Serving Cocktails at a Dinner Party
For the second month in a row, we tended bar at WeWork’s DC Dinner Club, a delightful monthly event that continues to grow on us. We’re crossing our fingers that we become the permanent house bartender for Dinner Club. The idea with dinner club is, instead of grabbing a quick round of drinks after work at Happy Hour, to sit down to a proper dinner with a pleasant mixture of people you know and people you don’t. Whereas most WeWork events are open to all, Dinner Club is by invitation only; all of the original invitees are expected to then pass the invitation on to one other person, broadening the relational circle by one step.
Not only is WeWork trying to revive the idea of the dinner party, along the way they’re also reviving the pre-dinner cocktail hour. For the first hour, while people are rolling in from slightly different ends of the work day, cocktails are served to lubricate the initial chitchat. Once dinner properly begins, wine is place on the tables, and the bar is closed. This seems like a great model for those of us throwing dinner parties at home. It’s a good way for cocktails to add a bit of something extra to the mix while not causing too much of a fuss once the party gets rolling.
Along with closing down the bar once dinner begins, two things seem to help the cocktail hour go smoothly.
Have a Small Menu for the Night
While a full bar sounds nice, hosts and guests alike actually seem to prefer a specialty cocktail menu of two or three drinks. It’s a good way to build on the theme of the party; everyone appreciates a little forethought being put into the evening. For guests, having options but only a couple of them makes decisions easier; and it gently pushes them out of their cocktail ruts, while still giving them some room to choose. For hosts, the limited menu keeps the bar manageable in that moment when you’re also welcoming guests and making final meal preparations.
Get Ahead of the Orders
Have some drinks ready to go just before people arrive. It keeps the bar from being a bottleneck, and it encourages the drinking of cocktails in the cocktail hour. You could simply mix a few individual drinks just ahead of time, choose a drink that works in a pitcher, or–if your drink contains all alcoholic ingredients–you can bottle the mixed ingredients ahead of time a la Amor y Amargo, leaving only the stirring and straining for the moment of serving.
This month’s DC Dinner Club was a Cajun theme, giving us the chance to break out a couple of selections from our strong New Orleans repertoire: the Mississippi Punch, and Auntie Saz. We’ve posted Auntie Saz before, but on the now-defunct CultureScene Magazine. So, this is a good opportunity to repost the recipe here on the blog.
Auntie Saz Cocktail Recipe
- 2 oz rye whiskey
- 1 dash lavender bitters
- 1/4 oz St. Germain
- 1 1/2 tsp simple syrup
- 1 tsp dried edible lavender
- 1 tsp absinthe
- Rinse an old fashioned glass with the absinthe.
- Add ice to the glass.
- Pour rye, bitters, simple syrup, St. Germain, and dried lavender into a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice, and shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
- Strain, using a fine mesh strainer, into the old fashioned glass.