Whether it’s a quick getaway to relax or a friend’s destination wedding, we’ve all found ourselves standing at a swim-up bar trying to decide what drink will be the best balance of tasty, boozy, and non-hangover-inducing. My recent trip let me try out some of my theories, and here’s what I learned …
Take Care of Yourself First
As a general reminder: if you drink enough of anything—high end or well—you’re going to have a hangover.Water and food always help, but keep in mind that you’re (likely) in the pool/ocean, so you won’t notice dehydration creeping up on you. And the sun doesn’t help. These trips are a marathon, not a sprint, so be sure to eat all your meals. Drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea.
How to Order
First, be respectful of the bartenders. They’re busy and deal with a LOT of people, so be prepared when you get to the bar. Make yourself memorable (in a good way) and tip well. (It may be all-inclusive, but it’s still good form to tip. Just a dollar or two each drink, or if you want to be boujie like my friends and I were, we did $10/round.) Tipping may get you the top shelf pours, and it’s nice to be remembered.
Most resort properties will have a “deal” with a specific spirits company to stock only their bottles, so it’s likely you may not find exactly what you drink at home, and that’s ok! Find a bottle you like and go from there.
Just like any other night out, it’s best to pick a direction and stick with it. Don’t have a beer, then a margarita, then a frozen daiquiri, then wine, then another margarita … that’s the fastest way to get to hangover city. (And I’ll kindly stay on the party train, thanks.)
At some resorts the well isn’t always the only option; you can just ASK for the higher-end bottles. Get the lay of the land early when it comes to options.
What to Order
My go-to this past trip was rum. Since they had Havana Club on the back bar, I asked for it every time—whether it was a shot, a classic daiquiri (on the rocks), a neat/OTR pour, or in a frozen piña colada.
While I can’t tell you what to like, I can tell you what to avoid. Those bartenders can make frozen drinks in their sleep so it’s a quick option, and sometimes they batch them out with less booze than you’d want/expect … and all that means you’re likely to have one (or five) frozen drinks during your trip. Just remember that those frozen drinks often have a lot of sugar, which doesn’t always mean good drinks for your hangover potential.
Learn how to ask for what you want specifically and in their language. (I asked for a classic daiquiri (not frozen). I knew how to ask for it in Spanish and 7/10 times it was perfect.)
Take your own reusable cup and straw. Many all-inclusives are in hotter climates, so your drink is likely to melt/warm up quickly. A Yeti-style cup will help with that, and may get you a bigger pour (if you’re going with beer), so you’ll spend less time at the bar.
And many resorts now don’t have any straws on-property, and not having straws makes that frozen drink a bit difficult to sip. Just don’t lose track of it, bc I love turtles.
Many of us have these beautiful bar carts but have no clue what needs to be on them. (I use mine as booze storage … if you’ve ever seen my place, you know that’s a necessary evil.) I was having a chat with my friend who owns Talking Out of Turn and she said a Bar Cart 1010 would be a helpful post … ask and you shall receive!
Keep it classy. All due respect … this is not the place for your koozies and your favorite bottle opener from college.
Keel it simple. Don’t crowd your bar cart!
Let the booze do the talking. Many bottles are pretty enough to be art … show them off!
The cart itself makes a bold statement. My brass and mirrored cart is from West Elm (and matches some other furniture), but you can find many different styles to reflect your home or the kind of drinks you make. Here are some suggestions for different …
There’s not much more stunning than a nice set of glassware. Having a stack of rocks glasses I think is the classiest look on a bar car, and I think these Talking Out of Turn rocks glasses ($20, set of 4) really make an impact. This set of four glasses offers four different gold prints—I like the grid the best as it reminds me of some of the glasses my grandmother had on her bar cart.
If you’re allowing your guests to make their own cocktails, make sure to have a variety of glassware handy so your guests can make anything from shots to martinis.
Choose a color and invest. I have multiple sets for my cocktail pictures, but you should choose a finish and lean in. I prefer tools by Barfly; their tools are well made, well weighted, and reasonably priced. Cocktail tools are NOT the place to buy cheap; you want tools that will be reliable. The last thing you want is for your cheap shaker to bust open when you start shaking a cocktail. (Aunt Sue still hasn’t forgiven me for the incident last Thanksgiving involving a whiskey sour with egg white.)
Basic cocktail tools I suggest you have on-hand: jigger (measuring cup), shaker, stirring glass, stirring spoon, strainer, and muddler.
Barfly sells their tools on their website or on Amazon.
I picked out these adorable canvas coasters from Talking Out of Turn ($12, set of four). I’ve just about had it with glass coasters that get stuck to the glass and then fall off. I’ve decided that fabric is the way to go. They’re easier to store and actually do their job!
Your bar cart shouldn’t look like a bookshelf, but a well placed book (or stack) is not only convenient, but necessary. And many books look stunning enough to be considered art. My go-tos this season have been:
– Drinking with Chickensby Kate Richards ($20): This book, y’all … is greatness. Kate actually drinks with her chickens and takes pictures of it. Look for hilarity and high balls from this book.
–Beautiful Booze by Natalie Migliarini & James Stevenson (~$20): Another well named cocktail book … this one really is beautiful. My friends Natalie and James are beyond talented and this book is proof. The pictures are stunning and the cocktails are all well-balanced and unique.
– Very Merry Cocktailsby Jessica Strand ($17.21): this lovely holiday cocktail book has plenty of merry mixes to keep our holiday spirits high
–Texas Cocktailsby Nico Martini ($16): This Lone Star State cocktail guide happens to be written by another friend of mine! Look for classic Texas cocktail recipes and signature cocktails from your favorite bars across the great state complete with the stories behind them and lovely photography.
INGREDIENTS – Booze, Bitters, & Modifiers
While you’ll never have EVERYTHING you need (there will always be a recipe that calls for some obscure liqueur from Norway or a bar spoon of Malört), you can have a basic stock of the following to make quite a few classics:
Basic liquors: whiskey, gin, tequila, rum, vodka (there are many different varieties of each, but these are the basics) Modifiers: sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, orange liqueur (Cointreau), elderflower liqueur (St-Germain) Aperitifs/Digestifs: Campari, Averna, Montenegro Bitters (the salt and pepper of bartending): Angostura, Peychaud’s, orange bitters Sugars/syrups: simple syrup, demerara (unbleached sugar), sugar cubes Citrus juices: lemon, lime Mixers: soda water, tonic, ginger beer Garnish: Luxardo cherries, whole citrus (for the rind), dried fruits (these last longer and are edible!)
The space on a bar car is obviously limited, so if you run out of room, you can use something like this metallic wine total from Talking Out of Turn ($18) to hang a bottle on the side. (This also makes a great hostess gift with a bottle of wine or a unique amaro.)
This year I was ecstatic to find out that my new friend’s birthday is a week after mine AND that Jimmy Buffett would be in town the same week. So, what does a Parrothead do? Host a huge tiki tailgate before the concert … obviously.
We rented an RV, made some food and some tiki bevvies, and made a day of it. We loaded up the RV with decor and furniture and a hearty group of partygoers and busted our butts to get our little spot of parking lot ready for the party.
Since I don’t have my own RV (yet…), we looked for an RV rental company, and Cruise America was the winner! We got the RV that sleeps five for three nights with 300 free miles for a song! Everyone had a place to use the restroom and cool off from the heat, and we all got to ride there together! (And there’s a super cute sticker of a dog on the window!) That said, we did have a slight issue with the shower, so we quickly had to buy the best rv shower head halfway through the trip. It wasn’t a big deal though and we all got to shower as normal once it was fixed!
The setup was as it should be: over the top and kitsch as hell. While we were short on fans, we weren’t short on shade!
Our friend Ariel was kind enough to step behind the bar for us and serve up our awesome drinks, and that was CLUTCH. She made us look gooooood!
Every great tailgate needs great booze. So, to stick with the tiki theme, we worked with some of our favorite brands to make tiki-friendly cocktails that we batched out to make them easy to enjoy.
Elyx Copper Cup #1946
1.5oz Absolut Elyx Handcrafted Vodka
.75oz GH Mumm Champagne
1.5oz coconut water
.5oz lemon juice
.5oz honey simple syrup
Combine all ingredients except champagne and shake to combine and chill. Pour over new ice and top with champagne. Garnish with coconut shavings and a pineapple wedge. Makes two cocktails.
Patrón Tiki ‘Rita
2oz Patrón Reposado Tequila
.5oz Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur
.25oz Allspice Dram
.5oz lime juice
.25oz vanilla simple syrup
.5oz grapefruit juice
Rim a glass with Himalayan sea salt. Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice in the prepared glass and garnish with fresh grated nutmeg and a slice of lime with cloves.
Plantation Mai Tai
1oz Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum
1oz Plantation Original Dark Rum
.75oz lime juice
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a pineapple wedge.
1.5oz strawberry-infused Maker’s Mark Whiskey
.5oz Giffard Creme de Fraise du Bois Liqueur
bar spoon of strawberry purée
.5oz lemon juice
.25oz simple syrup
.25oz coconut milk
Combine ingredients in a shaker tin and shake to chill and combine. Pour over fresh ice and garnish with a strawberry.
While cocktail are great, we decided they weren’t enough. So, we got some wine and alcoholic gummies and made a couple high-proof popsicles.
Betty Cocktail, a friend, neighbor, and badass bar lady, makes some of the most delicious gummies that just HAPPEN to have booze in them. We’ll just say we were more than delighted when she showed up with her tray of goodies!
Our friends at Union Wine Company were kind enough to send along some cans of their Riesling Radler which, coincidentally, is costumed in the perfect jungle print, toucan and all! This summer-friendly wine in a can has hints of grapefruit and is only lightly “hopped”.
To cool us off, we thought some frozen cocktails would be the ticket. While the alcoholic popsicles were delicious, they sadly didn’t stand up in the heat. Let’s just say that they turned out to be more slushies than popsicles.
1.75C Malibu Coconut Rum
.5C Torani Creme de Banana Syrup
.5C coconut water
1 small container of banana yogurt
Combine all ingredients, then fill into popsicle sleeves. Allow to freeze for at LEAST 24 hours and keep very cold.
Combine all ingredients, then fill into popsicle sleeves. Allow to freeze for at LEAST 24 hours and keep very cold.
We knew that a six-hour tailgate party with free flowing booze needed a pretty stacked food table, so we went full-tilt tiki and had pulled pork, Hawaiian meatballs, Hawaiian Roll ham sandwiches, and more. We had an ambitious pit-master in the group, and he hit it out of the park with his pulled pork with HOMEMADE BBQ SAUCES. (Yes, sauces … two of them.) Dessert we knew would be a slam dunk, so we got some of the amazing White Chocolate Macadamia Nut & Coconut Chocolate Chip cookies from Pokey O’sand tequila-infused margarita cupcakes from Sprinkles.
ALL IN ALL …
All in all, it was a really fun day and a wonderful way to celebrate a couple birthdays. We’ll be back next year, and we have some serious plans … #tikitrouble
Tailgating is one of America’s most enjoyable pastimes. I personally went to a college where tailgating (at the time) was more of a thing than the football games themselves. That said, we saw some over-the-top tailgates, but nothing compares to the fun I had a few weekends ago with Twisted Tea. An inflatable cornhole game the size of a queen mattress (still bummed I didn’t get to jump on it … maybe next time), a tricked-out RV with a rooftop perfect for watching the NASCAR cars whiz by, and a fridge stocked to the brim with Twisted Tea—now, that’s a good way to tailgate.
So, one may ask, what are the tailgate essentials? I’m here to tell you a few things I learned from the tailgate pros with Twisted Tea.
… in this case Twisted Tea!
A wise man once told me that, to host a great party, all you need is cold drinks and music and “people won’t notice the rest of is missing”. While I can only partly agree with that, he has a point. Having plenty of drinks on-hand (and Ubers at the ready) can make any tailgate feel like a true party.
(The Twisted Tea tailgate I attended at Texas Motor Speedway had coolers (plural) full of different flavors of Twisted Tea—traditional, half and half, and raspberry—a little something for everybody. And everyone was happy. Who wouldn’t be content enjoying the refreshing taste of the best selling hard iced tea in The States?)
#PROTIP from Twisted Tea: is to always make sure you keep your Twisted Tea cold for your guests!
Cornhole, ladderball, wizard staff … we seem to be able to make a game of anything these days. Make sure to give your fellow tailgaters a couple options to keep them busy until game (or race) time.
… Everything’s better (and more twisted) in Texas
A tailgate needs grub. Not frilly food—grub. While it’s nice to bring chicken salad on endive leaves … a hot dog will always taste better while pregaming. It’s science. Think ribs, burgers, tacos, brisket … you get it.
A few weekends ago, we were lucky enough to have a tailgate pro at the grill for us at the Twisted RV. Casey Webb, the new host of “Man vs. Food”, treated us to some delicious brisket tacos. He has been working with Twisted Tea to put together some twisted recipes that are perfect for tailgates. While we had brisket tacos, the Twisted Tea website has recipes that you can recreate at your own tailgate this summer – check them out here.
So, now that you heard a few things from my experience with Twisted Tea, what’s your next tailgate going to look like? Show Twisted Tea how you do it by submitting a picture by uploading to Twitter or Facebook for the chance to win your very own #TwistedTailgate. Like, a serious tailgate with the Twisted Tea tricked-out RV. Take a picture and submit it, y’all … just make sure to invite me to your badass tailgate when you win.
Promotion details: twistedtea.com/race-day/twisted-tailgate
I absolutely love to entertain. But, it seems my generation has lost the desire (and, honestly, the aptitude) to do so, and I find myself being one of the only shows in town to roll our the red carpet and don an apron and sparkles to make a fun evening for friends, neighbors and family. And the holiday season is no exception. That said, every year for the past seven, I’ve gotten a motley crew of friends together to share some holiday spirit(s) and entertain ourselves with a slightly outlandish white elephant exchange. (Exchange rules are listed below!)
Every year the party gets a little bigger, but some of the cast of characters remain the same, as do some of my favorite (and my guests’ favorite) recipes. The staples for years have been my bourbon meatballs (I’m asked for the recipe so often that I put it on a letter board this year!), sausage cheeseballs, Neiman Marcus Dip, and my Cool Weather Punch. I also always am sure to keep plenty of cheese on the table for easy snacks. All of these recipes are below!
My main bar (usually set up in my kitchen) always has at least one batched drink-usually my cool weather punch, base liquors (bourbon and rye whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, scotch, etc.), a bottle of bitters, simple syrup, mixers, and citrus. I also ice down bottles of beer, cider, and splits of sparkling wine and leave them on my porch. Needless to say, no one ever has to look too hard for booze at my parties. I was once told by my badass boss, Flip, “No one cares about much at a party if there’s plenty to drink and great music playing.” … it stuck with me, so I sweat the details a little less now. I order all of my drinks online on a site like https://totalbev.com/ so I don’t have to go out and lug everything back, and it usually means I have more choice too for those picky drinkers.
A fun twist I add each year is having a “make your own” bar of some sort. This year it was a hot chocolate bar that was a HIT. The base hot chocolate I made (if I do say so myself) was incredible. So good, in fact, that I may have to make it a new staple. The recipe is below, but the fun part was outfitting the table with plenty of goodies to add so each person’s drink was different. Giving guests plenty of options for creativity is key, but make sure to have things that just make sense. My favorite of the boozy additions was the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist vodka, which made for the perfect peppermint hot chocolate!!! (I may or may not have moved the rest of the bottle beside the stove … just in case I get a craving.) I also ordered plain coffee cups with sleeves so people could write their names on their cups. (And you also know who doesn’t throw their cup away. ?)
While I learned how to entertain from the best (my mother threw some of the most amazing events when I was a child and I was always in awe of her ability to make everything from scratch and entertain everyone at the same time), I have found, much to my chagrin, that I can’t do it all. My wonderful mother always makes an item or two for the table, and I sometimes go for items I can pick up to save a little of my sanity. I love getting cupcakes from Trailercakes, cake balls from Savor Pâtisserie, and this year I went with some of the absolutely adorable iced and Linzer cookies from La Madeleine. Store bought doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel!
While I’m sad paper invitations for informal events have gone by the wayside, I’ve found a decent replacement is Paperless Post. It gives a nice user experience, is relatively inexpensive (check RetailMeNot for coupons to purchase credits), and it allows you to track RSVPs. There are also some damn cute designs to use!
For entertainment, I make sure to have music playing (as mentioned above) and I’ll put a Christmas movie on TV on mute for a little extra texture. I’ve been compiling a Christmas party playlist for years with some slightly unconventional holiday songs. Find it on Spotify and give it a listen.
I hope that my party lives on, though every year it seems to get harder to find a date to make it work. The gift of hospitality is so important, and I hope you’ll join me in trying to keep it alive!
1 pound frozen meatballs (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
½ cup ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon whiskey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Mix all ingredients except meatballs in a bowl. Pour over the meatballs in a crock pot. Heat on high for about an hour (then turn to warm) or low for at least three hours.
SAUSAGE CHEESEBALLS 2 cups Bisquick
1 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound hot or medium ground sausage
1/4 cup water
Mix all ingredients together with your hands. Ball up a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes at 350 º.
COOL WEATHER PUNCH
1 part white rum
1 part ginger ale
1 part apple cider (non-alcoholic)
a heavy dash of cinnamon
Combine all ingredients, stir. Garnish with a thin slice of apple and cinnamon stick if desired. This recipe can also be served warm.
NEIMAN MARCUS DIP 5 green onions, chopped
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup Greek yogurt
6+ slices of crispy cooked bacon
½ cup slivered almonds
Combine all ingredients and chill for at least two hours. Serve with Ritz crackers.
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
10 cups whole milk
2 ½ cups heavy cream
12 ounce can evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt
topping ideas: marshmallows, chocolate shavings, soft peppermint sticks, peppermint snow, sea salt, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, cookie sticks (like Pirouettes), whipped cream (homemade if possible), toffee crumbles
boozy additions: Smirnoff Peppermint Vodka, Disaronno, Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, coffee liqueur
Either in a crock pot or a large pot, whisk cocoa powder with hot water until mixed. Add in chocolate, milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, and pinch of salt.
If using a crock pot, cook for 4 hours on high OR low for 6 hours and stir occasionally. Keep on warm to serve.
If using a pot on the stove, heat for about 15 minutes on medium and stir often. Then, keep on simmer and continue to stir occasionally. Makes about 20 servings.
THE WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE
Over the years, we’ve fine tuned the exchange … and we’ve seen gifts anywhere from booze (so much booze) and live lobsters to unicorn Snuggies and phallic paraphernalia.
– All attendees are asked to bring a gift with certain specifications. Some people choose themes like booze or food, but I keep it open. This year the price cap was $35.
– Everyone gets a number. (I usually just count the number of people participating and write them on little bits of paper and allow people to draw out of a bowl.)
– The person with 1 begins and opens a gift. Then, go through the numbers consecutively, and each person has the choice to either open a new gift or steal a gift that is already open.
– Continue until all the gifts have been opened.
– After this is done, the last person who has the chance to steal or open is able to steal ANYONE’S GIFT, whether it’s frozen or not.
– Each gift can be stolen twice. (Meaning, the third person who has in his hands is the final owner.) Anyone whose gift is stolen cannot steal the same gift back immediately; they must wait for their number to come back up.
– Encourage everyone at the beginning to nice. Some people think that their gifts are clever and other may think they’re stupid, so encourage people to be kind.
Everyone loves a good coffee table book, but how many of those books are actually useful? We found one that’ll look just as good displayed on your table as it is essential for your bar cart.
Cocktails with Benefits, 40 Naughty but Nourishing Drinks by Nicole Herft is cocktail recipe book with four main categories: Fruitylicious, Drink Your Greens, Totally Tropical, and Smokey, Spicy, Sour, Sexy.
Herft uses only natural ingredients in her recipes, giving you a healthier way to consume your “naughty” cocktails. She leaves out the refined sugar and makes use of natural sugars like fruits and vegetables. That said, the drinks lead to less hangovers thanks to the natural ingredients.
I went ahead and tested out a recipe from the Fruitylicious category, the Iced Mixed Berry Sangria.
Iced Mixed Berry Sangria
2 cups fresh mixed berries (1 cup extra for the pitcher)
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1 (750ml) bottle Rosé Rioja
Equipment needed: Small saucepan, Sieve, Cocktail stirrer, Serving pitcher, and 4 glasses
Place the mixed berries, 3/4 cup water, and agave nectar into a small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and pass the mixture through a sieve. Press the berries with the back of a spoon to make sure you get all their juices. Leave the mixture to cool.
Half-fill your pitcher with ice cubes. Slice the extra strawberries and halve the blackberries and add these, and the other mixed berries to the pitcher with the berry syrup and then the Rosé Rioja. Stir well and serve.
Cocktails with Benefit:, 40 Naughty but Nourishing Drinks Author: Nicole Herft
Price: $14.95 online or in store
Let’s start here … Mardi Gras isn’t just a big party. There’s a lot more to the holiday than strong drinks and a good great reason to party on a Tuesday. Let’s start with some basics …
Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French
It’s celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday as a last hurrah before Lent begins (this year, that’s February 9)
The first Mardi Gras celebration can be traced back to medieval Europe to the House of the Bourbons (I won’t go into all of the history, but if you want to read it all … check it out here.)
The official colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold–purple for justice, gold for power, green for faith.
I have an unexplained love for Mardi Gras. (I think it comes from my dad receiving a King Cake each year from a friend in New Orleans. Since my dad had a job that took him to New Orleans during the week for a few years, I apparently attended parades before I could walk.) Each year, I try to bring the spirit of the Big Easy to Dallas in a small way for some friends. Here’s how I do it …
DRINKS … you can’t miss hurricanes, the quintessential Mardi Gras drink originally created by Pat O’Brien’s in NOLA. This year I borrowed a recipe from a NOLA-born chef, John Russ of Lüke San Antonio that he demonstrated at his seminar at the SACC this year. For my group of heavy-hitters, I made the recipe x10. I also like to add a little pineapple juice and just a bit of cherry juice or grenadine to add a red hue. They’re quite strong, so make sure to warn your guests and provide something to dilute it a bit like soda or Sprite. I also use an orange slice and cherry for garnish.
Katrina’s Folly (Recipe from Chef John Russ of Lüke San Antonio)
2 oz Bacardi light
1 oz 151 Bacardi
2 oz Kraken spiced dark rum
2 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz lime juice
2 oz passion fruit juice
Combine and stir. Serve chilled, preferably in a tall glass or red Solo cup.
Since a party cannot exist on a single drink alone, I laid out a bevy of usual suspects so people could make their own concoctions if desired. To really get the party going, I also offered shots of Pinnacle King Cake Vodka (the best of the king cake vodkas I’ve tried–which is a lot … dedication, y’all) and Abita Beer (brewed an hour from New Orleans in Covington, Louisiana). The kind cake vodka is surprisingly easy to drink and it has a nice sweetness without being overpowering. The party shared many a round of shots to toast the night. I chose two Abita brews–their most popular Purple Haze and their seasonal Mardi Gras Bock.
Sustenance at these parties is key. This year I offered homemade jambalaya, Zapp’s Potato Chips, hushpuppies, a King Cake, iced sugar cookies from Pokey O’s, and Cafe Du Monde beignets. Each has some significance …
Venison and Chicken Jambalaya – because … yum. I’ve adapted the recipe so it can be made ahead of time and cooked in a crock pot. (Send me an email if you’d like the recipe!)
Zapp’s Potato Chips – they’re made in Gramercy, Louisiana and are “New Orleans kettle-style chips”. I got individual bags from Potbelly along with their Voodoo flavor (nice and spicy) from Tom Thumb.
Hushpuppies – sometimes it’s important to know your limits when hosting a party. I haven’t ever made hushpuppies … so I left it to the experts and had three dozen delivered by Favor from Dodie’s Reef, complete with remoulade sauce. I should have gotten four dozen because they were the first thing to run out!
King Cake – the aforementioned friend in New Orleans sends my dad a cake–for years they have been shipped to us from Manny Randazzo’s and are always the traditional flavor that tastes just like a cinnamon roll … only 15x better. This year, my good friend Meryl’s family also sent me cakes from Caluda’s. Many bakeries in NOLA will ship their cakes, by my favorite has been the maple bacon praline version from Caluda’s (it was a flavor of the week option and isn’t available all the time).
The tradition says that a small, plastic baby is placed in the cake and the person who gets it in his piece is “King for the Day”. (It’s also said that he has to bring the cake to the next year’s party. Like that ever happens.)
Pokey O’s Iced Sugar Cookies – because they’re delicious and festive. (I added the little, plastic babies myself to add a bit more fun.) Call ahead to make sure they have them or to preorder.
Cafe Du Monde Beignets – it has been a goal each year to make beignets for this party and, this year, I finally did it! The mix that you can get in most stores made it quite easy to throw them together and they were freaking delicious.
Other fun touches I like to add are handing out beads (earned or not) and adding a little fun decor. (My plaster deer head is always festive at my parties …) In past years when I’ve lived in apartment complexes, we’d make sure to throw beads from the balcony, but now that I’ve moved we didn’t have anyone to throw them at … but do that, because it’s a blast.
P.S. Upon walking into my living room this morning … I came upon this scene. It must have been a good party.
I love a good holiday gifty for friends, neighbor, etc. … in years past I’ve done bacon chocolate, infused liquor, and regular old Christmas cookies, but this year I went with spice syrup. I’m looking forward to using this in Old Fashioneds at my Christmas Eve family dinner. (I’m always the bartender at family events … no pressure there.)
This syrup has some serious legs. It has the essence of a spiced cider without being too overpowering. (I’m going to avoid the cliche “spice up your cocktail” business here.)
Spice Syrup (recipe from The Fashionable Cocktail)
1 cup water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest (make sure to avoid overzesting)
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, allow to cool, then strain.
Taste the syrup and add additional sugar as desired.
I like to use swing-top bottles for my syrups that can be purchased at SpecialtyBottle.com or Marshall’s/TJ Maxx and add gift tags with recipes like the Spiced Fig & Pear Daiquiris.
Happy Holidays, y’all! Happy gifting.
Shout out to Chris from Midnight Rambler for sous chefing on this recipe!