This past Saturday night, I hosted a fundraising cocktail party to benefit Students for a Free Tibet. I’ve been involved with SFT for almost 11 years, including two years working on staff. I currently serve on their Board of Directors. Prior to the event, I received sponsorship from Maker’s Mark, Tommy Bahama Rum, Leopold Bros., and Employees Only Brands. I can’t begin to thank the sponsors enough, as their contributions defined the cocktails which were enjoyed.
The event came off great. I’ve obviously had friends over to my house plenty of times for cocktails. Not surprisingly, there are a huge range of cocktails that I can make for friends when they come over and I’m always somewhat befuddled about what to make for a given person at a given time. For this event, I made a menu ahead of time. This was such a huge help for me as a bartender, as it limited the number of recipes I had to keep in mind, as well as gave me a clear pathway to think about off-menu cocktails my guests might enjoy based on what they’d already had. I kept the menu very simple and classic. The thinking behind this is that while a lot of my friends enjoy craft cocktails at DC-area bars, it’s rare that cocktail bars keep classic drinks on the menu. As such, my menu consisted of a Manhattan, Daiquiri, Suffering Bastard, Singapore Sling, Dry Martini, and my homemade Barrel-Aged Negroni. We also had a big batch of a bourbon punch recipe by Gina Chersevani of PS7s.
As promised, here’s a rundown of the recipes I used at this event.
Bourbon Punch by Gina Chersevani
1 bottle of bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
1/2 bottle of St. Germain
32 oz of fresh grapefruit juice
1/3 lb of 10x powdered sugar
16 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice
10-15 dashes of the Angostura bitters
4 oz of mint
16 grapefruit peels or segments (garnish)
32 oz sparkling water
In a bowl, whisk grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and powders sugar together until sugar is dissolved, then add bourbon, St Germain, bitters, sparkling water and stir. Then garnish with peels and mint. Let stand with an ice block in it for about 10 minutes or serve over ice.
This was undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the night. Everyone loved it, including people who normally don’t like bourbon or grapefruit. It was also really nice to be able to offer guests punch as they came in, creating more space for me to make cocktails to those who were already there. Guests didn’t have to wait to have their first drink.
One thing that I should note is that I was using light, non-weighted 8 oz tumblers for my up cocktails. As a result, I made my recipes a bit larger than I normally would make them. Additionally, I varied my Manhattan and Martini recipes depending on the guests’ preference, I’m printing what I mostly made.
3 oz Maker’s Mark
1 oz sweet vermouth (Dolin Rouge)
1 dash Boker’s Bitters
Stir over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one bourbon cherry*.
* My bourbon cherries are simple to make: Mascerate sweet, frozen cherries with a cinnamon stick and Maker’s Mark. The longer they mascerate, the richer they get, but this batch was only about 48 hours old and still quite tasty, if a bit more mild than I like.
Not much to say that you probably don’t already know. I recently got a bottle of Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters. They are freaking awesome, with more herbal complexity that any other aromatic bitters I’ve tried. They added great depth to the Manhattan.
One of the biggest hits of the night was the Daiquiri. For most people who tried it having never had a classic Daiquiri before, it was a revelation. I’ve also recently been using Kazuo Uyeda’s 3:1:1 recipe, which I really like. It worked especially well with Tommy Bahama White Sands Rum, which is one of my favorite light rums.
3 oz Tommy Bahama White Sands Rum
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
Shake over ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The cocktail that I expected to be most popular was The Suffering Bastard. Ginger beer is an ingredient that makes everything taste better. It’s also a cocktail that is very accessible and appealing to people who don’t want a strong glass of booze.
1 oz Maker’s Mark
1 oz gin (Beefeater)
0.5 oz Employees Only Lime Cordial
1 dash Angostura bitters
Top with ginger beer
Add Maker’s Mark, gin, Employees Only Lime Cordial, and bitters to an ice-filled shaker and shake. Pour into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a mint spring.
I’m really impressed with how fresh and rich the Employees Only Lime Cordial makes this drink. It really pops. It was definitely one of the two most popular cocktails of the night.
The other most popular cocktail was the Singapore Sling. A late addition to the menu, it’s a fantastic drink that is really easy for people to drink. There’s a great mix of spice, without cloying sweetness. I used the Ted Haigh version of the recipe:
2 oz gin (Beefeater)
2 oz pineapple juice
0.75 oz Leopold Bros. Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur
0.75 oz lime juice
1/3 oz Cointreau
1/3 oz Benedictine
2 dashes Employees Only Grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters
Combine in an ice-filled shaker & shake. Double strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with an orange wheel.
This was, as expected, a really popular drink. What I didn’t factor in is that a drink with nine ingredients really slows things down. If there was any cocktail I regret putting on the menu, it was this one, simply because it took the longest to make.
2 oz gin (Beefeater)
2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin Dry)
1 dash orange bitters (Regan’s No. 6)
Stir all ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Zest orange peel.
Most of my guests were not Martini drinkers and I’ve found that for people who don’t think they like a Martini, a 1:1 ratio is actually pretty eye-opening. This is also my preferred ratio.
The final cocktail was my own barrel-aged Negroni, based on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s method from Clyde Commons. I served this garnished with a flamed orange peel. The challenge was making sure enough water was added during stirring to give the cocktail proper dilution. The guests who were already Negroni drinkers loved this, but few people asked for it, mostly scared off by the Campari. I’ve found that Campari is a pretty big indicator as to whether or not someone is a cocktail afficionado. There are few people who like Campari who don’t also like most craft cocktails. And the Negroni is, I think, the ultimate bartenders’ cocktail. I don’t think I know a single bartender who doesn’t love it.
All told, this party was a total blast. It wouldn’t have been possible without the generous in-kind donations by Maker’s Mark, Tommy Bahama Rum, Leopold Bros., and Employees Only Brands. I’m really grateful to the people at these companies and their PR firms who helped make this happen. This event also couldn’t have happened without the tireless hard work and cooking by my girlfriend Lori and my best friend Austin.
The best part is this event successfully met the goals I’d set for it when it comes to raising money for Students for a Free Tibet. For those readers who would be interested in donating to Students for a Free Tibet, please click here. A scanned copy of the menu is below the fold.