There is something about this time of year that makes it exceptional for group entertaining and outings. Whereas winter affords time for well-planned dinners and cocktail parties, impromptu gatherings are just the thing for this season. The weather is nice and the pressure is off. And all late spring occasions can be enlivened, or course, with a well-crafted beverage.
Rather than go it alone, I contacted a number of my favorite local mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts and asked them to share their favorite recipes for group entertaining. Here are the tasty tipples they offered up.
Strawberry Mint Sangria
3 bottles dry white wine
1.5 cups mint leaves
1/4 cup + 1.5 oz brandy
2lbs strawberries hulled and sliced
Wrap mint leaves in cheese cloth. Combine all ingredients and refrigerate. After two hours, remove mint leaves, squeezing cheese cloth to extract all liquid. Leave mixture to stand at least two more hours and as long as overnight. Serve in tall glass over ice topped with one inch dry sparkling wine, adding some strawberry slices to glass, garnish with fresh mint leaf.
Mindy Kucan is the award-winning “startender” at the Hilton Hotel Austin, and winner of numerous cocktail contests, including the top prize for Hilton Hotels Top Bar Chef contest in 2007. This is the recipe that won the contest for her, batched up to serve at your next soiree.
Hot Summer Night
1 liter Tito’s Handmade Vodka
750 ml Paula’s Texas Lemon liqueur
1 liter Sprite or lemon lime soda
25 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup local honey
In a three-gallon container or punch bowl combine honey, lemon juice and about half of the thyme. Stir until honey is dissolved and ingredients are well mixed. Add Tito’s, Paula’s, and Sprite and stir with enough ice to cool entire drink. Serve from pitchers or a punch bowl into rocks glasses filled with ice. Garnish with one sprig of thyme. Serves around 20 people.
Affectionately known as “the Professor,” Austin’s Bill Norris was the 2008 winner of the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup regional semifinals, whose team proceeded to take second place at the international finals in New Zealand. Bill was voted the Best Mixologist in Austin by the Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll, 2008. He heads up the bar at FINO restaurant, whose Mediterranean cuisine is a perfect match for these refreshing sangrias.
Paula’s Party Margaritas
1 750-ml bottle Paula’s Texas Orange
1 750-ml bottle 100% agave tequila
1 12-ounce can Minute Maid limeade
12 ounces fresh lime juice
24 ounces water
Mix ingredients in a large pitcher or igloo and serve over ice. This recipe makes a little less than a gallon.
Paula Angerstein is the creator of Paula’s Texas Orange and Paula’s Texas Lemon, locally made liqueurs that are versatile enough to liven up just about any cocktail. She is, as I like to call her, Austin’s cheerleader of liquid refreshment. Here is her take on the classic Texas cocktail, the margarita.
As a promoter of “garden-to-glass” cocktails, I look to the farmer’s market and my own garden for inspiration. I likewise prefer to feature local spirits, when available. This quick punch accomplishes all of the above.
1 1/2 cup Tito’s vodka
2 oz Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur
2 oz Tuaca liqueur
1/2 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1/4 cup + 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup simple syrup
Club soda, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Serve in tall glasses filled with ice; top with club soda.
For those who do not partake we must make some considerations. The usual options for people who don’t drink are slim. Diet coke or sprite. But because one doesn’t drink does not mean that he or she has no taste. Always make something available for this crowd, and make it reflect the same thought put into the alcoholic drinks. A simple, refreshing mocktail (that can also be used as a base for a strong drink) can be made by muddling mint or other fresh garden herbs with simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add fresh-squeezed citrus juice and adjust to taste. Serve over crushed ice with a festive garnish and your ‘dry’ friends will appreciate you accommodating them so thoughtfully.
Crushed Mint Cooler
2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
2 sprigs fresh mint
In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle mint with simple syrup. Add fresh juices and shake with ice; strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice and top with club soda, if desired. Garnish abundantly with fresh mint.