushed ice and pour in the cachaça. Note: You can use equal parts white rum and tequila if you don’t have cachaça. Serve the Caipirinha as an apperatif with cheese plates and shrimp dishes.
This recipe makes a pitcher-an ideal way to serve a lot of thirsty guests with ease. Rosemary’s pine-needle-like flavour and appearance is perfect for the holidays and is a wonderful balance to the sweetness of the pear liqueur. 1/2 cup (125 mL) water 1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) premium vodka 1/2 cup (125 mL) pear brandy or pear liqueur Juice from 1/2 lemon, about 2 Tbsp (30 mL) Combine the water, sugar and 3 sprigs of rosemary in a small sauce¬pan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Discard the rosemary. Combine the cooled rosemary syrup, vodka, brandy and lemon juice in a pitcher. Place in the freezer for 2 hours, or until well chilled. Add a handful of ice, stir gently then strain into martini glasses and garnish with a small piece of rosemary.
The Rosemary and Pear Martini is a wonderful accompaniment to lamb, veal or chicken dishes. Guests who choose not to drink booze shouldn’t be patronized with a warm can of diet soda. They should be respected and cared for, especially if they’re the designated drivers. Mocktails are not only great thirst-quenchers, but also a special way to make those who choose not to drink feel welcome. As a host you might want to stir one of these up between alcoholic drinks for yourself; you’ll last all night and you’ll thank us in the morning.
More festive party tips and rinks on the next page!
Pom Pomme Full of vitamins, antioxidants and sweet-tart flavour, this drink should come with a stamp of approval from Health Canada. 2 oz. pomegranate juice, chilled 2 oz. apple juice, chilled Soda, chilled Combine the pomegranate juice and apple juice in a champagne flute and top with soda. Garnish with frozen cranberries or raspberries, if desired. Serve the Pom Pomme with appetizers, meat dishes or dessert. An all-around great drink!
Setting the mood Think outside the box of tangled tinsel this year and decorate in a palette of black and white, then choose one accent colour for interest and drama. Choose silver for a very sophisticated look, red for a twist on traditional with a sexy edge; or shades of purple, lavender and violet for fun and modern holiday décor. Make sure you’ve worked out your traffic patterns in advance to prevent any bottlenecks. It’s a good idea to serve food and drink from two different stations. This gives people the opportunity to politely escape tedious conversation while keeping the mingling flowing. If you have the space, create seating areas for intimate conversation. This can be done by rearranging your furniture and focusing the lighting strategically. Proper lighting adds drama and creates illusion. Aiming small halogen spotlights up a wall creates a dramatic frame around a table, door or fireplace. Color can evoke playfulness and energy, while two strings of small lights hung from a center point gives the illusion of being under a tent. Make sure your lights can dim and avoid fluorescents at all costs.
Candles Candles create great accents but don’t rely on them to provide your main lighting. Place them in small pots on shelves or a mantel to create wells of light on the wall. Make sure they can’t be accidentally knocked over and don’t leave them unattended. Nothing creates atmosphere quite like music, from the high-energy beats of hip-hop to the dreamy, romantic sounds of jazz. Music is a powerful tool and in the wrong hands it can flatline the best parties in seconds. For holiday cocktail parties start off the evening with sweet and sultry sounds that add energy to the room but aren’t necessarily danceable. As the party progresses so should the music so you’ll want to save the loudest and heaviest dance tracks for the last 1/3 of the night. Check out the new track “Bonfire Blondes” by Beck for some toe-tappin’ alterna, while New York’s Brazilian Girls are fun and functional, adding uplifting esoteric sounds — download tracks “Don’t Stop” and “Good Time”. De-Phazz is great party jazz with mambo tempos and smoky vocals and Dragonette’s “I Get Around” will have the dance floor packed in no time.
More festive party tips on the next page!
Fragrances The sense of smell is the one most closely associated with our memories. It has a powerful effect on setting the mood, but it can be very personal. For some the smell of cinnamon can evoke warm memories of pies baking, for others it can conjure a night spent drinking too much Goldschläger. Keep it subtle and you’ll be fine.
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Mint, chamomile, rosemary, thyme, sage, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, ginger, sage, basil, coriander, clove and cardamom. Herbal notes relax and calm by adding an element of comfort and familiarity or romance.
Rose, jasmine, lilac and lavender. These notes evoke elegance and sophistication.
Citrus Lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange — they awaken the senses and invigorate the spirit.
Apple, berry, apricot, banana, melon, coconut and grape are in¬formal, and can evoke a wide range of memories like coconut suntan lotion or grape punch sold from a child’s drink stand. Fruity notes are generally playful and fun.
Woody Pine, cedar, birch, eucalyptus, juniper berries and burnt leaves. These scents tend to refresh and conjure up holiday yuletide, fall harvest and winter sports.
Sweet Vanilla, bubble gum, cotton candy, chocolate, caramel and other bakery fragrances like yeast-based breads. These scents relax and bring about a familiar, casual sensation.