‘Empty the Bar’ Goodbye Party + Bon Voyage Cocktail Recipe

‘Empty the Bar’ Goodbye Party + Bon Voyage Cocktail Recipe

‘Empty the Bar’ Goodbye Party

One of the best things about DC is the opportunity it gives to meet the most amazing people. Smart, interesting people, incredibly devoted to making the world a better place are drawn here from all over the country and all over the world.

One of the worst things about DC is that this national and international set of people tends to come and go rather quickly. Life in DC means constantly saying goodbye to extraordinary people.

This week, we said goodbye to two of our very favorite DC friends as they move to Senegal for a 4 year posting with the World Bank. Along with their other, more important, good qualities, they are the owners of one of the best home bars we know. Or, at least, they were. There are strict limits on carrying liquor into Senegal: only ten, unopened bottles. A few special bottles and  a handful of crucial ingredients that would be hard for them to get when they’re overseas are all they have room for. Last weekend, we helped them throw a goodbye party with the express purpose of liquidating, as it were, the rest of the bar.

The ground rules to the party were

  1. Empty as many bottles as possible;
  2. Only use what’s there–since the whole goal was to get rid of bottles, we prohibited ourselves from adding any new ones, no matter how necessary they might seem;
  3. Everyone goes home with a bottle until all of them are gone.

You could easily see a party like this going wrong in one or two ways, but it turned out to be an amazing success, a rousingly fun party for a sad occasion. Everyone enjoyed both the company and their drinks. The party kept rolling, with steady drinking all through; but no one seemed to be too far gone by the end. We emptied 13 bottles, and sent about 30 more home with people.

The bar was emptied and a good time was had by all.

While a fun group of people and a good bar are mostly responsible for the party’s success, a couple of tricks seemed to help things along.

Limes Are Your Friend

If you want to turn a large quantity of spirits quickly and easily into cocktails, there’s nothing quite like limes and a little sugar. While we didn’t allow any new alcohol into the house, someone did bring a Costco-sized bag of limes, and we brought a pound of sugar. Take those two things and basically any clear liquor, and you have yourself a popular pitcher drink.





We had a pitcher of caipirinhas and a pitcher of mojitos ready to go when people arrived. That way, if anyone didn’t know what they wanted, or didn’t want to wait for something custom mixed, there was an easy and attractive default option.

A Little Willingness to Experiment Goes A Long Way

Luckily for us, our friends had an extensive, well-balanced selection of spirits. It made things much easier. However, for some reason, the mood of the guests was quite skewed, in the direction of Manhattans. Up until the very end of the party, there was still plenty of material for martinis, but people didn’t want martinis; they wanted Manhattans. We quickly ran out of sweet vermouth. We eventually ran out of rye, and then Bourbon. That didn’t stop people from wanting Manhattans. Luckily, they were more than willing to drink something that wasn’t exactly a Manhattan, but was kind of close to one. By a slow shift as ingredients ran out, we eventually made our way to a Manhattan-like drink with Scotch, Marsala, and a splash of Luxardo. It was created out of necessity, but it’s actually pretty tasty. People even came back for seconds.

The Bon Voyage Cocktail Recipe


  • 1 1/2 oz blended Scotch
  • 1 1/2 oz sweet Marsala
  • splash of maraschino liqueur
  • dash of bitters
  • Luxardo cherry, for garnish


  • Add all the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass.
  • Fill with ice to the level of the liquid.
  • Stir until the ice is noticeably melted.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with the cherry.

Roberts & June