MARTINIS, MARGARITAS and cocktails with great garnishes — special event guests will drink to that.
Special Events Magazine polled top caterers across the United States and learned that the martini remains mighty. Martinis are “always popular,” says Ann Lyons, head of Melons Catering & Event Planning in Sausalito, Calif.
Bill Allen, director of operations and logistics for Raleigh, N.C.-based Mitchell's Catering and Events, agrees, noting that his company does plenty of martini bars, especially ice bars. Mitchell's James Bond 007 Martini Bar includes the 007 Martini (with Smirnoff vodka — shaken, not stirred), the Peppartini (with Absolut Peppar vodka) and a Vanilla Martini, made with Stolichnaya vodka and Stoli Vanil.
Martini bars are still strong in Chicago, too, notes Ami Franklin, spokeswoman for the city's Blue Plate Events. “The corporate and convention audiences like ice luges as a way to pour their martinis,” she says, “and infused fruits as decor and for flavor variety are always a bit hit.”
LOVING LA VIDA LATIN
The other big “m” is margaritas, “especially when the weather is hot,” Lyons notes, along with plenty of mojitos and pisco sours.
Guests in the South cool off with chilled blackberry-infused vodka-and-tonics, Allen notes, while it's mojitos, caipirinhas and pink vodka lemonades with fresh mint and a lemon pinwheel when Chicago heats up, Franklin says. Also popular: exotic frozen drinks, such as raspberry pina coladas and margaritas with diced fruit, she adds.
Distilled spirits keep raising spirits. “Often, guests will do a beer and wine party, but if the theme or desire permits, it's enhanced with one specialty liquor drink,” Allen says. “We even do after-reception late-night port and cheese presentations, whereby late-night hangers-on enjoy gourmet cheeses with a sample of ports and champagne, which is an elegant ending to the wedding day.”
Blue Plate serves a small taste of wine with a particular passed hors d'oeuvre to emphasize the pairing of food and wine. “So many people have a wider knowledge of wine these days that giving them the opportunity to expand that knowledge and discuss it during a cocktail hour makes for a great party,” Franklin explains.
Just as hot as the martini is the martini glass. It looks “very sexy and urban,” Lyons adds. “It also looks great as a container for food,” such as servings of anything from zippy gazpacho to comforting mashed potatoes.
“The shape and size of the glass add a lot to the overall ambience of the event, and can make a drink look very inviting,” she adds. “I've noticed that people are renting the sheer rim for wine a lot these days, or getting colored glass goblets for outdoor events.”
The glassware has to be appropriate, Franklin notes — “No more martinis in a highball glass!” — but that doesn't mean there isn't room for play. “The oversize glass trend seems to be giving way to the use of more interesting vessels — for example, using tall bud vases for champagne, or tiny cordial glasses for sips of wine.”
Always essential is a great garnish. “I think a garnish always makes a drink look more inviting and refreshing — sort of like the fruit coulis on the bottom of a plate upon which dessert is set,” Lyons says. “It adds great flavor and color.”
Tony Conway, CMP, head of Atlanta-based Legendary Events, points to the importance of service in making cocktail parties truly special events. “We are getting requests for more service staff ‘cocktailing’ the guest, with bars not being seen at the event,” he notes. “And please do not forget — linen cocktail napkins are a must!”
Blue Plate Events, 312/421-6666; Legendary Events, 404/869-8858; Melons Catering & Event Planning, 415/331-0888; Mitchell's Catering and Events, 919/847-0135
For recipes for Melons Mojito, Pisco Sour and Aloha cocktails, visit our Web site at www.specialevents.com and click on “Current Issue.”