Who can resist the sound of ice clinking in a cocktail shaker? Or a cork popping from a champagne bottle?
And what better time to create those sounds than on New Year’s Eve?
If you don’t have a fully loaded bar or a private wine cellar brimming with vintage offerings, there’s no need to worry. Today, we offer tips for an effortless DIY bar setup suitable for celebrating the arrival of 2013 at home with your best buds and loved ones.
After all, who really wants to drive to an overblown, overpriced, booze-infused New Year’s Eve party?
For assistance, we turned to Michaela Hightower, owner of Soirée Events & Celebrations. She is a level-one sommelier and party-planner extraordinaire.
The key to any party is stocking the bar.
“You can start with the basics and keep it simple by using spirits that can be blended, shaken and mixed with simple mixers like soda, tonic, fruit juice or club soda,” Hightower said.
Gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey should be included on your shopping list. Hightower also recommends buying a couple of bottles of white and red wine, and about 12 bottles of beer.
“There are also really great mixed packs and cases of beer available in the stores today, so having a few different beer options can be a fun presentation,” she said.
Hightower suggests having an assortment of cranberry juice, lemon juice, lime juice, sodas (Coke, diet Coke and Sprite), club soda or tonic water.
“Be sure to have some garnishes for the cocktails,” she said. “A few sliced lemons, lime wedges, cherries, oranges and, of course, lots of ice.”
With everything currently on your shopping list, the bar setup can become pricey. But there are cost-lowering solutions. Hightower offers the following tips:
• Create a signature cocktail that would limit the spirits and mixers required.
• Make it a progressive event, with a signature cocktail paired with the appetizer, one white wine and one red wine paired with the main meal, and one signature cocktail/after-dinner drink to wrap things up.
• Host a “bar-stocking” party where guests bring their favorite beverage.
Use separate glasses for red wine and white wine, Hightower advises. A red wine glass features a wider bowl, while a white wine glass is smaller with less of a bowl shape.
“Champagne flutes are lovely,” she added, “but not necessary even if you are serving something bubbly. Sure, the glass is preferred, but for some, being able to smell, swirl and savor sparkling wine, a white wine glass is better because you can get your nose into it.”
As for martini glasses, Hightower cautions, “While I love the look and recipes of drinks in martini glasses, I — and most women guests — don’t like the lack of function of the martini glasses, especially when dressed in heels. The first couple of sips are likely to slosh or spill unless you take a moment to stand still and sip it down.”
Other must-have items for your tool list:
• Tumbler glass
• Cocktail shaker or Hawthorn strainer, mixing glass and stirring spoon
• Wine and beer bottle openers
• Ice bucket and thongs
• Rags (one wet, one dry; kept out of plain sight but nearby) to clean up spills
Get out your tumbler glass and consider making a cocktail that is beautiful and festive, such as Cranberry Ginger Fizz Cocktail (recipe below).
“It has great color, great garnish, looks celebratory and is easy to make,” Hightower said.
When it comes to a sparkling cocktail, Hightower reaches for Prosecco or Cava.
“One of my favorite sparkling wine cocktails to serve during this season is a very simple combination of Prosecco and the Swiss clear cinnamon schnapps Goldschläger,” she said. “The Prosecco has the right amount of zip to hold up to the liquor that has gold flakes swimming around in it. The bubbles also keep the gold in your glass moving.
“Sparkling wines, Cava and Prosecco are going to be less expensive than actual Champagne from France. This is not a statement about quality, though. There are beautiful sparkling wines from around the world available in a variety of price points. Brut sparklers are usually great mixers and tend to be commonly found.
If you need something sweeter, look for a sec or demi-sec style.”
The website galtime.com keeps it simple by suggesting that a splash of lemon-infused simple syrup be added to a bubbly and then garnish it with a lemon wedge.
To make simple syrup, boil equal parts sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the hot syrup and allow to cool. Then fill a champagne flute — or white wine glass — halfway with the lemon syrup and top off with bubbly.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
If you’re looking for a way to save substantially, look no further than the invitation. You can control a lot by starting the party later — galtime.com recommends 8:30 p.m.
“Guests won’t expect a meal, so they’ll only look for appetizers to pair with drinks,” the website states. “We like taking classic dishes everyone knows and turning them into mini versions of themselves. It adds a touch of sophistication to the celebration but won’t be over-intimidating for picky eaters.”
Cranberry-Ginger Fizz Cocktail
Yield: 4 servings
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1/2 orange, cut into slices
1 1/2 cups dry gin (Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater or Tangueray suggested)
1 cup chilled ginger ale
24 candied cranberries, for garnish
4 mint springs, for garnish
Bring sugar and water to boil in medium saucepan; stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; pour off all but 1 cup of syrup, reserving extra for another use.
Bring syrup to boil and then reduce heat to medium. Add cranberries and simmer 2-3 minutes until they begin to burst. Remove from heat and let cool in syrup.
Place 2 tablespoons drained cranberries and 6 tablespoons cranberry syrup in large pitcher; add lemon wedges and orange slices.
Using muddler or wooden spoon, vigorously mash fruit.
Stir in gin and let steep at least 5 minutes.
Strain into medium pitcher. Here is where you can stop if you are creating this in bulk. Prepare the above steps, then wait for guests to arrive to begin next step.
Fill 4 glasses with crushed ice and 1/4 cup ginger ale.
Fill cocktail shaker with ice and then pour half the cranberry mixture into the shaker and shake vigorously for 10 seconds; strain liquid into two glasses. Repeat.
Mound additional ice on top of each glass and garnish with 3 candied cranberries and a mint sprig.
Michaela Hightower, owner of Soiree Events and Celebrations
Yield: 1 serving
1 bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
1-2 ounce Goldschläger
Shake Goldschläger bottle to get gold off bottom.
Pour 1-2 ounces Goldschläger into bottom of champagne flute. Fill remaining glass with Prosecco. Don’t pour too fast.
Michaela Hightower, owner of Soirée Events and Celebrations.