Would you like to know a secret for entertaining? Here it is: a really good cocktail, carefully made with fresh ingredients and the highest-quality alcohol, served in a beautiful glass. This can set the mood for any party and get an evening off on the right foot.
I learned this years ago when I catered many events a week. I always encouraged the host or hostess to allow us to concoct fresh-fruit drinks in large quantities to serve at the beginning of the party. A mojito, fragrant with fresh herbs; a vibrant daiquiri; a caipirinha with a thick slice of lime in a heavy rocks glass; a fruity margarita in an oversize saucer goblet with salt and sugar on the rim -- these drinks are pretty, they are appealing, they are delicious, and they are definitely icebreakers. A drink sipped during cocktail hour relaxes the crowd and the host and hostess, and almost guarantees a successful evening.
Bartenders are now more formally known as “mixologists,” and many serve very creative concoctions. They have their rules and recipes, and I have learned a lot standing at a good bar watching the pouring, the measuring, the stirring, the whirring and shaking. My personal rules are fairly simple: Start from scratch with ripe, unblemished fruits (what’s in season often determines the recipe); juicy citrus, always freshly squeezed; and excellent liquors and liqueurs. A great trick is to freeze some of the fruit juice to use as “ice” cubes -- they won’t dilute the drink as they melt.
I’ve served all the cocktails pictured here to guests, all of whom really and truly imbibed them with pleasure.