Signature Cocktails To Secure Your Status As A Great Host
Picture the scene. You’re hosting a dinner party. The guests start to arrive. At this point, instead of gesturing vaguely at a table of warm beer, panic-bought wine, and Shloer (Why is it always Shloer?), you instead proffer them a proper drink. A punchy, well-made cocktail. Your guests are delighted. The conversation flows effortlessly. Your status as a Truly Great Host is immediately and immutably asserted.
The American Bar at the Savoy is one of the World’s Best Bars. It’s both an institution – the original benchmark in London for American-style ‘mixed drinks’ – and a pioneering hub of modern cocktail-making. As such, Maxim Schulte, Head Bartender at the American Bar, is a man who knows his onions (particularly when served in a Gibson martini), and the perfect person to expound upon the values of serving well-made cocktails.
Serving great cocktails is as crucial to a great evening as the dinner menu and Spotify playlist, according to Schulte.
“Everything we do, we should do with love and passion. Taking the step to invite people to your home means that you have thought about this and also want to make an impression,” he says. “A good first impression comes before the food: your aperitif drink. This drink gets you into the mood for a meal. The better the drink is, the better your guests will start their evening.” You can’t say fairer than that.
So, what should you be serving? Or, rather, what drinks comfortably hit the centre of a Venn diagram in which the categories are ‘delicious’, ‘easy to make’ and ‘strong’? “Three drinks that are essential for me are: The Negroni, The Martini and a French 75”, says Schulte. “All of these are easy to be made at home, with ingredients from any supermarket. First of all, the ingredients need to be fresh and the ice needs to be good - that is the key to a good cocktail.”
Below are Maxim’s recipes for hosting success:
25ml London Dry Gin
25ml Sweet Vermouth
Put all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir them for around 15 seconds over ice. Pour them into a rocks glass, over fresh ice, and twist a large orange peel into the glass. Cheers.
A drink with equal parts, easy to make and just pure class. The Negroni is the perfect Italian aperitif. The Vermouth and Campari help to open up the stomach and prepare it for food. Important here is the temperature, chill your glasses before and have large ice cubes.
60ml London Dry Gin or Vodka
10ml of Dry Vermouth
Combine the ingredients with large ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and stir - not shake -until the ingredients until very cold and strain into a frozen martini glass.
You can add a lemon peel, or an olive - or a spring onion! Play around with it and think about your starter - this might make a difference in how you want to serve it. Above all, the temperature is key with this drink, the colder the better.
30ml London Dry Gin
15ml thick sugar syrup
30ml fresh lemon juice
Top Up with Champagne
Shake all ingredients (not champagne) in a cocktail shaker full of ice. Strain into a champagne glass and top up with Champagne.
There’s no party without the bubbles, hence I included this classic example of a great champagne cocktail. It has juice and sugar in it but packs quite a punch. Sweet, sour and dry at the same time, it is just a fantastic start to the evening. Make sure to squeeze fresh lemons right before you make the drink, the result will be superb.
Maxim’s offers The Spoils some final, heartening, words of encouragement. “In the end, making drinks should be done like everything - with passion. So try the drinks, and make them over again.”
Main image credit: Luis Car via Getty Images