Choosing a drink menu for your dinner party or cocktail party isn’t for everyone. No, you really have to be dedicated to the art of party hosting for this to enter into your planning process. Not that you have to be an aspiring restaurateur to plan drinks for your party, but it certainly is going above and beyond the level of hosting that people expect. But let’s say you’re committed to the idea. How, then, to choose a drink menu for your dinner or cocktail party?
When you’re getting really into drink pairings, it’s important to think about how each drink will pair with whatever you serve it with, as well as their combination forming into a clear and smooth progression as the evening goes on. In this article, we will bring you some of our favorite and most unexpected drinks, along with some recipes that we think will pair well with each drink.
Lime margaritas—the timeless classic
Who doesn’t love a margarita? A margarita is sweet, sour, potent, and fun—a great way to get the party moving. The mexican answer to the whiskey sour is a mix of lime juice, triple sec, and tequila, served over ice—not blended, by the way. Though we’re not above a blended cocktail from time to time, margaritas are always best served on the rocks.
Margaritas on the rocks are also uniquely suited to being premixed and served in pitchers or a punchbowl. This is why we recommend serving these at the beginning of your function, when guests are still filtering in. Guests can come in, serve themselves a nice frosty marg’, and get to mingling. And what to snack on during this time?
Why not keep it on theme with a classic Mexican snack—nachos! Homemade nachos are one of the singular snacking pleasures of the 20th century. We have a great recipe for nachos with cheddar cheese and jalapeños that would go perfectly with our margarita.
An exotic Korean treat
After your guests are settled, it is time to ease them into the meal with a bit of an appetizer and drink. We recommend a light makgeolli rice wine—this interesting brew hails from Korea, where its slightly bitter fattiness is prized as a pairing for fried appetizers.
Makgeolli is a milky-looking, lightly sparkling rice wine from Korea. It’s relatively low in alcohol content, like a strong beer, but has a strong flavor that’s perfect for cutting through a fatty, fried appetizer. Check out how to make makgeolli.
To get everyone started, pour them some of the makgeolli and then set them up with this easy shrimp tempura recipe. The makgeolli’s pungency cuts through the fatty tempura with ease, keeping everything light and fresh tasting. Tempura seems complicated, but making tempura at home is easier than you thought. Tempura is a mix of fried shrimp and fresh vegetables that originated in Japan. The batter for frying is specially formulated to make for a light and crispy result, and when paired with your cocktail, it’s sure to start the meal off right.
For the main course, keep it simple
It might be surprising to read in an article like this, but for a main course, a nice wine is often the best option. Of course, wines are very versatile, and can be paired with just about any main course, which makes things easy, but there are other practical reasons as well. Many of your guests will bring a bottle of wine unless specifically asked not to—it’s common practice for dinner parties in many circles. Likewise, the main course, in contrast to the courses that come before it, is one that people like to linger over. A small 4oz cocktail just won’t last that long, and who wants to get up and interrupt the conversation to make new cocktails for their guests every five minutes?
The classic snowball—a great finisher
The snowball is a classic cocktail from earlier in the 20th century. Though the name isn’t particularly descriptive, it’s a lovely wintertime drink that hails from the United Kingdom. The snowball makes use of seasonal citrus ingredients as well as a liqueur from the Netherlands called Advocaat.
Advocaat, despite its name, has nothing to do with avocados. Rather this is one of the curious genres of egg-based liqueurs common in northern Europe. Though this might sound a bit shocking, it’s actually very common in northern Europe, where people use these eggy drinks as a warming winter drink. Sweet, pungent, and rich, these liquors have a similarity to eggnog, but only a superficial one.
When combined with lemonade and a squeeze of lime the Advocaat becomes the Snowball cocktail, an easy wintertime cocktail. Lightly alcoholic and rich, but with a citric acidity that cuts through it all, this cocktail is a perfect pairing for a rich, decadent chocolate cake, truffles, or fudge. Try this recipe for decadent chocolate truffles for a fantastic pairing.