Posts Tagged ‘Drinks’

A Perfect (and Affordable) Soirée

July 7, 2010

It’s that time of year when you just want to be outside in a summer dress — flipping burgers and sipping a refreshing drink with your friends and family.  Setting up a summer BBQ party can be easy on your wallet AND stress-free so you can enjoy your party with your guests.  Here are my top 5 tips for planning your fabulous summer soirée:

 1)  Buy party decorations off-season. The best time to buy colorful and affordable party table items is after a holiday or summer season when the items are on sale and clearance.  Pick up some reusable (plastic) glasses from your local party goods store.  They won’t break and are dishwasher safe, making for easy clean up.  Often you can find the glasses in a variety of colors and use them for parties year-round.  You can even set up the glasses as centerpieces and add some flowers.

Acrylic Stacking Double Old-Fashioned Glasses from Crate and Barrel

2)  Use what you own. If you already have paper plates and plastic utensils in your home, use them up before buying new supplies.  Take a bright-colored paper napkin, wrap it around a plastic fork, knife and spoon, tie it up with another color ribbon and display the finished utensil sets in a basket with your paper plates.   

Courtesy of The Hip Hostess

3)  Buy a grill pan.  For those of us living in NYC, it’s often a challenge to find an outdoor area to BBQ.  To get the full summer dinner experience, I turn to my handy, non-stick grill pan to do the trick. Most grill pans cost less than $40 and will last forever (or close to it).  The grill pan cooks food quickly, requires little clean up and is a healthy way to prepare food.



4)  Don’t spend hours cooking food for your party.  Grill up some sliders, chop up some burger toppings, grill some veggies (like asparagus) and buy a few prepared items, i.e. potato salad, cole slaw and chips.  Just throw a few small burger patties on the grill pan next to a few thin slices of onion and you’re on your way to a delicious meal.  You can even toast the buns on the pan!  Set up the dinner items buffet or family style and let your guests dig in!  If you are looking for some yummy grilling recipe ideas, check out Cooking Light’s “Budget-Friendly Grilling Recipes.”  

Courtesy of

5)  Make a party drink.  You can often save on costs if you mix up a large pitcher (or a clean vase!) with an icy cold drink. It’s fun to pick a signature drink for your party… and you can even name your drink, i.e. Pink Party Punch or Sunny Summer Sangria.  You don’t need to go out and buy a full selection of drinks if you have a signature drink and some wine and beer available for guests.  One of my favorite restaurants, Parlor Steakhouse, makes an Arnold Parlor, part iced tea vodka, part lemonade.  You can make your own at home!  Just mix up a pitcher of sweet tea vodka,  lemonade and ice to go with your summer dinner.  Then sit back and enjoy… 


Time for a Bloody Mary

October 6, 2009

The month of October usually brings thoughts of costumes, fall and pumpkins.  This year, it also provides a reason to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Bloody Mary.  The exact creater of the Bloody Mary is not 100% clear, but according to USA Today, October is the month to celebrate this breakfast/brunch classic. 

Everyone has a different take on what makes a Bloody Mary great, which is why I’m partial to the Bloody Mary bars some brunch restaurants feature.  Here is a Top 10 List of places to enjoy the hangover cure from USA Today.

The Bar at the St. Regis  Washington, D.C.

Settle into one of the plush purple chairs in this royal-colored lounge and try the Capital Mary, a Mid-Atlantic spin on the classic Bloody Mary. Made with tomato juice, clam juice, sweet vermouth and gin, the cocktail is topped with ice cubes infused with Old Bay seasoning and garnished with a crab finger or shrimp. 202-509-8000


King Cole Bar  New York

This dark, woody bar tucked into the St. Regis hotel claims to have created the Bloody Mary in 1934, when French bartender Fernand Petiot put his own spin on a tomato juice-based cocktail popular in his home country. Originally called the Bloody Mary, it was renamed the Red Snapper, a name considered more appropriate for the hotel’s elegant guests. The drink is still made as it was then, with vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce. “It’s the original,” DeGroff says. “The most classic of the classics.” 212-339-6721


Commander’s Palace  New Orleans

Appropriately situated in the Garden District, this turquoise-colored restaurant serves up a Bloody Mary garnished with pickled okra, pearl onions, olives and a dilly bean, a pickled green bean. “I love that as you go from region to region, people put their own twist on it and use all these creative garnishes,” DeGroff says. “Every vegetable known to man has ended up as a garnish in a Bloody Mary.” For a little extra punch, Commander’s Palace rims the glass with its own Cajun red pepper powder and tops it all off with a little Louisiana hot sauce. 504-899-8221;


Perry’s  San Francisco

Those who don’t want a full garden in their Bloody Mary should pull up a seat at Perry’s in San Francisco. This landmark saloon keeps it simple with tomato juice, vodka, hot sauce, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce and a glass rimmed with kosher salt. “It’s like barbecue in America,” DeGroff says. “Everyone thinks their Bloody Mary is the best. Whether you like it simple or garnished with a garden’s-worth of vegetables, balance is key. Perry’s is very well-balanced.” 415-922-9022;


Miller Tavern   Toronto

Canadians put their own spin on the Bloody Mary by making the cocktail with a blend of tomato juice and clam broth, or clamato juice. The variation, commonly referred to as the Bloody Caesar, is a popular brunch option at the historic Miller Tavern. Here, they serve the cocktail with dill pickle brine, which adds a nice vinegar bite to the drink. 416-322-5544,


Clarke’s  Miami Beach

Behind a dramatic, mahogany bar, the mixologists at Clarke’s shake up a Bloody Mary with an interesting twist that doesn’t take away from its classic style. “What really struck me about their Bloody Mary is that they use Houses of Parliament steak sauce,” DeGroff says. “You don’t see it a lot in this country. It’s a very rich steak sauce, and it adds a unique flavor and bit of viscosity to the drink.” 305-538-9885;


Nacional 27 Chicago

Adam Seger, an “off-the-wall bartender,” mixes up creative cocktails including the Cazuela, an “adult Gatorade” made with citrus, sugar-cane rum and Fresca, and the Orient Express, made with Domaine de Canton, yuzu and a house-grown Kaffir lime. As with most of Seger’s cocktails, the Bloody Mary is made with the herbs he grows at the bar and heirloom tomatoes. “Forget tomato juice, he mashes a yellow and red tomato together as the base,” DeGroff says. “It’s what he calls his ‘drink like you eat’ philosophy.” 312-664-2727;


Naga  Bellevue, Wash.

The Naga lounge inside Chantanee Thai restaurant has made a name for itself by serving up obscure 18th-century martinis and hand-carving ice into scotch drinks. For the bar’s Bloody Mary, they’ve added a dash of malt scotch. “It’s as smoky as a campfire,” DeGroff says. “The aroma of the scotch brings this smokiness to the drink, which is a great and unusual touch.” 425-455-3226;


Cole’s  Los Angeles

This downtown restaurant first earned notoriety for creating the French Dip sandwich, a hot roast beef sandwich dipped in au jus, the beef juice collected during cooking. In a spin on the Bloody Mary known as the Bloody Bull, beef broth is shaken into the cocktail. At Cole’s, they use the beef au jus from the French Dip sandwich for a truly rich cocktail. 213-622-4090;


Brophy Brothers  Santa Barbara, Calif.

This seafood restaurant nestled in the Santa Barbara harbor pours a straightforward Bloody Mary with celery salt on the rim. But the drink proves fresh ingredients make the difference. “They use fresh horseradish, skin it and grate it right into the drink,” DeGroff says. “It’s a simple recipe, but the fresh-ground horseradish is delicious.” 805-966-4418;

Where do you get your favorite Bloody Mary?