Dancing Bee cocktail Photo courtesy Royal Park Hotel
The Royal Park Hotel's Dancing Bee cocktail.

Let’s Be Bad: Top Trends in Drinks and Desserts for Events

Cool cocktails, hot desserts--top hotels share their innovations in the sinful stuff.

CRAFTY CLASSICS  “We are noticing a high volume of craft cocktail requests, and presentation is key,” says Richard Ragainis, food and beverage director of the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, Mich. “Fresh herbs, exotic fruit, hand-cut ice, molecular caviar balls filled with fruit puree, a hint of dry ice or color changing fruit acid are among the ingredients that we regularly use.”

Indeed, executive chef Colin Brown’s tequila-based Dancing Bee cocktail includes house-made passionfruit syrup, yuzu chamomile, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice and soda water, while the Bourbon combines custom-blended 114-proof Maker’s Mark Royal Park Reserve with a fresh white peach infusion, orange peel and a healthy splash of water.

“Guests love the use of fresh ingredients and products from local craft distilleries,” says Daan Smeets, assistant food and beverage manager at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, Sonoma, Calif. “We make our seasonal cocktails with syrups infused with tea leaves and seasonal fruits, as well as house-made bitters,” she says, citing the popular Elderflower Sour as example. “Bitter cocktails have been making a comeback, and this one finds the balance between the elderflower liqueur and Aperol perfectly.”

Vanessa Boyd, wine director for the Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa in Houston, infuses cocktails with smoked herbs for distinctive flavor. The property’s signature old fashioned is made with Whistle Pig 10-year-old rye and artisanal maple syrup in lieu of sugar. “We’re experimenting with chocolate and other bitters, and moving away from muddling orange and cherry as the base.” The beloved Pisco Sour is made with emulsified egg white and topped with a pomegranate mist instead of the traditional bitters.

BABY BITES As for dessert, a variety of small, well-conceived bites is still on trend. “As complex desserts become increasingly popular, we take the concept of a traditional dessert and find ways to present it in and unusual smaller size,” says pastry chef Veronica Streit of the Royal Park Hotel.

Catherine Rodriguez, pastry chef at the Houstonian, is another fan of the stick as mode of hand-to-mouth treat transport. “Our Valrhona Dulcey brownie bite covered in Rice Krispies remains a customer favorite,” she says, adding it goes well on desserts stations or as a takeaway treat.

And then there’s technique. “We strive for a neo-classical approach to creating desserts where the classic techniques are honored yet we add our unique spin by pairing with unconventional flavors, sauces and molecular gastronomy,” says David Blom, pastry chef at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, whose team turns to the dehydrator to create concentrated flavors and crunchy textures for dessert embellishments. Above, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn's fun Hot, Cool and Cold Raspberries dessert.

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