Though most of the parties I’ve hosted this summer have been last-minute, ad hoc affairs, last week I had a great time hosting a somewhat more elaborate 40th birthday party for one of my dearest friends, whom I mention here often as the Working Cook (the name of her cookbook and her former column for the San Francisco Chronicle).
Anyhoo, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I need no excuse to throw a party, but it’s radically more fun when you’re putting together a shindig for someone who is near and dear to you. In fact, I have often thought that there needs to be a word for the glee I feel when cooking a nice dinner for my honey, or organizing a surprise party for a friend, or making cocktails for a friend’s wedding or bachelorette party. The Germans are good at this. Maybe Freundglückkochen? Freund-Parteiglück? Someone who knows German better than I do—help me out here.
It was a crazy cold and cloudy evening for early July …
… which means that no one ventured into the backyard, but on the flip side that means we got to build a roaring fire in the fireplace and hunker down against the cold.
Mr. Manhattan and I collaborated on the cocktail menu, and then he very generously offered to shake up the cocktails all evening long, which freed me up to focus on the lavender-sugar and sea salt Marcona almonds, shrimp with Szechuan peppercorns, homemade caramel corn with toasted almonds, and chicken satay with a peanut, curry, and coconut milk dipping sauce.
With Mr. Manhattan behind the bar, the cocktails were predictably off the hook, and his Still Life with Apples, After Cezanne, a cocktail topped with “smoked cider air” made from apple cider, liquid smoke, soy lecithin, and xanthan gum, was a particularly big hit with the birthday girl. (The recipe, invented by Daniel Hyatt at San Francisco’s Alembic, appears in the book Left Coast Libations.)
The other cocktail that went like gangbusters was the blackberry-mint margarita which I think is a perfect summer cocktail, with plenty of fresh fruit and herb flavors but enough punch from the tequila to give it a little heft. Give it a shot during the brief weeks that blackberries are in season …
6 fresh blackberries
8 fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces Chinaco reposado tequila
1 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 to 1 oz simple syrup
Muddle 4 of the blackberries in a cocktail shaker with the mint leaves. Add the tequila, lime juice, and 3/4 ounce simple syrup, fill the shaker with ice, and shake well. Taste and add more simple syrup, if necessary (the amount required will depend on the sweetness of the blackberries). Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Spear the remaining 2 blackberries on a cocktail pick and use to garnish the drink.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know how it turns out!