We’ve settled into our new neighbourhood, near Jardin de Luxembourg in the 6e, and our new flat is large enough that we can finally host cocktail nights. Our last flat, while in a great area for going out, felt packed with more than 6 people. So, I organised a little thing for my upcoming birthday. With a head of fresh home-bartending advice from the Nighthawks Cocktail Course, I decided to try and create a night of my own.
Quickly Creating a Cocktail Menu
My favourite cocktail as most well know is the Negroni. So I based my birthday menu off of the classic. I started with its cousin, a drink that I’ve been wanting to master for awhile, the Boulevardier.
The Boulevardier is a Bourbon drink version of a Negroni that also uses Sweet Vermouth and Campari. So, I used the last two ingredients to brainstorm other drinks.
When creating a menu, choose two drinks that share similar ingredients, yet create something for two different types of people. That way you make sure everyone’s happy, and you don’t overextend your supply.
The French love Rum. And they might not know it yet, but they love Tiki drinks. So I turned to one of the classic tikis: The Jungle Bird, a Rum drink that uses Campari, Pineapple and Lime. While bitter, the drink can easily be sweetened up for those who n’aime pas d’amer Italien.
In researching, I stumbled on a third cocktail called ‘Endless Summer’ described as A Negroni on vacation. I already had the ingredients and the ‘vacation’ is Pineapple juice, an ingredient I was planning on purchasing for the Jungle Bird. Perfect.
Supplies and Preparation for the Night
When looking to do a big load of groceries, I normally head straight to Monoprix. The smaller ‘city’ markets do nothing but frustrate me to no end.
This Saturday morning I was very lucky. I happened across the Edgar Quinet farmer’s market. There I was able to stock up on fresh citrus, herbs, and food to go along with the cocktails. A green olive tapenade with Harissa and Piment D’esplanette from this bohemian dude with crescent shaped earrings was a hit with everyone.
At the farmer’s market, I was also able to get creative with garnishes, and I found good deals on figs and dried fruits. Alas, I still needed to go to Monoprix for non-regional items like Pineapple and Lime.
For my alcohols, I purchased my ‘commons’ (Campari, Sweet Vermouth) at Monoprix, and my ‘specialties’ (bourbon) at Nicolas. Everything else, I already had at home.
Over the week, I’d saved up ice, both large and small cubes. But I broke into my savings early by creating two test cocktails to try the Jungle Bird and the Endless Summer.
How to Make Cocktails for Guests
As my guests trickled in, it suddenly became showtime. My first order for a Jungle Bird came in (told you the French love Rum!!). But I know my friend well, and he doesn’t like Campari.
So I altered the recipe:
Jungle Bird/ L’Oiseau de la Jungle
Rum 1,5 oz / 1,5 oz
Campari ,75 oz / ,5 oz
Lime ,5 oz / ,75 oz
Simple Syrup ,33 oz / ,4 oz
Pineapple Juice 1,5 oz / 1,5 ozShake, strain on crushed ice. Garnish with a Cherry and Pineapple Chunk.
It might seem innocuous, but with this small adjustment, the taste becomes more fruity and less bitter. When another friend told me that he liked Campari, I switched back to the original recipe.
A few more orders came in and I already began to lose my organisation. Bottles ended up everywhere, toothpicks were nowhere to be found. I made myself a Boulevardier, wanting to relax for a second.
Bourbon 1,0 oz
Campari 1,0 oz
Sweet Vermouth 1,0 ozBuild in mixing glass, stir, strain onto a large ice cube. Garnish with orange or lemon peel.
To be honest, 80 percent of what people wanted throughout the night were Jungle Birds. I could’ve made it easier on myself. But instead of doing two (or three) at a time, I kept cooking them out individually. This was the first area that I could’ve improved.
At the end of the night, some of my curious friends wanted Endless summers.
Gin 1,0 oz
Campari ,75 oz
Sweet Vermouth ,75 oz
Pineapple Juice 1,0 ozBuild in a mixing glass, stir and strain. Garnish with a slice of fig.
Home Bartending Errors from my First Cocktail Party
Host or Bartender?
As with every party, some people show up early, and some late. So, should I greet people or start making drinks? This confusion can easily be solved with a set time for starting cocktails.
Ice, Ice Baby
So, I stocked up on ice all week long. Every time I thought of it, I would empty my tray into a bag, and refill it with water. But that was not even close to being enough. I found myself running low after about eight drinks :/. Filling the shaker, and then filling the glass with ice was too much. Next time, I’ll buy a bag of ice.
Stuck in the Kitchen
Several of my guests said that I spent too much time in the kitchen. With the messiness, with the panoply of supplies in my tiny kitchen, I lost valuable minutes on each drink, that’s for sure. Two quick fixes; ask the room what they want and make two or three drinks at a time; or set-up the drink in the kitchen and shake, stir and garnish in front of everyone.
Be a performer not a chemist. It’s a party after all.