Pros: Cocktail parties are elevated ways to entertain and impress your friends
Cons: Curating a nice barware collection can be a bit expensive
Takeaway: A little effort and investment into your bar will result in major respect from your friends
Entertaining your friends in your home is a great way to build bonds and make some cherished memories, but going for a lackluster chips and beer, or wine and cheese combo every time gets old quickly and indicates a serious lack of effort on your part. And, please, trust us when we say that kegs and non-Halloween costume parties should be left to college fraternities.
Instead, a simple but classy cocktail party is the best way to impress your friends and still have a great time. Showing off your barware collection will make you feel like a bona fide adult and your friends will definitely be wowed by your mixologist skills.
We caught up with Stacey Swenson, head bartender at New York’s Dante bar, to learn just how to throw the most successful grown-up cocktail party. Swenson recently teamed up with Campari for their Red Diaries 2019 campaign, which features a short film for the brand and original cocktail recipes from six of the top bartenders in the world. Swenson has worked in the hospitality industry for 15 years, so she definitely knows how too entertain guests the right way. Here are her must-have products to pull off a successful grown-up cocktail party.
1. Bottle of Campari
“You cannot have a complete bar without Campari,” Swenson says. This Italian liqueur, which is a bittersweet infusion of herbs, aromatic plants and fruit in alcohol, is “an absolute essential” in most of her cocktails thanks to its velvety texture and ability to balance flavors. The striking red liqueur is used in many classic and contemporary drinks but is best known for being the star ingredient of the famous Negroni, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Swenson says the variations on a Negroni are endless, allowing you to be as creative with Campari as you’d like, but the classic recipe is equal parts Campari, gin and sweet vermouth.
2. White Wine Glasses
Swenson says every home should have a good set of wine glasses for both vino and specialty cocktails. When she’s looking for a “different and classy as hell” way to impress her guests, Swenson opts for presenting the Negroni Royale in a white wine glass, like this elegant, long-stem piece from World Market. For the Negroni Royale, Swenson combines a 1:1:1 ratio of Campari, sweet vermouth and gin over ice and tops the mixture with champagne or Prosecco. A long orange peel garnish adds an extra special touch to the delicious red concoction.
3. Rocks Glasses
Another glassware essential Swenson recommends is a set of rocks glasses for mixed drinks and sipping liquors like whiskey. Swenson is a big fan of interesting drinkware, like this twisted tumbler, and recommends creating a diverse collection of different glasses so that each drink can serve as a conversation piece. If you want to take on a slightly more involved cocktail recipe to fill your new glasses, check out the “Garnet Sbagliato,” the cocktail Swenson invented for Campari’s Red Diaries campaign, which adds Blood Orange, Beet and Pomegranate Shrub to 1.25 oz. Campari, 1 oz. Cinzano 1757 Vermouth, 8 Drops of Toasted Caraway Tincture and Lambrusco to top.
Swenson says that besides the glasses and alcohol, the most important tool for a cocktail party is a good jigger to measure out the components of each drink. This sleek stainless steel jigger has interior accuracy markings so you can guarantee that each cocktail is balanced to your taste. Plus, it’s easy to clean and comes in silver or gold to best match your flatware and bar accessories.
5. Spherical Ice Molds
Fancy ice shapes always impress guests and make each drink infinitely classier than just regular dispenser cubes. Swenson likes spheres, oversized blocks and Collins spears the best. These spherical molds create large 4 x 1.78-inch ice balls that melt slower than traditional cubes and work beautifully in wine or rocks glasses. Reviewers do recommend watching the instructional video to ensure that your ice spheres are as smooth as possible for the biggest impact on your guests.