After Mitchell's post from yesterday, I thought I would share my thoughts of having people in for drinks- but not for a minute do I think I'm an authority on the subject. I do like having dinner parties, but many times casual drinks is an easier way of entertaining. That said, I'm guilty of getting so wrapped up in work, blogging, etc, that I don't always make time to have people over. Case in point, I'd love to have my kind neighbors over for drinks (that's you, Barry and Rory), but another week goes by and I haven't played hostess. Shame on me, because it's really so easy. Enough with the excuses.
So let's start with drinks. I do have a vintage bamboo bar cart that is always at the ready. I keep it stocked with the usual suspects: vodka, bourbon, gin, scotch, and vermouth. Mixers include tonic water, club soda, and Pellegrino. And of course wine for the wine drinkers. My double old fashioned glasses, bar pitcher, jigger, and cocktail napkins are also kept on the cart.
I don't do specialty cocktails at my apartment, not for any other reason than I'm not the world's best bartender. (My friends can attest to the fact that I have a heavy hand at pouring, something which has left more than a few guests feeling a little queasy at the end of the evening.) Although, if I was in a festive mood, I might serve kir royales. And Southsides or Margaritas are good at this time of year. But basically, I leave the drink pouring and mixing to my guests. That means I don't get any fingers pointed at me by the end of the night.
In terms of food, I keep it pretty basic. Basic does not mean that the food isn't tasty, though. Some nights it might be smoked almonds, Marcona almonds, or wasabi peas. Other times it's the block of cream cheese covered in pepper jelly or doused in Pickapeppa sauce. But the secret weapon in my cocktail food arsenal is Mamie's Cheese Wafers from Mobile, Alabama. Basically, it's slice and bake cheese wafers, and I can't tell you how good they are. Keep a few logs of dough in the freezer, and you've always got an easy and quick hors d'oeuvre. (I'm starting to sound like a commercial). While you bake them, your house smells divine too, as if you were actually baking cheese wafers from scratch.
Don't forget too to have clean hand towels in the guest bathroom, and fresh soap as well. (There is nothing worse than having to use a bar of soap that has cleaned three dozen different hands.) Those Claus Porto soap pastilles are great because of their small size and because they come in a box of 15.
And while we're on the subject of powder rooms, I think you should just bite the bullet and get everything whipped into shape so that you can't use that room as an excuse not to have people over. I don't mean you need to renovate it or paper it in some fabulous wallpaper. All you need to do is get a nice wastebasket and tissue cover, a decent soap dish, and linens, and you're good to go. I've been eyeing these wastebaskets and tissue covers from Dana Gibson lately.
See, prep work for cocktails is really quite easy. If you don't have a bar cart, set up a tray of drinks on a console table or chest top. The drinks tray at top (unfortunately, that's not mine) is so pretty and so welcoming. If you're having a larger cocktail party, get a folding table and drape some gorgeous fabric over it, one that can stand up to spills, though.
P.S.- On a recent episode of "Barefoot Contessa", Ina Garten demonstrated how to get those crisp, folded edges on a drinks table cloth. For the life of me, I just don't understand the procedure. I spent half an hour the other day trying to figure it out, but it's just not working. Can anyone tell me how the heck you're supposed to do it??
Image at top from an old, old issue of Southern Accents. Champagne photo from Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York's Savviest Hostesses. Dana Gibson images courtesy of http://www.danagibson.com/