“In this new age of virtual experiences and dining at home, when all of us are craving authentic human interaction, hospitality has never been more important.” So says spirits writer and sommelier Adrienne Stillman in her new book Spirited: Cocktails from Around the World, published by Phaidon—and this holiday season we’re taking her words to heart, stocking up our home bar, laying in plenty of firewood, and perfecting our mixology skills. While large gatherings are (for the moment) out in favor of immediate family and intimate friends, there is no constraint against having just as good a time, albeit on a smaller scale, and even better drinks.
And as Stillman notes in her book, “In many ways, it has never been a better time to be a discerning cocktail drinker. Small and craft distilleries have opened up the variety of spirits available, resurrecting products that had disappeared for decades like Old Tom gin, crème de violette, and true dry curaçao, as well as creating new ones. Historic Italian amaro, which once struggled to find an export market, is selling all over the world. And high-quality mixers and syrups have entered what used to be the realm of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors.”
That said, “it can [still] be intimidating to mix cocktails at home,” she notes. A fresh Daiquiri—which contains rum (we prefer ours with Mount Gay Eclipse), lime, and sugar, and takes about two minutes to make—“still seems daunting to some,” she notes. “But this need not be the case.” Especially with extra time at home to practice, and fewer people to make drinks for. In any case, most classic cocktail recipes “contain only three or four ingredients,” she points out, and do not require a lot of fancy accessories to concoct.
Of equal importance when entertaining is hospitality, Stillman opines, a precept that holds true no matter how many guests you have. “This is perhaps the secret of all great bars: the warmth and camaraderie that you feel immediately upon entering [a space],” she writes. “Without it, a drink is just a beverage. With it, the beauty and timelessness of a well-crafted cocktail elevate the experience to another level.”
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November - December 2020