Photo by Chris Casella

Drinks, on the House

Take a look at that photo of your author, Marisa. After we recently featured her in (614) Magazine, we realized that her hospitality, her music taste, her cocktails—that smile—made her the perfect host. Thus, after she spun us some amazing soul records and whipped up some inventive drinks, we had to have her give you the lowdown on how to be the cocktail party host with the most.

Early summer is an incredible time of year to live in Columbus. The city is officially in full bloom—its residents have shed the last remnants of sluggish Ohio winter and are happily embracing the palpable energy and activity that defines summer living. With that comes the urge to have as much damn fun as humanly possible. What better way to do that than entertaining friends and family? Cookouts and barbeques are staples of summertime fun for good reason, but perhaps another kind of party needs to make its mark this summer season: the cocktail party. I don’t mean suits, cigarettes, and Tom Collins mix. I’m talking an epic, modern twist on the classic party that will make an impact—yet you won’t have to spend weeks and thousands prepping for it. With a little planning, proper prep, and a bit of math, the experience can (and should be) stress-free.

Batch it out.

It’s the best way to streamline serving drinks to your guests and allows you to spend more time hosting and less time mixing. The options are endless when making large-format cocktails, but if you are trying this for the first time, keeping it simple and straightforward will most likely yield the best results. There are plenty of fantastic cocktail books available from which to base your drink recipe. Whether it be a classic cocktail, a punch, a cocktail of your own creation, or a replication of a favorite drink from a local bar, most can be multiplied and tweaked to batch perfection.

Do your math.

Take your time to double check your recipes and measurements and make sure your calculations are correct. You can multiply the ounces based on how many total cocktails you want to prepare, or you can break the drink down by proportions. Either way, making sure your recipe is correct first can help you avoid any expensive accidents made after you’ve started pouring.

Dilution is important.

You can add water to a pre-batched cocktail and that will account for the dilution that happens when shaking or stirring the drink. Start with a single drink recipe: sum up the total ounces of spirits and mixers, shake or stir and measure total ounces again—the difference is the amount of water needed. In most drinks you want about one to 1.25 ounces of water dilution per cocktail, so if you don’t feel like measuring out the drink you can just do the math. Do this step after you’ve put your spirits together and do it slowly, tasting along the way. You can always add more water if need be but you can’t take it away once it’s in the mix. After putting the batch of spirits together, keep it nice and cold in the fridge until you’re ready to add the finishing touches.

Take advantage of seasonal produce.

Summer in Ohio is wonderful when it comes to fresh, local ingredients. Using herbs, fruit, and tea to make syrups or spirit-infusions is a simple and easy way to elevate your summer cocktails. Also: having a few syrups on hand allows you to create non-alcoholic beverages for your guests.

Save citrus and any bubbles for last.

Citrus will lose its acidity and the carbonation will reduce considerably over time. Putting the finished cocktails into bottles that can be capped makes it convenient to keep the bottles in an ice bath. Set up your drink station with garnishes and the appropriate glassware; you don’t want guests pouring pints of your cocktail, otherwise things could get weird real quick.

Have some snacks.

Drinking cocktails on an empty stomach is never a good idea, so make sure to have a good amount of bites for your guests. There is so much fresh produce in Columbus to choose from for inspiration, or easy meat plate with some homemade quick-pickled veggies, simple crostini, or crudités are just a few options.

As a final tip, don’t forget to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. These are tips to help you throw a good cocktail party, but most importantly an easy one. Kick back and have a drink.

– Marisa Torres