By Paula Angerstein
Photography by Dustin Meyer
When planning the beverages for a party, the urge to go with wine and beer can be almost insurmountable—it’s easy to set out bottles, there’s variety and they don’t need tending during party time. But what if you could have these same benefits while delighting your guests with craft cocktails? Time for the DIY cocktail bar, and we’re not talking booze and soda.
First, consider making your bar a pretty and entertaining centerpiece for the party. Pick a theme and use items from around the house to support it. Or use it as an excuse to troll thrift shops for unique glassware.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match. In our elegant yet informal cocktail bar, we’ve put together a languorous backdrop of flowers and used silver and cut-glass accents.
Next, choose a set of cocktails that guests can make by following easy recipes. Keep the ingredients simple and use the same spirit in more than one cocktail to keep your shopping list hassle-free. We started with a sophisticated French 75, then used the same spirit (gin) in a Martinez (the precursor to the martini), transitioned the red vermouth to the Mazatlán (our version of a Manhattan) and finally used the tequila again in a margarita.
Kick-start the party by showing off some of your own mixologist moves—perhaps your best shaker face—to make the first round. Then, simply make sure the ice bucket stays full and enjoy the party while sipping a delicious cocktail.
DIY COCKTAIL PARTY DRINK MENU
1 oz. Paula’s Texas Lemon
1 oz. gin
Mix Paula’s Texas Lemon and gin in a tall Champagne flute. Fill the glass with Champagne.
1½ oz. añejo tequila
½ oz. Paula’s Texas
½ oz. dry (white) vermouth
½ oz. sweet
2 dashes bitters
Pour the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Stir for a few seconds then strain into a cocktail glass.
1 oz. añejo tequila
1 oz. Paula’s Texas Orange
2 oz. lime mixture (we suggest equal parts lime juice
and water with, if you prefer more sweetness, a dash
of agave nectar)
Fill a cocktail glass with ice then pour the ingredients into the glass and stir.
2 oz. gin
1½ oz. sweet (red) vermouth
¼ oz. Paula’s Texas Orange
2 dashes bitters
Pour all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Stir for a few seconds then strain into a cocktail glass.
Paula’s Texas Lemon
Sweet (red) vermouth
Paula’s Texas Orange
Dry (white) vermouth
Jiggers (mini OXO
measurers are fun)
Ice bucket and tongs or scoops
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Notes on the Liquor
• Don’t waste money on fine Champagne, as it will be mixed with strong ingredients. Prosecco and cava work, too.
• Gin should be a good-quality London-dry style.
• Vermouths vary greatly in flavor; taste your selection ahead of time to make sure you like the flavors.
• The Mazatlán is distinctive because of the añejo tequila, but blanco or reposado tequila can be substituted for the margarita.
Notes on the cocktail bar
• To elevate the look beyond a basic bar, we presented the spirits in decanters and mini carafes (purchased at a craft store)—also making it easier for guests to pour small amounts.
• Offer a selection of glassware to give a unique look to each drink. We used flutes for the French 75, tumblers for the Martinez, repurposed sherbet coupes for the Mazatlán and short-stemmed glasses for the margarita.
• Group together all of the ingredients, equipment and glassware for each drink, along with a printed recipe in an easy-to-read, spill-proof format.
• For the French 75, make sure all of the ingredients stay chilled. We used mini carafes on ice for the gin and Paula’s Texas Lemon.
• Make sure there are several ice scoops, mixing glasses, jiggers, barspoons and strainers handy to prevent bottlenecks, along with plenty of bar towels and a dump bucket for used ice.
• Use your imagination for garnishes: herbs from the garden, fruits in season, edible flowers.
• We made a pitcher of margaritas as a backup for those not in the mood for mixology.