Up your holiday cocktail game with Entertaining Expert Mark Addison

Cocktail Chameleon

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With holiday party season in full swing, Mark Addison, author of the award-winning book COCKTAIL CHAMELEON, shares his essential holiday party entertaining tips and four festive cocktails that are surefire party pleasers.

Making cocktails can seem daunting to the uninitiated, especially when it’s referred to as mixology, says Mark. And that’s the main reason I decided to write Cocktail Chameleon. I want to demystify cocktails by providing an understanding of the classics and show how, with that basic foundation, everyone can join in the fun and excitement of creating their own signature drinks.

Learn to make (and taste) 4 guaranteed crowd-pleaser cocktails

Holiday parties require more time from the host and therefore a signature cocktail that serves multiple guests or one that can be scaled up into a pitcher with minimal effort on the hosts part to serve are ideal for holiday entertaining; obviously punches, and even martini’s and champagne cocktails that can be served in a variety of glassware are great options to mix-and-match. These surely work for intimate gatherings as well, but more detailed cocktails with elaborate garnishes in specific glassware is best for smaller groups. These are the 3 most important aspects of cocktail making…

  1. A good recipe with quality ingredients: A truly successful cocktail is all about proportions and requires a deft hand with sweet, tart, bitter and spirits. The right balance is about flavors that complement—and never overwhelm—one another.
  2. Proper glassware: Part tradition, part common sense and part personal style, your choice of glass should never be incidental. It’s a key element in the presentation of a carefully considered cocktail
  3. The name says it all – A good name will not carry a poor drink to success; but a good name attached to a good drink will catapult your drink to the greatest heights of popularity.
    • Tell It Like It Is – This is a very literal approach
    • Personal Experience – a memory that the cocktail evokes
    • The Locale- Naming a cocktail after a geographical location
    • Pop Culture & Events – Movies, Literature, holidays and other timely events, both past and present.
    • The Namesake – a person (yourself) or celebrity of past or present

4 guaranteed crowd-pleaser cocktails 

Signature cocktails are part creative expression and part calling card, alluding to your style as much as your handshake or favorite perfume. It’s wonderful to be able to host a themed evening and mix up a batch of something tailored just to the occasion. The result is a signature cocktail that is as unique as you are. It also simplifies your stock of liquor and gets you out from behind the bar to enjoy your own party.

Cranberry Sauce Punch While the turkey’s in the oven, offer a round or two of this elegant punch, the perfect herald of delicious things to come. Based on a jammy swirl of cranberries, spices and orange juice, it’s reminiscent of everyone’s favorite holiday condiment. Top it off with good Champagne and the gratitude will flow.

The Marktini This signature martini is never out of place at a cocktail party. It’s ideal to scale up for a pitcher and can even be made into a punch with the addition of Champagne. Use this recipe as a point of departure to come up with your own variation and name it after yourself.

Mountain Mule This variation on the popular Moscow Mule was dreamt up in the Green Mountains of Vermont and inspired by flavors from around the world.  Mark Addison’s homemade Vermont maple syrup adds a faintly smoky swirl of sweetness to the spicy Northern Italian amaro and vibrant Polish rye vodka for a cocktail with a worldly twist on the classic.

Cranberry Champagne Cocktail This cocktail makes a wonderful welcome at Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations. Prepare it ahead and all that’s required is to add chilled Champagne as your guests arrive. Create a tart infusion by soaking frozen cranberries in vodka and orange liqueur, then use the “drunken” cranberries as a garnish.

Blueprints for a stress-free holiday party

I think the biggest problem people face is over complicating their party plans and I’ve been there!  You want to try new recipes and give your guests lots of options and this is where the fear of throwing a party comes in and why many people just don’t do it!

I have a 50/50 rule for home entertaining, and it works two-fold…

  1. 50% pre-prepared (1 day to 1 week in advance) and 50% that you must prepare the day of your party.  Keeps you from overloading yourself, because life always gets in the way of best-laid plans.
  2. 50% of your party plan must be in your entertaining repertoire and you can turn it out in your sleep (you may just have to) and 50% new(ish) to keep things fresh.  Taste test at least a week before to work out any kinks.

The #1 solution is a SIGNATURE COCKTAIL! It is what Cocktail Chameleon is all about finding your signature cocktail with the understanding of the basics of classics cocktails.

5 tips to you have for setting up a home bar for the holidays 

To begin mixing cocktails at home, all you need are basic bartending tools, a well-stocked liquor cabinet and the proper glassware—or the “cocktail attire” for your cocktail. Garnishes are also key to defining a cocktail’s personality and are another way to have fun. These adornments look festive but aren’t just for show.

  1. Purchase quality spirits & liqueurs. There are several varieties within each spirit type that will allow you to create a wide range of cocktails for you and your company. Liqueurs are generally distilled spirits that are flavored with herbs, spices, cream, milk, or even flowers. Use these to add flavor and/or sweetness to your drinks or to enjoy as an after-dinner drink.
  2. Fresh all-natural ingredients and garnishes. Most cocktails from your bar will be alcohol mixed with other non-alcoholic ingredients. 3 things that will make your cocktails better are: Only use fresh ingredients: There is no substitute for all fresh ingredients in cocktail making that deliver the best quality ingredients to make your cocktails the best they can be. Readymade mixers and bottled juices are acceptable only when fresh ingredients are out of season. Infuse your own spirits: homemade infused spirits impart the truest flavors with levels of complexity that cannot be matched in artificially flavored spirits. Don’t forget to garnish: Garnishes are key to defining a cocktail’s personality and are another place to have fun. From a single twist of lemon to a skewer loaded with meats, cheese and/or vegetables, these adornments look festive but aren’t just for show. They signal what the drink is all about and add complementary flavors. Cocktail etiquette dictates that an even number of garnishes is unlucky, so remember to stick to odd numbers when dressing up your glass.
  3. The right tools for the job. After you have collected the proper ingredients, you will now need some tools to help you create your cocktails. While not all are required, they will make drink preparation much easier.
  4. The perfect glasses. Certain drinks require certain glasses. Start with the basic types of glasses first. After you start your collection, you can always add other specialty glasses that you might find necessary.
  5. Quality cocktail napkins. A cocktail should always be served with a cocktail napkin and depending on the ambiance that one wishes to create, cocktail napkins are an effective way of enhancing the cocktail experience. For a casual party, napkins bring humor with pithy sayings or fun graphics. For more elegant affairs, classic linen napkins are nicer and make the event more memorable by adding exquisite detail. Cocktail Chameleon can be purchased on MarkAddison.com or on Amazon.
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