We have had thousands of guests come to our home for dinner over the years. Granted, they paid before leaving (well, most of them) so it is not exactly the same as having friends over for a gathering in your home. Nevertheless, I’ve learned some tricks to help any event go smoother. The first installment of Entertaining Tips addresses beverages.
1) Offer a drink immediately upon arrival. I dare say, insist upon it. After you offer greetings, your job is to get them something to drink.
2) Offer a ‘special’ drink. At our restaurant Krause Dining, we always featured a seasonal cocktail special that at least 75% of our guests would choose when offered. People appreciate not having to make a decision when entering a new social situation. This can be a pitcher of Hibiscus Punch (recipe follows) or as simple as a glass of champagne (what else says that this is a special occasion better?)
3) Set up a way for your guests to refill their own drinks. This can be as simple as having bottles of beer in a cooler or open wine on a table. Then give them permission to use it, as in – “Help yourself to more wine when you’re ready”.
4) Don’t bother with a full bar most of the time – it makes it much more complicated.
5) But if you do want a full bar, hire help – especially if you are having a large number of people over. Ask around at your favorite restaurant to see if anyone might be interested in a casual bartending gig.
6) Don’t forget to have water readily available (pitchers with water or bottles in an ice bucket), as well as a non-alcoholic beverage. Try to anticipate your guests needs, so that they do not have to ask you for something.
To get you started on a special drink, here is the recipe for a cocktail we have served at Krause Dining. This hibiscus cooler has a vibrant ruby color with a unique and subtle floral flavor. Enjoy!
- Hibiscus Cooler
The chilled tea may be kept for several days in the refrigerator before serving. Mix in the alcohol just before serving.
½ vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 ½ cups dried hibiscus flowers (available at Mediterranean stores)
2 cups water
1 ounce rum or vodka for more neutral flavor
1 tablespoon simple syrup
½ ounce Cointreau
splash of Sprite
wedge of lemon
At least 4 hours before serving your cocktail, make hibiscus tea base:
Split vanilla bean and scrape seeds and pod into a large saucepan. Combine with sugar, lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil and add hibiscus flowers. Remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Set your timer for this, as over steeping can result in an overly astringent tea.
Pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate liquid until chilled and ready to prepare the punch.
Fill serving glass with ice. Add liquors, simple syrup, and 3 ounces of hibiscus tea. Stir and finish with splash of sprite and squeeze of lemon.