Read an Excerpt
BEING a skinny, blond lightweight, the first time I went to a bar, I had to sneak in illegally. It was a bar in the West Village, and I felt so cool—as if I had pulled a prank on the entire universe. I got kicked out for making out loudly with a patron rather than being an utter drunk, so I guess I get a bonus point for being a flirt and not an alcoholic.
My intimate relationship with liquor began in the city, despite the fact that I was raised in the Garden State. I got to know some of the newest and best drinks by hanging in the bright lights, big city, but it wasn’t until my stint at bartending school that I really learned the basics of the art heretofore known as mixology. As an actress and stand-up comic, I figured bartending would be a great way to make money at night and maybe even pick up a hot guy or two. My Jewish dad lovingly handed me the bread to pay for the class, but once I realized I might attract more loons behind the bar than I already did in front of the bar, I decided to keep my love for liquor a “nonoccupational” pursuit. Needless to say, my father was not too happy that his precious money had been squandered. To this day he still says, “Remember when you took that bartending course? You never even worked a day behind the bar.”
During the class, I applied my perky overachieving attitude to mixing drinks, just like I do with everything else in life.
“The drink has to be perfect. How do I know exactly how much to use?” I asked my instructor, a handsome dark-skinned hipster who wasn’t even trying to be a hipster.
He pushed his dark Buddy Holly glasses back up his nose and said, “There are no concrete rules in love . . . or alcohol. Just play around until it tastes right. Put your Type-A attitude aside.”
I was skeptical of his laissez-faire outlook, but I went with it, and so far, no one’s been hurt. And that’s just the point of this book. Except, perhaps, for hard-core bartending jobs at pricey restaurants, mixology is at best an inexact science. If it had to be precise, very few people would drink, and the world would be a miserable place (and perhaps less populated). There are always going to be differences in the way two people mix the same drink. Some go heavy on the alcohol, some go light. Some change the ingredients, some change the proportions. Lots of ice versus one or two cubes. You say old-fashioned, I say lowball. The goal is to make a drink that tastes good to you—and to your guests.
Get intimate with your liquor supply. Experiment with what you have using the recipes in this book, or try something new. The recipes—some new, some old, some adapted for today’s tastes—are mere guidelines. The step-by-step instructions are intended to make mixing a drink as easy as possible for you.
Because all drink and no play makes for a very unintelligible and dull boy or girl, I’ve filled this book with party-planning tips and ideas for creating the perfect home bar: the drinks, the ambience, and the attitude that will enable you to be a master mixologist and the perfect host.
And don’t forget: Try not to overindulge. While I love a good party as much as the next gal, I’m more concerned about your health, your personal welfare, and the well-being of your friends. Don’t let your friends drink and drive. And if health is your main concern when it comes to libations, never fear. In the age of Zumba and the juice cleanse, plenty of folks are drinking more moderately in the interest of fitness. This book offers plenty of ideas for lighter and nonalcoholic drinks that won’t make you regain the freshman fifteen.
Bartending can be lots of fun if you follow your instincts, do what you like, and provide your guests with a safe good time. Relax and enjoy yourself, and you’ll always be the life of the party.
STOCKING YOUR BAR
THE home bar should reflect your personal taste and reveal a little about what makes you you. Not everyone needs to stock every exotic liquor on the market just to impress a few visitors. If all you and your friends ever drink is beer, wine and straight vodka, well then, there’s your shopping list, my friend. But home bars can grow. Maybe you’ll start out with three items and gradually add a few different liquors and a flavorful liqueur or two. Then one day you’ll be browsing in a liquor store and you’ll pick up a small bottle of whatever it is you’ve been meaning to try—and so grows your home bar.
Your initial purchases, then, should be based on what you’ll use most and what you and your friends and family like. If you know what you want, you’re better off buying in large quantities, since larger bottles are generally less expensive per unit than smaller bottles. But there’s no need to go overboard when making your initial purchases; buy reasonable amounts, unless, of course, you are sure that you like something in particular. Then, by all means buy as much as you want, especially if you find it for a good price.
While every bar will be slightly different, here are some basic guidelines. Outlined below is a suggested shopping list for a starter bar. Make any adjustments you like.
The Basic Home Bar Checklist
1 bottle bourbon (750 ml)
1 bottle brandy (750 ml)
1 bottle Canadian whiskey (750 ml)
1 bottle dry gin (1¾ liters)
1 bottle rum (1¾ liters)
1 bottle Scotch whiskey (750 ml)
1 bottle tequila (1¾ liters)
1 bottle vodka (1¾ liters)
small bottles of the following:
crème de menthe
crème de cacao
WINE AND BEER
1 bottle dry vermouth (small)
1 bottle sweet vermouth (small)
2 six-packs beer (1 regular, 1 light)
2 bottles white wine
2 bottles red wine
1 bottle rosé wine (optional)
1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine
The Home Bar of Champions
If the basic stocking suggestions don’t appeal to you, perhaps you’re looking for liquors that make a bolder statement. Well, take a look below. The spirits mentioned here are more daring—they go beyond the ordinary bartender’s collection, allowing you to be a mixologist’s mixologist. But you needn’t invest in the entire list right off the bat. Go slowly. Find out what you like by tasting, whether at friends’ homes or when you go out for a drink.
And if you like a drink you taste when you’re out, ask the friendly bartender for his or her number—for the drink recipe, I mean.
1 bottle brandy
1 bottle V.S.O.P. cognac
1 bottle dry English gin
1 bottle Irish whiskey
1 bottle dark rum (Jamaican)
1 bottle gold rum
1 bottle light rum
1 bottle blended Scotch whiskey
1 bottle Tennessee whiskey
1 bottle gold tequila
1 bottle white tequila
1 or 2 bottles premium vodka (Russian or Scandinavian; store in your freezer)
small bottles of the following:
framboise, kirschwasser, plum brandy (slivovitz) or other flavored brandies of your choice
crème de cassis, sambuca, Galliano, Frangelico, Kahlúa, peppermint schnapps, peach schnapps or any other of your favorite liqueurs, approximately five bottles in all
3 aperitif wines, such as Dubonnet, Lillet, Campari
1 bottle cream sherry
1 bottle port
1 bottle madeira
several bottles of your favorite white wines, including at least one table wine and one dessert wine
several bottles of your favorite red wines, ranging from dry to sweet
2 or 3 bottles champagne and/or sparkling wine
Whether you stock a basic bar or one with all the extras, you will need to keep on hand a supply of the following:
Bloody Mary mix
cranberry juice cocktail
cream (heavy and light)
cream of coconut
lime juice (Rose’s is the most popular—it is not a substitute for fresh lime juice, however, since it contains a sugary syrup)
orgeat (almond syrup)
passion fruit juice (or nectar)
piña colada mix
lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite or 7-Up)
water (distilled or spring)
Odds and Ends
No bar would be complete without the miscellaneous ingredients and garnishes that make mixed drinks truly special. Don’t hesitate to include the following in your bar:
bitters (Angostura, orange)
ice (three types: cubes, cracked and crushed)
onions (pickled pearl)
BARWARE AND GLASSWARE
KEEPING the right tools on hand can make bartending a lot easier. And as anyone who works with their hands can tell you, the right equipment can make the difference between a hassle and a pleasure. The lists below suggest some of the utensils and serving ware that will help make your bartending experience a success.
bar spoon (long)
corkscrew (winged version or waiter’s)
covered cocktail shaker
ice bucket and tongs
measures/shot glasses (these vary in size—a jigger is 1½ ounces)
paring knife/bar knife
picks (for garnishes)
punch bowl and glasses
saucers for salt and sugar (if you need to frost the rim of a glass)
shaker set: shaker (mixing) glass and metal tumbler
speed pourers (optional)
The trend these days is toward multipurpose glassware, so if you choose to have only one or two types, large wineglasses, rocks glasses and highball glasses are good choices. A description of the various types of glassware follows.
balloon (large wineglass) Ranges in size from 9 to 14 ounces.
beer goblet A stemmed balloon-type glass that holds about 12 ounces.
beer mug 12 to 16 ounces.
brandy snifter Best to choose those that hold 3, 6 or 12 ounces. They do come larger, though. For straight brandy.
champagne flute For champagne, champagne drinks or wine. Holds 4 to 6 ounces.
champagne saucer Also for champagne, but this type allows bubbles to escape more readily than the fluted or tulip type. Holds about 4 ounces.
champagne tulip For champagne, champagne drinks or wine. Holds 4 to 6 ounces.
cocktail This is your basic glass for drinks “straight up.” Ranges in size from 3 ounces to 6 ounces. The large ones can be used for frozen drinks. The 4½-ounce size can be used for martinis, Manhattans and stingers. Sturdy, solid stems are best since you can hold on to the stem without warming the drink.
Collins Ranges in size from 10 to 14 ounces. Used for Collins drinks, fizzes, exotic drinks like Mai Tais, Singapore Slings, relatives of Long Island Ice Teas and other mixed drinks that require a bit more room than a highball. Some Collins glasses are frosted for effect.
double rocks Holds 14 to 16 ounces. For larger drinks “on the rocks.” A gaining trend on the glassware scene.
goblet Approximately 12 ounces. Great for tropical drinks, blended drinks, frozen drinks. The 22-ounce hurricane glass can also be used for really mammoth drinks.
highball Ranges in size from 8 to 12 ounces. Good for most standard mixed drinks. Similar to a Collins glass, but shorter and wider.
martini Similar to a cocktail glass, but with a distinctive V shape. Nothing beats a martini in an actual martini glass. About 4 ounces.
hot drink mug 10 to 12 ounces. Used for hot drinks, hot coffee drinks, cappuccinos, Irish coffee, etc.
parfait A specialty glass, approximately 7½ ounces; can be used for drinks containing ice cream and/or fruit.
pilsner 10 to 16 ounces. Used for beer.
pony (cordial) Up to 2 ounces. Can be used for liqueurs, brandy and small pousse-cafés.
pousse-café A specialty glass for drinks that are “floated,” such as Rainbow Pousse-Café or Traffic Light.
red wine Holds 6 to 11 ounces. Is more rounded than a white wine glass, in order to direct the bouquet of red wine to the drinker’s nose.
rocks (stemmed or not stemmed) Ranges in size from 6 to 8 ounces. Also called “lowball” or “old-fashioned.” Used for drinks served “on the rocks.” If you don’t own shot glasses, you can use these to serve straight shots of liquor or liqueur.
sherry Holds about 3 ounces. Used for cordials and liqueurs. You can substitute the popular Spanish copita.
shot Ranges from a fraction of an ounce to 2 ounces (long shot). The standard shot measure these days is 1½ ounces (also called a jigger). Can hold one liquor or can be used for mixed shooters. It also comes in a two-sided metal measuring version, where one side holds 1 ounce and the other side holds 1½ ounces.
sour Also called a delmonico glass or a whiskey sour glass. Holds 5 or 6 ounces. Known for its use with sours of all kinds.
white wine Can also hold from 6 to 11 ounces, although generally a bit smaller than red wine glasses.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
SOMEHOW, the ways alcoholic beverages are measured, in both the bottle and the mixing glass, have always managed to confuse most people. Just what is a fifth? Which holds more—a pony or a jigger? The charts below should help clear things up.
Remember when you rolled your eyes in math class, wondering why you should bother learning the metric system? Well, your teachers must have known something, because on December 31, 1979, the sizing of liquor bottles in America was converted to metrics. I always knew I should have been nicer to my math teacher!
Standard Bar Measurements
No, bar measurements don’t have anything to do with metrics, but they are confusing enough nonetheless. Keep this chart handy, though, and you’ll do all right.
GARNISHES can add flavor or flair to any drink. Here are the garnishes you’ll encounter most often, plus a few special ones.
Types of Garnishes
bitters The leading name in bitters is Angostura, but orange bitters are sometimes called for instead.
celery A Bloody Mary would be incomplete without celery. And, hey, it makes the drink healthy—right?
cherries Maraschino cherries are most often used. They usually are red, but green ones exist, too. Maraschino cherries make great garnishes for tropical drinks and many sours, as well as the standard Manhattan.
cinnamon sticks You’ll get the most use out of extra-long cinnamon sticks. They can be used to stir and flavor certain hot drinks.
cucumber Cucumber slices are popular garnishes for drinks with Pimm’s in them.
lemons Lemons, one of the most essential garnishes, can be cut into wedges, slices or wheels, and the rinds can be used to make twists. Lemons are especially popular for drinks with club soda in them. Twists are becoming more and more popular as garnishes for martinis.
limes Limes, too, can be cut into wedges, slices, wheels or twists. Limes are especially popular for drinks with tonic water in them.
mint leaves An absolute must for mint juleps.
nutmeg A nice alternative to cinnamon, nutmeg can be sprinkled on hot drinks or certain cream drinks, especially Alexanders.
olives The most popular olives for drinks are small green pitted olives, although other types may be used. This is the quintessential martini garnish. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered.
onions Pearl onions are used in Gibsons (martinis with pearl onion garnish).
oranges Orange slices are not only decorative but provide a nice flavor to tropical or exotic drinks, sours or even vodka on the rocks.
pineapples Spears, slices or chunks—pineapple can add excitement to many tropical drinks, such as the famous piña colada.
salt Salt is an essential part of a Margarita or a Salty Dog. It also adds zip to Bloody Mary mix. (Salt substitutes may be used for those who are concerned with their salt intake.) A coarse salt works best for frosting glasses.
sugar Superfine granulated sugar is good for making simple sugar syrup, as well as for frosting glasses.
Cutting and Preparing Garnishes
There are several different ways to cut basic fruit garnishes—wedges, slices, wheels and twists. (Note: To cut fruit, use a good paring knife and a cutting board.)
To cut lemon or lime wedges, cut off the ends of the fruit and discard. Slice the fruit lengthwise. Take one of the lemon or lime halves and cut that lengthwise as well. Holding the two sections together, cut crosswise so that each cut produces two wedges. Repeat with the other half.
To cut lemon, lime or orange slices, cut off the ends of the fruit and discard. Slice the fruit lengthwise. Take one of the fruit halves and cut across so that each cut produces one slice. Repeat with other half of lemon or lime.
To make fruit “wheels” that can be fitted onto the rim of a glass, take a lemon, lime or orange and cut off the ends. Make a cut approximately ¼ inch deep along the length of the fruit. Slice the fruit perpendicular to the original cut. These “wheels” can be arranged on the rim of the glass, which will fit inside the small cut in the garnish.
An easy method of making fruit peel twists is to stand the fruit on its end (after cutting off the ends) and cut from top to bottom, staying close to the meat of the fruit. Each cut can be approximately ½ inch wide. When you have finished, you may cut each of those slices into ¼-inch strips.
Olives and pearl onion garnishes may either be placed at the bottom of the drink “solo” or you can spear one to three olives or onions on a toothpick and place in the cocktail glass.
With cherry and orange garnishes, you can spear the cherry with a toothpick and then push the toothpick through the rind of the orange slice. Place on top of the drink.
For the most part, lemons are used as garnishes when the mixer is club soda. Limes are used when the mixer is tonic water. Limes are also popular with drinks containing cranberry juice (and no other juice) and one liquor, such as a Cape Codder.
A “twist” usually refers to lemon peel only, but recently other fruit twists have become popular. To use a twist, actually twist the peel over the drink to release the essence of the fruit, rub it around the rim of the glass, then drop it into the drink.
TO CHOOSE GLASSWARE:
• Most bartenders these days use multipurpose glassware. The recipes in this book offer suggestions for the traditional types of glassware to use, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand, provided the drink fits inside. A large wineglass is your best bet if you can afford to buy only one type of glassware. Don’t be too concerned if a drink doesn’t completely fill the glass, either.
TO FROST A GLASS, THERE ARE TWO METHODS:
• With ice: Dip in water, place in freezer for a half hour. It will get a frosted white look. When removing, hold by the handle or stem so as not to melt the ice with your hand. With salt or sugar (for frosting the rim of a glass only): Moisten the rim of a chilled glass with a lemon or lime wedge. Dip rim into salt or sugar.
TO CHILL A GLASS:
• Refrigerate at least one hour before pouring a drink into it, or
• Fill glass with ice and cold water and let sit while you are preparing the drink. When you are ready to pour the drink, dump out the ice and water.
TO MAKE TWISTS AND FLAVOR RIMS:
• When a recipe calls for a fruit twist as a garnish, twist the peel above the drink and then drop into the drink.
• When using a fruit garnish, rub the rim of the glass with the fruit to leave the flavor on the glass.
TO MAKE DRINKS CALLING FOR ICE:
• Although many mixed-drink recipes instruct the bartender to fill a shaker glass with ice, you may use just ¼ cup, or 4 to 5 ice cubes if you prefer.
• Fresh ice is the key to a great drink. It’s a good idea to use a fresh bag of ice when mixing drinks, since freezer odors can ruin the flavor of a drink.
TO MAKE DRINKS CALLING FOR SODA:
• To prevent soda from “exploding,” especially if it is on the warm side, turn the cap very slowly—just a tiny bit at a time. Do this over or near a sink in case any soda sprays out.
TO MAKE DRINKS CALLING FOR WATER:
• Always use distilled water or springwater in drinks calling for water. Tap water can make a drink look clouded—and it doesn’t taste as good.
TO MAKE DRINKS CALLING FOR PREMIUM VODKA:
• A great vodka will taste even better if it’s exceptionally cold. Keep a bottle of the good stuff in your freezer.
TO MAKE DRINKS CALLING FOR EGG WHITES:
• For drink recipes calling for half an egg white, you might be better off doubling the recipe and making two drinks, since an egg white is very difficult to divide.
TO SHAKE A DRINK:
• Drinks containing numerous or difficult-to-mix ingredients are usually shaken. A shaker set is made up of a mixing glass and a metal tumbler. The mixing glass is sometimes referred to as a shaker glass.
• When using a shaker set, put any ice in the mixing glass, add the other ingredients, fit the metal container snugly over the glass and shake several times. Tip the set so the liquid ends up in the metal tumbler. Use a metal strainer, which fits into the top of the metal tumbler, to strain the liquid into a drink glass.
• Sometimes a short shaker can be used. This is a smaller metal cup that fits directly over the glass from which you will drink. If you don’t have a shaker set, a glass with a cover that fits on top or the jug portion of an electric blender will do.
TO STIR A DRINK:
• Mixed drinks are usually stirred if they do not contain cream or sour mix, or if only one or two different ingredients are involved.
• Either half of the shaker set can be used as a mixing cup for drinks that require stirring rather than shaking.
• Don’t overstir drinks made with sparkling beverages such as sodas or champagne. You don’t want to spoil the fizz.
TO POUR A DRINK:
• If you’re making a pitcherful of a mixed drink, set up all the glasses and pour a little into each glass, repeating the process until all are filled the same amount.
• To pour hot drinks into glasses, put a metal spoon in the glass before pouring. This absorbs the heat so the glass won’t break.
TO POUR A POUSSE-CAFÉ:
• To float liqueurs or liquors, always put the heaviest one on the bottom of the glass, and float them in order of density and thickness. To do this, hold a bar spoon facedown in the glass and pour the liqueur over the back of the spoon—very slowly.
• If you have more time, pour the liqueurs into the glass and refrigerate for about an hour. In that time, the liqueurs will find their own place according to their weight, forming the layers you desire.
TO FLAME LIQUEURS:
• If it is possible to avoid this process, please do, because it can be dangerous. But if you insist, pre-warm the glass over a low flame, add most of the spirit and warm a teaspoon. Preheat just one teaspoonful of liquor over the flame and then set afire. Pour the flaming liquid into the glass with the remaining liquor—CAREFULLY!
TO OPEN A BOTTLE OF WINE:
• Using a sharp knife, remove the seal around the neck of the bottle. Peel the seal off so that the cork is exposed. Insert the tip of the corkscrew into the center of the cork and twist until it is as far down into the cork as possible. Slowly and steadily pull the cork out. It is common etiquette for the server to taste the wine before serving his or her guests.
TO OPEN A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE OR SPARKLING WINE:
• Wrap a towel around a well-chilled bottle. With the mouth of the bottle pointed away from people and breakable objects, carefully remove the foil and undo the wire over the cork. Holding the cork in one hand and the rest of the bottle in the other, slowly turn the bottle until you feel the cork loosen. Slowly wiggle the cork out. When opening a bottle of sparkling wine or champagne, try for as little sound as possible. While the sound of a cork popping is festive, it allows precious bubbles to escape.
TO CLEAN GLASSWARE:
• No matter what type of glassware you use, make sure it’s always sparkling clean. When you wash your glassware, air-dry it with the rim down on a towel to avoid spotting.
• You can also dry with one towel and polish with another.
• Wash glassware immediately after use.
• If you can’t wash up right away, soak the glasses in warm, sudsy water so that the drink residues don’t stick.
• Don’t stack glasses one on top of the other; they might stick together. If they do get stuck together, put the bottom glass in very warm water and fill the top glass with cold water. The bottom glass will expand and the top one will contract until the difference frees them up.
12 oz. lemon juice (juice of approximately 6 lemons)
18 oz. distilled water
¼ cup refined sugar
1 egg white
• Blend in a blender or shake in a large jar.
• Refrigerate (it will keep for no more than 7 to 10 days).
• Always blend or shake before use.SUGAR SYRUP (SIMPLE SYRUP)
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
• Dissolve sugar in water in a saucepan.
• Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring.
• Cover and refrigerate until needed.
ON BEING A RESPONSIBLE BARTENDER
WE’VE all heard news stories about drinking and driving, and we’ve all read cautionary tales about the dangers of drinking to excess. Drinking and hosting parties are basic social activities, both time-honored and fun, but the very real fact remains that people get drunk from too much alcohol.
When you serve drinks to your guests, you are responsible for the amount of alcohol consumed under your supervision. In some states, in fact, hosts are considered legally liable for whatever may occur as a result of their guests’ alcohol consumption. You owe it to your friends to make sure drinking remains a safe and enjoyable experience in your home.
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind so you and your guests can relax and have fun while drinking:
• Always keep a generous supply of nonalcoholic beverages available for guests who either are driving or choose not to drink alcohol. These can include soft drinks, mineral water, fruit and vegetable juices, alcohol-free punches, alcohol-free beers, tea or coffee. “Virgin” drinks are a festive option, especially if you are serving frozen blender drinks. See the chapter on nonalcoholic drinks for recipes you can use to make delicious alcohol-free concoctions.
• Don’t make your drinks overly strong. Guests will down strong drinks just as quickly as normal-strength ones, but they will become intoxicated more quickly. Moderation is the key to an enjoyable drinking experience.
• Keep tabs on how much your guests have consumed. If someone seems to have had one too many, there is no shame in cutting him or her off. The only shame is in letting someone drink too much at the expense of his or her safety, the safety of others or a congenial atmosphere. If a guest does get drunk, make sure he or she does not drive home.
• If a guest requests a drink that is light on the booze, do oblige. You will not do him or her a favor by loading a drink with alcohol. Never pressure someone into having just one more. There’s nothing that ruins the mood more quickly than a pushy bartender.
• Always serve food along with alcohol. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream directly from the stomach, and good food provides a balance for drinkers, slowing the rate at which they drink and absorb alcohol. Serving food also adds to the air of hospitality, allowing everyone to have an even better time. Sandwiches, dairy products, meats and fish are good bets.
• Mixers can affect the rate of absorption of alcohol into the system, so take them into account when planning and hosting any get-together. Water dilutes alcohol and slows absorption; carbonated beverages tend to speed it up.
• Don’t throw parties whose sole purpose is drinking. If your guests have something else to do, they are less likely to get drunk. Food, conversation, games, videos and business are possible diversions.
• If you have young children and keep a supply of liquor in your home, make sure it is always locked safely away.
• Be aware that as few as one or two drinks can affect the average adult’s coordination and ability to think. Alcohol is an anesthetic which could prevent the drinker from realizing he or she is impaired.
Drinking and Driving
Of course, the safest rule for drinking and driving is: DON’T DO IT. Encourage your guests to use designated drivers, who don’t drink at your party and who make sure everyone else gets home safely. For any number of reasons, though, some of your guests may be unable to use the designated driver system from time to time. When you know this is the case, bear in mind the following general guidelines for how long it takes people of different sizes to metabolize the drinks they consume.
These figures will vary from individual to individual, but they provide valuable insight into just how long it can take for someone to recover from the effects of drinking. If a guest has had a few drinks, encourage him or her to wait before getting behind the wheel. When in doubt, try an app for your smartphone to help you and your guests track how much you’ve been drinking and decide if you’re safe to drive. Good options include Last Call, DrinkTracker and AlcoDroid Alcohol Tracker. You could save a life.
WHEN planning your next bash, be it an intimate cocktail party, dinner for six or a full-fledged extravaganza, your first rule of thumb should be that the drinks you serve should reflect the tastes of your guests. If you’ll be entertaining a room full of beer drinkers, then your planning will be no more complex than making sure you have enough to go around. If, on the other hand, your crowd has a penchant for exotic mixed drinks or interesting cocktails like a Rhubarb Fix, you should make sure you have all the necessary ingredients on hand in large enough quantities.
Your guests will not expect you to have a bar as complete as the most upscale establishment in town, but they will expect you to keep up with demand. Too much instead of too little will help ensure the success of your party. Count on each of your guests consuming about three or four drinks over the course of a four-hour party. Have plenty of glassware on hand—at least two glasses per guest, although if it’s possible to keep more handy you’ll be even better off.
While all the recipes in this book call for a particular type of glass, there’s really no need for you to run out and buy every type of glass there is, unless you’re a bartending geek, in which case, buy them all. A basic highball glass and a rocks glass should serve nearly all your needs. Also, large wineglasses can be used for virtually any type of drink. If you’re looking for versatility, that’s the one to keep around.
There’s no way to overemphasize the great importance of fresh ice for your party. Approximately 1½ to 2 pounds per guest should be adequate. Buy your ice in bags to ensure freshness. Who knows what is lurking in the depths of your home freezer? Freezer odors can spoil the taste of your drink masterpieces. Do you really want a Chocolate Martini to taste like your leftover ziti dish? I think not.
Make sure to serve foods that will not spoil during the course of your party. Otherwise you’ll have lots of leftovers and drunk, hungry guests. Remember, too, that the amount of liquor and the type of drinks you’ll be serving will vary, depending on the time of day as well as the type of party. Daytime parties usually warrant a smaller liquor supply.
What to serve? Punch is inappropriate at cocktail parties, but it is perfect for a holiday party or other special occasion, such as an anniversary or bridal shower. Dinner parties are good times for trying out wines. Brunches are perfect for champagne drinks, such as Mimosas, Kir Royales or a Poinsettia. Also nice to serve are highball drinks with juice mixers. Cocktail parties are your chance to get a bit more creative. If your guests don’t fall into a particular pattern of drinking (such as all vodka drinkers or all gin drinkers), then experiment with your newfound knowledge of mixing drinks.
Here’s a list of basic supplies to help you plan a successful party. The good news is that even if you have leftovers, these liquors will store well in your bar and you’ll be even better prepared the next time around. This list assumes that an average bottle (750 ml) of liquor will provide twenty drinks of 1½ ounces each (1½ ounces is the size of the average shot). When selecting your liquors, get the best you can afford. Premium brands make a party an even more special occasion, and your guests will enjoy them.
Cocktail Party Shopping List
LIQUOR, BEER AND WINE
2 bottles vodka (Note: This is conservative considering vodka’s popularity. Absolut is the favorite brand, but any of the other premium vodkas will serve your purposes just as well)
1 bottle dry gin
1 bottle scotch
1 bottle American whiskey
1 bottle rum
1 bottle tequila
1 small bottle dry vermouth
1 small bottle sweet vermouth
2 bottles white wine
2 bottles red wine
1 or 2 cases of beer (it’s nice to have a mix of regular beer and light beer)
3 or 4 bottles of your favorite liqueurs (Kahlúa, amaretto and crème de cacao are ingredients in many popular drinks)
5 or 6 bottles club soda
5 or 6 bottles tonic water
4 or 5 bottles cola
2 or 3 bottles diet soda
2 to 3 bottles 7-Up
3 bottles orange juice
2 bottles tomato juice
2 bottles grapefruit juice
2 bottles pineapple juice
3 to 4 bottles cranberry juice cocktail
4 quarts sour mix
1 bottle Rose’s (or other brand) lime juice
4 bottles fresh springwater
1 jar olives
1 jar maraschino cherries
LOOKING to host a party with some real kick? Spiking the punch is one approach, but it’s a lot more fun when you also add a dash of imagination. Instead of inviting everyone over for just another night of a few drinks, come up with a clever theme for your bash.
Sporting events, news events, television shows and popular movies; historical themes, nostalgia and international motifs—each can be incorporated into a great party. With a little planning, the right ambience and the appropriate beverage, you can celebrate almost any occasion in style. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
A Kentucky Derby Party
Turn on the TV for the pre-race show, then cheer on your favorite horse while you and your guests enjoy pitchers of Mint Juleps. For authenticity, serve the drinks in silver tumblers, and offer your guests some Derby Pie.
Red roses, wall decorations modeled after the competitors’ racing silks and broad-brimmed hats like those worn by Kentucky belles add festive touches. If you like, each guest can pick a horse and lay an informal bet to win a small prize—perhaps a bottle of fine Kentucky bourbon.
A Mexican Fiesta
Pull up some mariachi music on iTunes, put on a sombrero and serve up some margaritas (on the rocks, or frozen), Mexican beer (such as Tecate or Corona) with lime squeezed in for extra zip, tequila shots (Cuervo Gold is recommended) or Tequila Poppers.
When downing a shot of tequila, put some salt on the skin at the base of your thumb and forefinger, lick the salt off, do the shot, and finish off by sucking the juice of a wedge of lime.
It’s not a fiesta without the food, so break out your appetites. Some food suggestions include nachos, chips and salsa or guacamole, and do-it-yourself tacos. Make it community style: Have your guests bring the various ingredients for tacos and set up a buffet. That will make prepping for the party easier on both you and your wallet.
Did someone say, “Here comes the bride”? If your favorite gal pal is about to say “I do,” you better be sure that the cocktails are numerous and the atmosphere is right. Before heading out for a night of dancing and debauchery, mix some cocktails at the maid of honor’s place. Try a Shotgun Wedding Cocktail to stir the spirit of impulse love. If you’re looking for a cocktail to remember, serve her a California Stripper. With cocktails like these, who needs the groom?
Dress to impress, and let all the ladies know that there’s no time for FaceTiming boyfriends. Get on your slinkiest dresses and evening wear, and prepare to devour a Cosmopolitan.
James Bond Party
If the numbers 007 get your blood pumping, break out the tuxes and fancy dresses for a party of adventure and fine liquor. Keep the music dramatic or drop it to a soft classical piano as you swirl a White Russian or a 007 if you like your drinks extra sweet.
Where’s the party? James Bond wouldn’t be seen in some dive bar, so rent out a boat if money’s no object, or deck out your home in a casino theme. Turn your cell phones off and pretend you’re in some exotic country and that one of you could be armed. Make sure to keep the drinks smooth: Bond was never bumpy with his small talk and he never spilled a drink—or lost his woman.
A Spanish Tapas Party
Get some pitchers of sangria (red or white) flowing, and your guests will be doing the flamenco all evening. Flamenco music is, in fact, a great backdrop for a party. YouTube salsa and flamenco dance instruction, or even hire an on-site teacher.
Alongside the sangria, serve a variety of the Spanish finger foods known as tapas. These can range from simple olives to marinated seafood. You might also want to offer your guests a paella (made with rice, chicken and seafood), a Spanish omelette (egg, onion and potatoes) or any other typically Spanish food you enjoy.
Dorm Party Revisited
Do you miss your college days? Do you long for the easy fun and rowdiness of no-hassle dorm parties? Well, why not host your own grown-up dorm party? All you need is a keg of beer in the bathtub and a punch made with fruit juice, club soda, vodka, gin and rum (see the chapter on punch for ideas), served up by the bucket, of course. Decorations? Don’t bother.
Snacks can include nuts, pretzels, potato chips and onion dip. And as for music, download Pandora or Spotify and make a playlist of all your favorites—whatever you were listening to and dancing to at your alma mater.
A Super Bowl Party
Whether your team’s made it to post-season play or not—whether you even follow football or not—you can have a blast watching the most spectacular sporting event of the year. Put on your favorite team colors and invite your favorite couch potatoes over for a lazy afternoon of camaraderie.
Cases of beer are a must at any Super Bowl gathering, but old standards like rum and coke (Cuba Libre) and screwdrivers add much-appreciated variety. To go with the drinks, hearty food like chili, cheese dogs and pizza hit the spot.
A Night in the Tropics
You can throw a tropical theme party any time of year, but during the dead of winter it’s especially nice to host a little getaway, even if your wallet can’t fund a real vacation. Tropical favorites such as Mai Tais, Zombies and Piña Coladas are always big hits. You can also try something a little different. Prepare Fogcutters, Blue Hawaiians or Wombat shooters for your guests and leave them with an evening they’ll never forget.
Set out bowls and platters of fresh tropical fruits, as well as food on a Polynesian or Caribbean theme, anything from jerk chicken to roast pork. Reggae, hula or calypso music—or just your favorite party music—will add to the fun. If your friends are up for it, ask them to come dressed in beachwear, whether it’s bikinis or Hawaiian shirts. Find some exotic flowers at your florist and decorate in an island motif to make your party a smash.
If your friends cried over the last royal wedding or fantasize about being called “Your Majesty,” skip the Facebook invites and text message announcements and opt for monogrammed invitations instead. This party is for royalty! Dress in your best Anglophile wedding gear—fancy hats and morning suits preferred.
A bit of classical music will have you and your guests feeling educated, refined and perhaps even a bit snooty. There are several great cocktails you can serve, such as the Queen Elizabeth Wine Cocktail for strong and cutthroat individuals or the Absolut Royalty. If a cocktail isn’t your speed, a little bubbly champagne certainly won’t hurt. When it comes to feeding the royalty, grab a good cook and make a modified version of a Thanksgiving duck, turkey or goose, and whipped potatoes. It doesn’t have to be British food but it does have to be exquisite. Leave the finger foods for another party. Tonight it’s sophistication city.
The Godfather Party
Lots of people dream of being Marlon Brando or Al Pacino, but very few have the acting chops. No one needs to be a great actor to attend this party, but everyone should come in costume and be prepared to talk fast and loud at this party. Guys can dress in either a sharp suit or a T-shirt and a gold chain with a cigar, and the women can break out the fake nails and the Aqua Net for big, full hair. For the soundtrack, turn up the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
In order to get people “talking,” you’ll have to supply some serious pasta—penne vodka and manicotti are sure to please even the vegetarians. No Godfather party would be quite right without a few nice bottles of wine, but when it comes to the hard stuff, try the Italian Assassin or the Mafia’s Kiss.
These are only a few of the countless theme possibilities you can use to create fantastic parties. From Halloween to Mardi Gras, from Gone With the Wind to Star Wars, themes can suit all your moods and entertain all your guests.
WE all know that eggnog is served at Christmas parties and champagne flows freely on New Year’s Eve, but why stop there? There are plenty of other drinks that can add a festive touch to any holiday. If you look beyond the traditional winter holiday season, there are many overlooked holidays during the year that deserve something special, too.
Almost any holiday offers a good excuse to get creative in the bar. Here are some suggestions for drinks that can make your holiday parties occasions to be remembered. Check the recipe section for instructions on how to make each of them.
New Year’s Day: Poinsettia; Bellini Punch; Mimosa
Washington’s Birthday: Cherry Daiquiri (frozen); Washington
Mardi Gras: Ramos Gin Fizz; Daiquiris of any sort; Hurricane; Sazerac
Valentine’s Day: Love; Big Blue Sky; Cupid’s Kiss; Raspberry Chocolate Martini
Leap Year (February 29): Leap Year
Groundhog Day: Mudslide
Saint Patrick’s Day: Leprechaun’s Libation; St. Patrick’s Day Mocha Java; Irish Car Bomb
Tax Day (April 15): Income Tax
Easter: Easter Egg Hatch (nonalcoholic); Easter Egg Cocktail; April Shower
Memorial Day/Flag Day: Big Blue Sky; Summer Share; Betsy Ross
Mother’s Day: Blushing Lady; Goose in Spring; Teatini; In & Out Lemontini; Rosy Rum Cosmo
Midsummer’s Eve: shots of aquavit (akvavit); shots of Swedish Punsch (see Glossary); Fjord; May Blossom Fizz; Midnight Sun; Strawberry Shortcake
Canada Day: Canada Cocktail; The Caesar; Hotel Georgia
Independence Day: Stars and Stripes; Rainbow Sherbet Punch (nonalcoholic; made with red, white and blue sherbet); Vanilla Creamsicle; Sweet Independence
Halloween: Cat’s Eye; Zombie (made in a punch bowl); Black Witch; Black Martini; Bloody Rum Punch; Devil’s Handshake
Thanksgiving: Turkey Shooter; Cranberry-Vodka Punch; Cranberry Spice Cocktail; Pumpkin Pie Martini; Pomegranate Fizz
Hanukkah: Spicy Hot Cocoa; Lamplighter; Jelly Donut Martini
Christmas: Eggnog; Sherry Eggnog; Cold Weather Punch; Fish House Punch; Cranberry Pineapple Vodka Punch
New Year’s Eve: White Grape, Tangerine and Sparkling Wine Punch; Champagne Cocktail; Champagne-Maraschino Punch; Midori Melon Ball Drop
FROZEN BLENDER DRINKS
IT doesn’t take fancy tools or a bartending degree to make mixology magic—just open your pantry and break out your blender (drink umbrellas optional). The best part? Blender drinks are so easy, even a toddler can do it . . . well, maybe not. Suitable for whipping up rich, creamy concoctions, fun and refreshing tropical drinks or low-calorie, nonalcoholic treats for the nondrinker or the designated driver in your life, the blender can be your most prized piece of bar equipment.
The blended drink makes a glorious sight at any party. Guests are sure to be impressed with a fabulous frozen margarita (which is quickly becoming the nation’s most popular drink). Or you can dazzle them with the incredible sensation of a frozen mango daiquiri, the likes of which they’d never dreamed possible. For a glimpse of the full range of blender drinks you can make, see Index by Type at the back of this book.
If you don’t already have one, buy a good sturdy blender for your bar. All you really need is two speeds—high and low—so don’t worry about finding a blender with twenty-four settings or any fancy functions. Clean it carefully before using it, then go wild. Once you’ve gotten used to your blender, experiment with your favorite drink recipes. You never know what you’ll discover. For instance, many of the recipes in this book call for a shaker to mix drinks. Try using a blender instead—you might be surprised with the results. Add some fruit here, some cream there. The possibilities are truly infinite.
As a general rule, drinks containing ingredients that don’t readily mix—such as cream, sour mix, eggs, ice cream or syrupy ingredients like grenadine or heavy liqueurs—need to be shaken vigorously at least, but blending yields superior smoothness.
Just say no to dessert this time and instead, try out a sweet drink that will satiate your taste buds and keep the party flowing. If you’re ready for a post-dinner drink that will keep you awake enough in case the conversation gets dull, try a Coffee Frappe. Starbucks has nothing on this one. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, why not try a Sweet Tart Cocktail? Warning: If your taste buds don’t fancy sour, you may not be up for this icy adult version of a childhood candy favorite.
If you’re hosting a brunch in the dog days of summer, you might want to ditch the classic mimosa and go with a frosty alternative, like a frozen Bellini. For something a little more creative, try a Honeydew Margarita—you’ll be cooling off and getting your daily serving of fruit all at the same time.
Tropical drinks mix particularly well with the blender. Whip up a Piña Colada, make a batch of virgin Strawberry Daiquiris for designated drivers and younger guests or get back to your childhood roots with a frozen Pink Lemonade. Top your drinks with an exotic flower and you’ll be mentally adrift in the pool in no time.
Drinks for a Diet
Dieting got you down? Indulge in a Blended Raspberry Cocktail for a sweet, alcoholic treat with just 115 calories. Or a Mojito Smoothie that’s sure to please both your taste buds and your nutritionist. If citrus sounds appealing to you, sip on a Tropical Grapefruit Splash guilt free!
Here are some basic tips for a great blending experience.
Rules of Thumb
• Always use twice as much ice as your ingredients.
• Use small ice cubes—oversized cubes will destroy your blender.
• Avoid canned fruit. Fresh or frozen are both better options.
For blending cream drinks
Fill blending cup one-quarter full of ice
Measure liqueurs first
Blend at medium speed for 5–10 seconds or until smooth
For blending sours
Fill blending cup one-quarter full of ice
Measure liqueurs first
Measure other alcohols next
Add sour mix
Add any other ingredients
Blend at medium speed for 5–10 seconds or until smooth
For blending tropical drinks
Fill blending cup one-quarter full of ice
Add fresh fruit (if any)
Measure other alcohols next
Add sour mix (if any)
Add any other ingredients
Blend at medium speed for 10–15 seconds or until smooth
Average blending times are mentioned above, but use your discretion. You will be able to tell if a drink is ready. When the drink is completely blended, you should not hear the rattle of ice cubes.
And now a few words about your blender:
• Before you use a new blender for the first time, fill it with warm water, and with the lid on, turn the machine on for about 25 seconds. This will remove any dirt or residues in the blender.
• Be certain the machine is turned off before you plug it in.
• Always remove foreign objects such as bar spoons or bar strainers from the blender before you use the machine. Do not insert utensils into the blender cup while the machine is operating.
• Always make sure the blade assembly is attached securely to the bottom of the blender cup. You don’t want any leaks!
• Do not pour boiling water into the blender container. It might cause the cup to crack.
• Don’t fill the container beyond its capacity, since the efficiency of the machine will be reduced.
• Make sure the lid is on tight before you turn the machine on.
• Don’t remove the lid of the blender while the machine is running.
• Never reach into the blender while it is in use. Make sure hair or loose clothing does not get caught.
• Make sure the blades have ceased to spin before removing the container from the base of the machine.
• Always be sure the switch is turned to the OFF position when you are finished.
• To clean your blender after use, fill the mixing container with warm water, put the lid on, and turn the machine on for about 25 seconds. This will loosen any particles stuck to the inside of the container. Then remove and rinse the blender cup in warm water.
• Always wash the container immediately after use. Don’t let residues sit for too long, or they will be more difficult to remove.
• When washing the inside of the blender, take care not to cut yourself on the metal blades.
If you keep these common-sense safety tips in mind, you’ll find out how much fun it is to create a great blender drink. Enjoy!
THE PERFECT PUNCH
PUNCH, a sometimes bizarre mixture of ingredients that complement and set each other off, is a great way to entertain the masses. It’s cheaper and easier to make one large concoction than it is to handle your guests one drink at a time. The punch tradition, which dates back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when rum was all the rage, has made a resurgence. Today, however, the main ingredient can be any liquor, depending on what you and your guests like, or on the occasion and the season. But, of course, rum is still a favorite component of punch, since it lends itself to mixing well with other ingredients.
For traditional punches, the rum-based varieties are probably your best bet. As for choosing which rum (or other liquor, for that matter) to purchase, a cheaper variety will usually work well, since some of the nuances will be camouflaged. The assortment of juices, sugars, fruits and sodas, or the milk, cream or eggs that the liquor mingles with in the punch bowl can disguise a less expensive rum. But there is no substitute for fine quality, and some discerning palates may notice the difference. So if it is within your means to go for the more expensive brands, you should do it.
In cold weather substantial punches, milk-based punches and hot punches are particular favorites. The traditional Cold Weather Punch, Fish House Punch (first made at the Fish House Club near Philadelphia to cheer our nation’s founders), Hot Rum and, of course, Eggnog (for Christmas parties) are favorites.
A champagne-based punch, such as the Bellini Punch, a peach and champagne blend, are great for New Year’s celebrations, weddings, bridal showers, or engagement parties.
While punches are not appropriate fare for a typical cocktail party (which, of course, calls for cocktails), they are certainly right for special-occasion parties, especially holiday get-togethers or birthday and anniversary parties.
The greatest advantage to serving a punch is that once the punch is made, you can just relax and enjoy the party while your guests help themselves. And since the majority of punches contain just a fraction of alcohol, you’ll save money on liquor. Do make sure, however, that you have enough of the mixture reserved so that you can refill the punch bowl when it runs low, but don’t mix fresh punch with whatever remains in the bowl. Empty the bowl and prepare the punch with new ice. Otherwise, the taste will be weakened.
Nonalcoholic punches are great for parties where there will be nondrinkers or children. For the kids, a Rainbow Sherbet Punch is always lots of fun.
Sangrias and other wine-based punches, and punches with loads of fruit and exotic juices, are also popular. Especially when the weather starts getting warmer, guests call for something refreshing and lighter. A Polynesian Punch is an extra-special refresher. Juleps or coolers can be made in large quantities simply by multiplying your ingredients. And milk punches are a rich and smooth treat.
Ice cubes are not recommended for preserving your punch’s chill. The preferred method of keeping your punch cool is a block of ice placed in the punch bowl. Ingredients in cold punches are usually best if chilled ahead of time (see individual recipes). Generally, for cold punches, a two-quart block of ice is recommended for every gallon of punch. Another tip: Sodas and carbonated beverages do their best if added to the punch just before you’re ready to serve it.
Try some of the single-serving punch recipes in this book. They’re great for experimenting with new tastes before you venture to serve a crowd.
IN this age of health and fitness, almost everyone watches what and how much they eat and drink. Alcoholic beverages have gotten a bad rap as a source of empty calories, but there are plenty of options open to the weight-conscious bartender. The first step toward having fun without putting on the pounds is to know the facts about the caloric content of the drinks you serve. The following charts should give you an idea of how many calories are in your favorite drinks. (Numbers are approximate.)
Many of the drinks in this book are relatively low in calories, and you can lower the calorie counts of many simply by using less alcohol. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1½ ounces of vodka, limit it to one ounce and you’ve already cut out 32 calories if you’re using 80-proof vodka. See the index of low-calorie drinks for a representative sampling of drinks that contain approximately 110 calories or less. Refer to the recipe section for instructions on how to make them.
IT used to be synonymous with fraternity parties and baseball games, but beer has really come into its own in the last decade. What used to be considered a cheap, basic drink for the masses has turned into a complex and varied option that can appeal to everyone from the patrons of a local dive bar to sophisticated young urbanites. Beer appreciation has truly become an American passion, not to mention an international affair. Whether it’s a light beer for dieters, craft beers for urban hipsters or imported beer for the more experimental, the quality of beer available to consumers has been consistently on the rise since the early 2000s. And there is some especially good news about beer: Despite what you may believe, it has fewer calories than many other spirits. An average bottle contains just 150 calories, and light beers have even less.
Beer is made by cooking and fermenting grain, including malt, barley, rice, corn and others. It is then flavored with hops, which give it its bitter flavor. The brewing process varies from beer to beer depending on what ingredients are used, and on fermenting techniques and temperatures.
Here’s a basic summary of how beer is made:
1. Malting: The grains are put through a process of heating, drying out and cracking in order to activate the enzymes needed for brewing.
2. Mashing: The grains are steeped in hot water for about an hour. This “mashing” process causes grains to break down and release all their sugars. Afterwards, the water is drained from the mash, and what is left is a sweet liquid called wort.
3. Boiling: The wort is boiled for about an hour, then hops and any other spices are added to the mixture.
4. Fermentation: Once the wort is cooled and filtered post-boil, it’s time to add the yeast. Brewers put the wort in what is called a fermenting vessel, and the beer sits and ferments for a period of time determined by the type of beer.
5. Bottling: After the fermentation is done, the beer is flat and uncarbonated. Brewers either artificially carbonate the beer or allow it to carbonate on its own with yeast. The beer is bottled, then brewers let it sit for anywhere from a couple of weeks to months before it’s shipped out to stores.
An astounding array of brews results from this process, as the following list of beer types shows.
Types of Beer
Ale a brew made with top-fermenting yeast; has a distinctive fruitiness; sharper and stronger than lager.
Amber ale a Belgian ale. With excess malt, this ale is sweeter and dark in color.
Barley wine actually a type of ale, barley wine can be amber colored or black. It usually has a strong, fruity flavor and a high alcohol content.
Beer includes all beer, lager, porter and stout.
Bitter a well-hopped ale, usually on draft; typically acidic, with a color that varies from bronze to deep copper.
Bock the German term for a strong beer.
Cold-filtered beer that is not pasteurized like other bottled and canned beers, giving it the fresh taste of draft beer.
“Dark beer” usually refers to a dark brew of the Munich type; heavier, deeper flavor.
Dry beer cold filtered and dry brewed for a beer that leaves no aftertaste.
IPA IPA stands for India Pale Ale. A hoppy pale ale, usually with a bitter taste.
Lager any beer made by bottom fermentation; in Britain, typically golden; in continental Europe, can be dark; in Germany and the Netherlands, indicates everyday beer.
Light beer lager-type beers that have a lower alcohol and calorie content.
Märzen a pale lager, this full-bodied beer of Bavarian origins is malty in taste. In Germany, Märzen beer goes from pale to dark colored, and in Austria it’s typically pale.
Nonalcoholic brew, or near beer a beer that has no alcohol in it.
Pilsner a golden-colored, dry, bottom-fermenting beer; flowery aroma, dry finish.
Porter an ale with a rich, heavy foam; sweeter than ale.
Sake although often considered a wine, sake is actually a beer, since it is a refermented rice brew; has a high alcohol content.
Steam beer a term coined by the San Francisco company that produces Anchor Steam; has elements of both ale and lager.
Stout extra-dark, top-fermenting brew; can sometimes be sweetish and has a very strong taste.
Wheat beer an ale that’s brewed with barley and large amounts of wheat malt. Light in color and sometimes flavored with coriander or orange.
Craft beer can come in all of these styles, and is kind of an independent businessman of the beer world. According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewer is defined as:
• Small: Brewery distributes no more than six million barrels of beer annually.
• Independent: Less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned by a non-craft beer brewery.
• Traditional: Beers’ flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.
With all these beers available, you have plenty of possibilities to choose from. Do you prefer light-bodied, light-tasting, low-calorie beer, or a fuller-tasting brew? Does the familiar taste of Budweiser or Miller do it for you, or does a Mexican style—such as Corona or Sol—or a heavy, rich Irish style like Guinness Stout wet your whistle? Wherever your tastes take you, exploring the options can be lots of fun.
The quality of American beers is going up, and some of the best domestic beers available today come from regional breweries and microbreweries throughout the country. These smaller operations have experienced a resurgence in the past decade or so, delivering beers of exceptional quality to local or regional markets. The development offers a real advantage for beer drinkers, and not only because they now have more to choose from. Because many of these independent breweries supply relatively small amounts of product to limited geographic areas, their beer does not have to travel far and therefore offers greater freshness and better flavor to the consumer. Among the beers currently available:
Anchor Steam, brewed by Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, has a strong malt flavor, creamy head and somewhat sweet taste. Their Anchor Liberty Ale is golden but somewhat cloudy, and has a sweet aroma of hops and an exotic, perfumy flavor.
Coors, the beer of the West, is produced in Golden, Colorado. It is light and easy to drink, and is now available nationwide.
Dixie Beer from New Orleans offers lots of flavor in a crisp, clean brew.
Lone Star Beer, from Texas, of course, is dry with a pleasant malt taste.
New Amsterdam Amber Beer comes from New York City’s Old New York Beer Company. It’s full-bodied, aromatic and a real crowd-pleaser in the metropolitan area.
Rolling Rock Premium Beer, widely available on the East Coast, has become the preferred drink of hip young urbanites.
Redhook Extra Special Bitter Ale, from the Redhook Ale Brewery in Seattle, is spicy, bitter and dark amber.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is amber colored with a light, lemony flavor. It is produced by Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California.
Samuel Adams Boston Stock Ale, from the Boston Beer Company, is clear, light amber and fruity. Their Samuel Adams Boston Lager is also good; it is clear, and light amber, has a fruity scent and delivers clean, sweet taste.
Light beers are extremely popular in this nation of fitness buffs. Some of the offerings out there include:
Amstel Light (95 calories) from Holland; the leader of the lights
Budweiser Light Beer (108 calories)
Bud Select (99 calories)
Coors Light (110 calories)
Kirin Light (105 calories) from Japan
Michelob Light (134 calories)
Miller Lite (96 calories)
Stroh Light (115 calories)
For draft beer lovers whose home bar does not include the equipment to tap a keg, cold-filtered beer is an excellent alternative. Choose from the following:
Busch Light Draft
Miller Genuine Draft
Sapporo, one of Japan’s finest exports
A wide variety of imports, from almost any country you can think of, are available on the market today. No bar is complete without at least one imported selection, but you should have no trouble finding something you like among the hundreds of foreign beers offered for sale in America. Here are just a few of the many excellent imports:
Austria—Gosser Export Beer
Belgium—Westmalle “Triple” Abbey Trappist Beer; St. Sixtus Belgium Abbey Ale
Canada—Carling Black Horse Ale; Labatt’s 50 Ale; Labatt’s Crystal Lager Beer; Labatt’s Pilsner Blue; Molson’s Ale; Moosehead Canadian Beer
Czech Republic—Pilsner Urquell
Denmark—Carlsberg Royal Lager Beer
France—Kronenbourg 1664 Imported Beer; “33” Export Brew
Germany—Beck’s Beer and Beck’s Dark; Lowenbrau; St. Pauli Girl Beer
Great Britain—Bass Pale Ale I.P.A.; Newcastle Brown Ale; Watney’s Red Barrel
Holland—Heineken Lager Beer; Grolsch Natural Holland Beer
Ireland—Guinness Extra Stout; Guinness Gold Lager; Harp Lager
Japan—Kirin Beer; Sapporo Lager Beer
Mexico—Dos Equis XX Beer; Corona; Tecate Cerveza; Sol; Chihuahua
Norway—Aas Bok Beer; Rignes Special Beer
Switzerland—Cardinal Lager Beer
An increasing number of surprisingly good nonalcoholic brews are making their way into stores nationwide. The better choices include:
Kaliber, produced by the Guinness Brewing Company
O’Doul’s (Premium or Amber)
St. Pauli N.A.
Wartech Nonalcoholic Brew
Once you’ve decided which beers to include in your home bar, storing and serving them correctly is a snap. Store beer upright in your refrigerator and away from the light. Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to re-chill beer once it has been removed from refrigeration.
Beers should be served cold, but not too cold, or they lose some of their flavor. As a general guideline, most American light-bodied beers are good at about 42 degrees F, typical imported beers are best at 47–50 degrees and full-bodied ales offer peak flavor at 55 degrees.
Beer can be served in mugs, goblets or pilsner glasses, depending on the occasion. If you like, frost the glasses by placing them in your freezer at least an hour before serving. To serve beer—whether from a bottle, can or tap—pour it slowly into a glass tilted at a forty-five-degree angle so the stream of beer flows down its side. This prevents excessive head from forming. When the glass is about two-thirds full, straighten the glass and pour the beer into the center until full, leaving a head of about three-fourths of an inch. If you prefer your beer without a head, keep the glass tilted until full.
Beer Tasting Tips
If you’re visiting a brewery or just want to assess your happy hour beer with an expert’s eye, consider these characteristics:
• Head: Is the head (the foam on top) of the beer thick or thin? What’s the color? White? Medium brown?
• Translucence/Color: Is the beer color cloudy or clear? Is it amber, golden or dark brown?
• Scent: Paler-shaded beers will smell more like hops, whereas darker options tend to have a malt aroma, possibly with hints of coffee or chocolate.
• Texture: Some beers are thick, others silky, and others more fizzy. How does your favorite beer compare?
• Aftertaste: Does your beer end on a malty sweet note, or is it more of a bitter end?