How much bubbly should you buy for a crowd? What’s the best way to set up a drink station? Which spirits are best to have on hand for classic cocktails? We have all the answers to help you breeze through the social season.
The food is prepped, the playlist is set, you’ve got 30 minutes to get dressed… OMG the wine! Chill out – pop the bottles in the freezer – turning occasionally – or plunge them into an ice bath with a few handfuls of salt and your wine will be ready when the doorbell rings. Besides, icy cold is not the aim. While crisp whites like Devil’s Lair Honeybomb Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, Pizzini King Valley Pinot Grigio and Dr Loosen Dr L Dry Riesling are best served at 6-8˚C, you’ll better appreciate the berry notes in La La Land Pinot Rosé and Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence Rosé served at 10-12˚C.
Running out of bubbles can be a real fizzer so you’ll need to do a little maths (sorry!). A standard bottle will fill five glasses and you’ll need at least one glass per person. Then allow another glass per hour for each guest you think will stay on sparkling. So, for a four-hour party for 10 people you’ll need two bottles, plus at least two bottles for the two to three guests sticking with bubbly. Local sparkling wines are exceptional – try the Tassie-grown Arras Origin South Brut Cuvée NV.
Think of drink stations as the grazing board of the beverage world – they should be generous, enticing and make the host’s life easier! Any flat surface will do, but avoid positioning it close to the food as it will cause a traffic jam. For an Insta-worthy set-up, arrange white wines and beers in unusual ice buckets – try plant pots or a wheelbarrow – and style red wines with complementary botanicals. For instance, Domaine Clarendon Grenache has notes of lavender and rose, while Paringa Estate P.E. Peninsula Pinot Noir (selected stores only) has underlying liquorice and herbal notes. For 50s-style glamour, pour spirits such as Sailor’s Home The Horizon 10 Year Old Irish Whiskey into a stylish decanter.
Today’s cocktails are a little less Tom Cruise and paper umbrellas and a lot more Madmen’s Jon Hamm and crystal-cut tumblers. However, the basic spirits remain the same; you’ll need whiskey, gin, vodka, tequila, white and dark rum, vermouth, an aperitif (such as Aperol or Campari) and bitters. For classic cocktails, such as a martini or whiskey sour, the better quality the spirit, the smoother the taste. For drinks with a contemporary twist, look for natural ingredients, such as the native lemon-scented gum and sunrise lime in Archie Rose Native Botanical Vodka.
Make room UDL, you can now get everything from an espresso martini to a negroni spritz in convenient (and recyclable) premixed bottles or cans. RTD (ready-to-drink) options make entertaining a breeze, plus it’s easier to keep track of your alcohol intake. One of the biggest shifts has been the introduction of low-sugar and no-sugar drinks, such as the cult Japanese brand -196. Made with shochu, vodka, soda and natural fruit flavouring, the -196 Double Grape 6% Can has 0g sugar and 115 Cals per serve.
Parochial state allegiances no longer dominate our beer preferences, however, pale ale is always a safe bet (think of it as Switzerland on the beer map). This popular year-round brew is medium-bodied and goes with everything from smoky barbecue ribs to spicy Asian and Tex-Mex. You can get plenty of variety, too, from traditional IPAs (Indian pale ales) to the varying fruit and bitterness found in their American and Aussie cousins, or the cloudy pour of hazy brews. Here are some top picks to look out for in your local store.
From a certified independent brewery on Phillip Island, VIC, Ocean Reach Pale Ale is a clean-tasting, bittersweet brew. Selected stores only.
From Margaret River, WA, Black Brewing Co. Hazy Pale Ale has hints of berries and juicy pineapple. Selected stores only.
Refreshing with stone fruit notes, Bowden Brewing Brain Fog Hazy Pale Ale is a South Australian favourite. Selected stores only.
Brewed in Marrickville using NSW-grown malt, Batch Brewing Co. American Pale Ale has hints of pine and citrus. Selected stores only.
Throw in some Bundaberg Alcoholic Ginger Beer as a wildcard – it’s a premix upgrade of the classic Bundaberg ginger beer with added Queensland cane spirit. Selected stores only.
How about a gin and tonic? A champagne cocktail? Or a glass of wine or beer? Thanks to the boom in zero-alcohol products, your abstaining friends can enjoy the same drink options as everyone else. A fruit punch is a perennial crowd pleaser, but add a modern twist with blood orange, chai tea or a peach puree. Or pimp up some sparkling water with gourmet garnishes – such as fresh or dried citrus slices, edible flowers, olives and herbs. Elegant glassware will also ensure your non-alcoholic options don’t look like an afterthought.
Unlike the prawns for your canapes, you can buy party drinks well in advance and take advantage of special offers. You don’t even need to leave the lounge – order online and get it delivered or swing by your local store to click and collect when it suits. Need a gift? Tick that off your list, too, with a quality tipple. Try Hither & Yon Cabernet Sauvignon or d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz with rich chocolate and dark fruit flavours.