Cucumber Cups with Wasabi Spiked Guacamole and Smoked Salmon and the Martini Bar
Some of the best parties I’ve been to are the ones that allow guests to be involved in some form of preparation. My friend Jenn set up a martini bar at a party she had two summers ago and I loved the idea. So for today’s pairing, I decided to give some tips on how to set up your very own!
There are very few rules when it comes to setting up a martini bar. You need glasses, a martini shaker and/or pitcher, ice, garnishes (lemon and lime wedges, olives, etc) and some fun atmospheric additions. Other than that, as long as you have a variety of liquor to chose from, along with some fun garnishes, it is difficult to go wrong. There are countless ways to make the set up a little more fun and the mixing a little more user friendly.
Let’s start with making the martini bar look classy and appealing to your party guests: A recent discovery of mine is using glasses flipped upside down for candle holders. Using tea light candles is best because the wax won’t drip all over. Using a variety of glasses that are different heights helps to add dimension to the set up. And, in a time when few people have extra cash for fancy decorations, this trick is affordable too!
Another great (and affordable) decoration idea is using cut-out snow flakes. My sister made these while she was visiting a few weeks ago. She simply used magazine pages, giving the snowflakes a great variety of colors and patterns. By setting them on a solid colored table cloth, the snow flakes jump out and add a lovely holiday feeling for very little money.
Another great way to make the martini bar more “party-friendly” is to provide recipe cards for different types of martinis. Some people are not comfortable mixing their own drinks because they may be unfamiliar with the types of alcohol or just want some new ideas, so recipe cards can be helpful. Below are four recipes you can use for your own recipe cards, or you can browse my list of cocktail recipes for your favorites.
*Ask guests to bring a bottle of their favorite martini mixer (vodka, gin, etc.) Be sure to make specific requests (politely, of course) if you are worried about having everyone bring the same thing!
*Ask guests to bring their favorite martini recipe to share
*Use Christmas ornaments set on the table to create more of a holiday feel
*Skip the candles and use Christmas light instead
*Set up a mirror behind the martini bar or on the table top to create more of a swanky-bar-feeling
What are some of your favorite interactive party ideas?
For Debi’s delicious food pairing for today, check out her link here and the lovely photo below:
Here are four no-fail recipes for your own martini bar:
Makes 1 cocktail
3 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
olives for garnish
Combine the gin and vermouth in a cocktail shaker or pitcher with ice. Shake or stir. Pour into cocktail glass and garnish with the olives.
The Nutty Orange
Makes 1 cocktail
2 oz Disaronno or other Amaretto brand
1 oz gin
1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake it. Shake it some more. Just a little more. Ok, you can stop.
Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a thin slice of orange.
Makes 2 cocktails
6 oz whiskey
1/2 a lemon, lime or orange
1 tablespoon honey
Frozen citrus halves for garnish (instructions follow the cocktail recipe)
Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker (minus the ice) and stir to dissolve the honey. Add the ice….shake-ah shakity shake…pour….drink.
Frozen citrus halves:
Cut your choice of citrus in half or into quarters (for larger citrus you may need to go even smaller to make sure they fit in the glass you are using). Wrap the citrus in saran wrap and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours and up to 8. When ready to use, unwrap them and plop them in your drink! They also make great ice cubes to fancy up your ice water.
Pear and Cinnamon Spiced Martini
Makes 2 Martinis
For the simple syrup:
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 Asian pear, peeled and diced
Combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a steady simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, watching carefully and stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Strain the syrup into a small glass bowl and allow to cool.
To assemble the martini:
8 oz. chilled vodka
4 oz. pear and cinnamon simple syrup
In the shaker, combine the simple syrup and vodka. Add ice and shake well. (*note: My rule of thumb that I learned working as a bartender in college is to shake until your hand can’t stand the cold anymore- I know, sounds painful, but it is a good gauge.)
Pour equally into two martini glasses. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and pear skin if desired.