Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shaken Not Stirred - Guest Post

This time of year it seems as though everyone's dance card is filled with holiday parties and commitments.  It's a chance to dress up and a time to share a little bit of the holiday cheer.  For many years we hosted a big Christmas party and it was a wonderful chance to slow down, enjoy the season, and to share all of our decorations with friends and family.

Since we moved into our new home and have been in almost constant renovation mode, we've only hosted one party, and that was last Christmas.  Our first party was scheduled for the weekend that we got hit with a huge snow storm, but the second date went off without a hitch, and we had a wonderful time.

About a month ago, our daughter sent me an email saying that she and her roommate were planning to host their own Christmas party this year.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree as the saying goes, and she has definitely inherited the entertaining gene from my mother.  My mom loved having a beautifully decorated home this time of year, and a houseful of people to share it with.

This morning, I got a full report saying that my daughter and her roomie/friend had hosted a very successful cocktail party at their new apartment...complete with signature cocktails and a menu no less!  She's never been a drink to excess kind of child...thankfully, so I knew when she said that she would be hosting a cocktail party that it would be more like a Martha Stewart event than a 20 something style fraternity party.  Just to let the girls know we were thinking of them last night, Mr. Tide and I sent a small floral arrangement of fresh greens, white hydrangea and red roses because it's always nice to have fresh flowers when you are hosting a party. 

Today my daughter sent me pictures of the party, and I was so impressed by everything she and her roommate "B" had done to make this a memorable event for those invited.   She also asked me if I would like her to do a guest post to explain the evening and a little bit about how cocktails evolved...of course I said YES...and I hope you enjoy reading it!

Hi I'm Kat's daughter...affectionately known as Angelfish by my parents.  My roommate and I recently moved into a new place in Northern Virginia, and we decided it was high time we threw a cocktail/housewarming party for our friends in the area.  We bought some light hors d'oeuvres, libations, and set up our wonderful party playlist (I highly recommend this New Yorker inspired playlist).  We found cute cocktail napkins, set out some plates, and waited for our guests to arrive.  Though I'm not as legally minded as my roommate, who aspires to law school, cocktail parties still tend to put me in mind of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

You, too?  No?  Don't know what the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was?  Don't worry, you're not alone. This is probably due to the fact that the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed in December of 1933.  That's right, this amendment, along with the National Prohibition Act, or Volstead Act (as Andrew Volstead was the Senate Judiciary Committee chair who sponsored the legislation), started Prohibition in the United States.  The legislation for Prohibition was vetoed by Woodrow Wilson in October of 1919, but he was overridden by Congress and the law officially went into effect in January of 1920.

From 1920 until late 1933, the citizens of the United States were restricted from purchasing or consuming alcoholic beverages, and the government was to regulate the manufacture, production, use, and sale of high-proof spirits for 'other than beverage purposes'.  As you might imagine, from Prohibition stemmed some grave problems - among them, bootlegging, binge drinking, and organized crime.

Forced to distill and produce their own alcohol if they still wanted to drink, people turned to very creative ways to disguise the taste of the poor quality alcohol they were making (this is where terms like 'bathtub gin' come into play).  Prohibition era cocktails made great use of the mixer, an element of cocktails we consider commonplace today.  Mixers with strong flavors, such as orange juice and cream, became in vogue among those in the speakeasys who were trying to make their drinks palatable.

While my roommate and I were not serving bathtub gin, we are just out of college, and thus top-shelf liquors are not yet within a comfortable price range for us.  Anything with a good mixer is a perfect drink for us.  We found some great cocktail recipes in a book I have that was given to me by a good friend of mine for my twenty-first birthday, called Pocket Guide to Cocktails - The Essential Pocket Book of Cocktail Recipes.  It's a Parragon Publishing book and was first published in the UK; it has a great selection of classic cocktails, modern drinks, and a non-alcoholic section for any teetotalers in the crowd.

I made a bar menu with three 'specialty cocktails' that contained great seasonal spirits and colors that put people in mind of the holidays.  My friend J is an avid 'mixologist', and he helped me behind the bar all evening (he and his wife, D, even brought along their great Boston shaker bar set!).  All three drinks were a huge hit with our guests and I asked my mom if I could guest post today in order to share them with you!

Seeing Red

1 measure red vodka (we used Skyy, not red vodka, and it turned out well)
1 measure peach schnapps
3 measures cranberry juice (if you're a fan of sweet drinks, regular cranberry juice is a dream.  If you're like me and prefer your drinks on the dry side, try organic cranberry juice with less sugar content)
crushed ice
soda water
frozen cranberries (fresh work just as well)

1. Shake the first three ingredients over ice until well frosted.
2. Strain into a tall chilled cocktail glass, top up with soda water, and float a few cranberries on the top for garnish.

Christmas Cocktail

1 cube sugar
splash brandy
generous splash cranberry juice, chilled
champagne, chilled (we used cava which is generally less expensive and works well)
fresh raspberries, to garnish

1. Place a sugar cube in the base of a chilled champagne glass.
2. Add the brandy and allow to soak in, then splash on the cranberry juice.
3. At the last moment, top up with champagne and float one or two raspberries on the top.

Cider Punch

17 fl oz/500ml dry sparkling cider (we used Woodchuck Amber hard cider, but you could use non-alcoholic sparkling cider here for a less strong mix)
5 fl oz/150ml cognac or brandy (we used brandy to overlap with our other drinks)
5 fl oz/150ml Cointreau
apple slices, to garnish
10 fl oz/300ml soda water or dry ginger (I highly recommend using ginger ale)

1. Mix the first three ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator until required.
2. Pour into a large punch bowl with ice, apple slices, and the soda water or dry ginger.
3. Serve in small cups or glasses.

Note: We found that we had to add more ginger ale than it called for, to avoid the mix tasting too much of Cointreau.  To alleviate this problem without adding more ginger ale, simply reduce the amount of Cointreau (unless you adore the taste of Cointreau, in which case, have at it!).

Yesterday evening was quite a success, and now we're going to have to throw another party to share all of the lovely bottles of wine our guests brought.  I hope that you all are having a wonderful holiday season, and next time you settle down to a nice cocktail, turn on some Prohibition era jazz, dance the Charleston, and think about how lucky we are not to be drinking liquor made in someone's bathtub!


  1. Kat, your daughter is must be beaming proud! I am lucky to have two daughters that I am very close to...isn't awesome that they totally "get it"! I will be trying some of those cocktails, so fun!

  2. Kat, great post and such a bright daughter. Those recipes sound great!!

  3. Impressive post from your sweet daughter, Kat! Thank her for sharing those great recipes, too! :)

    xoxo laurie

  4. Love the post from your daughter,Kat! She is so pretty and I will be trying some of those wonderful cocktails she shared with us!

  5. We will be having a whole houseful of folks for Christmas dinner, and I imagine this Seeing Red cocktail will be featured prominently in my planning ... if the guests aren't interested, a healthy dose for the hostess will make things merry and bright. :)

  6. LOL! What a delightful post by your daughter. She sounds like a wonderful host too! I really enjoyed her thoughts on the prohibition era, something I rarely think of. Very entertaining!

  7. What a wonderful post! How fun and your daughter is just adorable and creative! I can see so much of you in her writing! :) I am glad that her party was a success and that she shared the recipes, please thank her because they look so good! :) I hope you had a wonderful weekend and everyone is doing good!

  8. You're right Kat, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Nice read and I will definitely have to check those recipes out. Keep up the good work both of you.

  9. I can see you've taught your daughter well Kat :) I love those drink recipes and will have to try them. One other really easy (and inexpensive) drink that I made recently involves cranberries also. Simply boil approx. equal amounts of water and sugar (such as 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water), then add fresh cranberries (as many as you want - approx 1/2 to 1 cup). Let them boil until the cranberries "pop" and then chill the mixture. Put 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of mixture in a wine glass (depending on how sweet you like your drinks!) and top with Prosecco (any brand - can get some that are quite good for less than $8 per bottle). Happy Holidays!

  10. Kat, what fun to have Angelfish post today. Thanks for the recipes and yes I am glad no bathtub is involved:}

  11. Oh this was so much fun (and informative too!) to read. I just love those cocktail napkins and I would definitely go for the Christmas Cocktail seeing that it is made with champagne, yum! Oh and the New Yorker playlist looks like a great mix of tunes to set the mood for this festive party. This was so delightful Kat, your Angelfish sounds like quite the host! xo ~Lili

  12. Sounds like a great party and some fun recipes, too!

  13. Kat,
    It was fun reading this post and yes the saying is so true about the apple not falling far from the tree!


  14. Loved this post!
    Thank you for all of
    the great info and the
    recipes, Kat and Angelfish!!
    I'm sure the party was one
    that people will be talking
    about for a while. Great
    memories for you!
    xx Suzanne

  15. Fun post! Thanks to Angelfish, I have a whole new appreciation for the 18th amendment. Sounds like a fun party too. Oh to be young again :)


  16. You're obviously your mother's daughter! Taking such attention to all the details. So nice to get to know you a bit.

  17. I think there is a writing gene for sure. What an amazing talent to have. A wonderful hostess and a good brain to boot.

  18. Wonderful Post! Great recipes and a delightful read! Carolyn


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.