With the festive season just around the corner (the Christmas lights are already on people!), it's time to start planning your Christmas throw-down.
While everyone loves a hefty chunk of holiday cheer, some parties around this time can fall into a repetitive rut when it comes to celebration ideas. In the first of a four-part series, we'll be talking with entertainment experts on how to switch update tired Christmas trends top create a fun and festive soiree your friends will be begging you to host annually.
First up is the drinks. They are your opener?and set the tone for the entire evening so it's important to get them right. Yes we love our mulled wine and mince pies ?but come Christmas Eve we've consumed so many seasonal spices you could probably stick some cloves in us and throw us in to season the Christmas ham!?Sandra Murphy, drinks expert for the The Marker Hotel, talks to us about perfecting your apertifs and how to garnish like a pro.
How To Elevate Your Party To Fete Perfection!
Create a sense of arrival - serve a warm beverage such as a mulled wine or a spiced cider. It is a really easy, cost effective and welcoming drink to serve to guests on arrival. Also easy to prepare in advance. The sense of smell is as important as taste so again these mulled/spiced drinks create a beautiful aroma and you can enhance this by having candles lighting with similar undertones.
Garnish your drinks - always keep it simple and classic. Avoid anything cluttered. Berries and citrus fruits are great to use. Be mindful of how you cut the garnish as a wheel of grapefruit can look far more professional than a slice of lemon. Think outside the box, some cranberries in a flute of champagne is very simple but perfectly festive for the holiday season.
Chill your glasses - any drinks you intend to serve cold, make the effort to pre-chill the glasses.
& Chill your drinks! - the fridge will probably be crammed full of goodies so get a cool box and fill it up with ice and water and keep all your chilled drinks in there.
Think outside the box, some cranberries in a flute of champagne is very simple but perfectly festive for the holiday season
Don't be stingy with the ice cubes - Use big ice cubes that will last in a drink. Stay away from the plastic ice packs and get an old fashioned ice maker as otherwise you often end up with bits of plastic in your drinks.
Glass wear essentials - keep it elegant and make sure all your glasses are uniform. You don't need to invest in crystal but go to smaller household shops as they often have a great selection of really nice glass wear. Using oversized wine glasses to serve gin and tonics is now really popular and looks great with the right garnish.
Don't forget about the designated drivers!?- Most cocktails can also be made alcohol free and it is important to have something besides sparking water for those guests that aren't drinking. There are an abundance of cordials now available from rose water to elderflower that you can source in supermarkets or speciality food stores. Served in a champagne flute it is a simple yet elegant drink for those abstaining
Top Tips To Make You A Cocktail Meastro!
- Simple drinks are best and most enjoyable. If in doubt always go with a champagne or Prosecco based cocktail.
- If you are using spirits be careful of your measurements, it is very easy to over pour on the alcohol when making cocktails at home and never a good idea.
- A good aperitif should be enjoyed as a prelude to the wine and food being prepared while a digestif clears the palette after a scrumptious meal.
A Fun & Flirty Apertif - Gin & Grapefruit Sparkle
I love a Gin & Grapefruit Sparkle.?It is a great cocktail as it very versatile, easy to make and there is no need to go out and buy new glass wear or fancy garnishes, you will have all of this in your kitchen. It works really well as a refreshing drink during the summer but equally nice as an aperitif during the winter. I make this with a great wild botanical gin from the Glendalough Distillery and then add some agave syrup and fresh grapefruit & lemon served over ice. I just use a regular water glass and my garnish is a wedge of grapefruit. We serve this drink in the Marker Bar and also on the Roof top Bar & Terrace, most popular with ladies and as an aperitif
A Fresh & Flavoursome Digestif - Passionista
One of my favourite digestifs would be a champagne based cocktail. I love the Passionista we serve in The Marker Bar, an outburst of flavours from the bitter Passion Fruit, the sweet Apples to the refreshing Mint. This hits the spot every time. It is made from passion fruit syrup, apple and lemon juice, a splash of rum topped with champagne and finished with a sprig of fresh mint. Champagne cocktails never go out of fashion and are often classified only as apertifs but do also work really well, particularly for ladies, as a digestif.
So are you officially in the festive spirit now? Join Sandra, along with Gareth Mullins, executive chef at The Marker Hotel, Ruth Monahan of Appassionata Flowers and?Alison Banton, Fragrance Designer, Brooke and Shoals, for an evening of seasonal celebrations with cocktails, a five-course meal and the inside track on how to make Christmas extra special this year.?You'll leave with notes, know-how and a luxury gift bag worth €200!