Playing Bartender

So for the past few weeks a lot of my cocktail experimentation has been dedicated towards one, all-consuming goal: the office summer party.  Since the party, like many office celebrations, promised to be alcohol soaked, I thought this would be a good chance to 1) share my love of cocktails and 2) show off.  I won’t lie, far too much of my daily life has been focused on this one celebration, but it’s fun to have goals, particularly alcohol-related ones.

My initial plan was to focus on one drink that I could produce in mass quantities and would be easy to sip on a hot day.  I settled on the Oceanside, a drink I found via Imbibe Magazine:

2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
Dash of celery bitters
Pinch of sea salt
Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: coupe
Garnish: fresh mint leaf

The drink is really delicious and refreshing — more importantly, it’s a good “in-between cocktail”: complex enough to feel some measure of achievement when you mix it, but not so hard you can’t crank out one after the other.  Anyway, I spent weeks measuring out the ingredients and purchasing the precursors including celery bitters from Fee Brothers.

But something was missing.  I felt it was bad form to just show up and make one drink over and over again — I’ve been working for months on different recipes and mixtures, why just focus on one drink?  This led me to bringing my orange punch (which I’ve discussed previously) which can sustain a good number of party goers, as well as experimenting with a second drink, which was surprisingly hard to settle on.  Again, the in-between cocktail is hard to define and find — I eventually chose on a Vodka Collins with a bit of a twist, using amaretto-infused cherries as a garnish and orange-flavored vodka.

  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces vodka

  • 3 fluid ounces sweet and sour mix

  • 1 cup carbonated water

  • 1 slice orange, garnish

  • 1 maraschino cherry, garnish

  • ice

I went with my own simple syrup instead of the sweet and sour mix — if I had to do it again, I’d add in a bit of sugar to spice the drink up.  But it still drank very well, especially in the heat.

The big day was approaching and I went into production mode.  I bought several funnels and 16oz glass pourer bottles because they really help regulate the pours and look bad ass.  The downside of this was having to fill them — I spent two hours hand juicing dozens of lemons and limes.  Only later was I informed of the “roll” trick, where you pre-roll the fruit to get a bit more out of them.  All of this is meaningless though, because one of the first things I did after this grinding experience was buy a Black and Decker automatic citrus juicer.  My wrists are already celebrating.

I definitely felt a good amount of pride once I got all the ingredients together as well as a new appreciation for the grunt work that goes into cocktails.  I also made sure to write down the recipes in case I forgot a specific measurement in the heat of battle.  Finally, I made one last audible, cutting the alcohol levels in the two drinks by 25% – while I am confident in my own ability to down significant amounts of gin and vodka while remaining a functioning member of society, I wasn’t so sure about my other, lighter co-workers.  Thought I’d play it safe and avoid being known as the guy who knocked several co-workers out with multiple slugs of Beefeater and Titos.

The day: of course, logistics problems arose — I forgot a can opener for the orange juice concentrate in the punch and couldn’t find my amaretto cherries.  It was also scorching outside, which led me to wear my apron on my head most of the to avoid pouring sweat into my drinks.  But, after the initial rush and jittery hands (hard to pour when you have sweat in your eyes) I started to relax and really enjoy it!  I was further motivated by the compliments I received from co-workers, who really liked the cool drinks.

I ended up making about 30 drinks, so 10 shakes.  The orange punch also went fast, especially since it was so hot.  The Ocean Sides were huge hits, with people especially enjoying the salty tinge.  It was a lot of hard work, but the pride I felt having made the whole thing worth it.  I learned a lot through the experience and am chomping at the bit to throw another one!  I’d really encourage those of you playing around with different cocktails to put yourselves to the test in a party setting, as it only deepened my appreciation for the art and those that can master it.

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