We all have that default drink we order – or make – every single time we get together with friends for cocktails.


Maybe it’s because you know you like it, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as they say.  Or maybe you just haven’t been inspired to try something new.  If that’s the case, keep reading for delicious ideas to help you branch out.


Ilina Ewen, blogger at Dirt & Noise and creator of 5:00 Fridays, a blog feature that offers a new drink recipe each week, hosted a great group of women in The Motherhood today, all sharing their best tips on stocking your home bar, entertaining guests and creating delicious adult beverages for a crowd – or just for you.



Stocking Up


If your liquor cabinets are bare, you need to stock up before you can really get started in cocktail experimentation.  Ilina provides a handy list of basics here – including “basic white liquors, variety of juices, ginger ale, cola, tonic, lemons/limes.”


And if you want to make it a group affair, try hosting a Stock the Bar party like Kristy of The Wicked Noodle and get your friends involved.  Encourage them to think outside the box (or bar cart, rather), too – fun ingredients like herbs and simple syrups are great additions to cocktails.


Prepping to Entertain


Having a party and inviting all of your friends over can be a lot of fun – but massive amounts of cleaning and generally “making it such a hassle sometimes prevents me from even wanting to have friends over,” as Emily of Mommin’ It Up pointed out.


Luckily, “I believe in stress-free entertaining and think it can be done to be easy but look special,” said Ilina.


One of her suggestions for easy entertaining? “I did a champagne bar for our 14th annual Christmas Eve party, and it was a huge hit. The best thing about this idea is that guests can concoct something according to their own taste.”


If you’re not one for crowd-sourcing, try offering “a featured drink at each party,” like Gina of Bowl Licker. The best kind of featured drink “can be quickly made, and quickly becomes the accessory of the party.”  This strategy has the added benefit of cutting costs, since you can simply purchase the ingredients needed for the featured drink.


You can also cut costs by making large batches of your own drinks at home, such as “mojitos, pomegranate margs, sangria,” suggested Kristy of The Wicked Noodle.  And if you have leftovers, “As long as the fresh herbs aren’t added until a couple hours beforehand, you could keep them for a few days or so. I’d also wait to add fresh or frozen fruit to the sangria until a few hours before.”


Ilina is also a proponent of using the proper accoutrements. “Have the right glassware on hand. I also have an unhealthy obsession with cocktail napkins,” she said.  And pretty up your spread: “post recipe cards with cocktails by the bar when you entertain. I’m a big fan of garnish too so put out an array of goodies.”


Impromptu or Regularly Planned Gatherings


Gatherings of friends don’t always have to be planned – or they can consist of a weekly or monthly outing, putting less pressure on a single host.


“We do girls night once a month. And during the summer my friends are always popping over in the afternoon for margaritas. I love impromptu cocktail hours!” said Kristy of The Wicked Noodle.


If you get along well with your neighbors, try starting a neighborhood get-together as Ilina’s neighbors do. “The same neighbor hosts it every week so he just flips on his Christmas lights (that are on year round for this reason) so we know when it’s time to pop over. It’s BYOB.”


Drink Up


Suggestions for tasty cocktails abounded, but here are a few of our favorites.


Lillet spritzer (suggested by Gina of Bowl Licker; recipe from Martha Stewart Magazine): In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, 3 ounces Lillet, 3 ounces fresh orange juice; shake well. Pour into a glass and top with club soda or sparkling wine. Makes 1 drink.


Lemongrass mojito (from Kristy of The Wicked Noodle)


Jessica asked for a boubon cocktail idea, and Ilina suggested she mix the liquor “with ginger ale and a splash of apple cider.”


Melissa of Staten Island Family provided the link to a Pinterest search filled with cocktail ideas.