As the holidays approach, so does the season of home entertaining. Austin Social Planner caught up with Austin’s very own award-winning Tipsy Texan, David Alan, to freshen up on our home bartending skills and master the art of hosting with beverages.
What are the liquor cabinet staples for entertaining?
Versatile basics like vodka, gin, rye or bourbon, and tequila are a good start. I also stock a liqueur like Paula’s Texas Orange, because a Texan needs to be able to make a margarita at all times – it’s easy and a sure crowd-pleaser. What’s really important, though, is a cocktail book. Just like how every home has a basic cookbook – it should also have a cocktail book outlining the basics of making beverages. My recommendation is The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks by Dale DeGroff. It has 100 basic drink recipes and 100 variations of the original.
For those last minute or unexpected guests, what is a quick, crowd-pleasing drink?
Punch. The name got a bad rap, many times being associated with college fraternity parties and with a preceding “trashcan,” but it was actually the original party drink starting as early as the 1600s. A punch has five key ingredients: citrus, water, sweeteners, a spirit and a spice or tea. This also works for large parties, where you can have multiple punches served throughout the evening. One of my favorites is Harvest Punch:
1.5 oz Treaty Oak Rum
1.5 oz Fresh pressed apple cider
.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Bar spoon St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram
Dash Cruzan Blackstrap rum
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, or serve “up” in a cocktail glass or punch cup
What, in your opinion, is the perfect drink?
The martini – and it is in need of a comeback. Martinis are not just cocktails poured into a martini glass. Some drink a vodka martini, but vodka is a simpler, more subtle-profile spirit. Vodka actually has more flavors than one, they are just very subtle. Gin really adds more dimensions because it has many flavors and botanical tastes. The other key ingredient, vermouth, is another spirit that is misunderstood. Vermouth is in the wine category and needs to be treated as such. It needs to be refrigerated after opening and served fresh. There are also dry and sweet variations that can change the taste of a martini.
What are some new trends in drinks?
Fresh juice cocktails are not a new trend, but are slowly becoming more common. Hopefully, it will become the norm. Drinks tastes are also going back to the classics, with many drinkers choosing cocktails versus wine.
You have the Eat Local Week event next Tuesday. What makes this event unique?
The event is Drink Local Night, part of Edible Austin’s Eat Local Week, and takes place on December 7th at Peché and Cedar Street. The event is a contest by craft bartenders for craft bartenders to judge their best seasonal cocktail. Each beverage will feature a Texas spirit and be judged by experts in the bartending field. The event will have music, hors d’oeuvres and guests will also get the chance to sample drinks from local distillers including Balcones Distillery, Dripping Springs Vodka, Graham’s Texas Tea, Paula’s Texas Spirits, Railean Rum, Savvy Vodka, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Treaty Oak Rum. Tickets are $25 and available online here.
David Alan is author of the TipsyTexan.com blog. He teaches instructional courses on mixology and craft bartending via Tipsy Tech, is a founding officer (and current president) of the Austin chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild, and is regularly featured in publications throughout Austin as an expert on cocktails and spirits.