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Cocktail party appies

It started out as a dinner party. Our friends Steve and Domonick (and their adorable schnoodle, Sophie) have relocated to the Bay Area from New York City, and we wanted to show them off. But why have a dinner party when you can have a lovely cocktail party with heavy hors d’oeuvres? Vodka is a vegetable, sweetie. It’s made from potatoes.

We love to entertain, and have thrown events ranging from groups as small as four people to as large as 75 or so. We’ve even taken groups on the road, once renting an entire hotel in Palm Springs for a big Mardi Gras fΓͺte.

The cocktail party is its own beast with its own rules. Ten to 12 people is usually best. We like to make one house cocktail by the pitcher for easy service; we then offer standard boozes and mixers — for our crowd, vodka and gin for liquor and tonic and cran for mixers — as well as wine and beer for those who prefer an alternative. For this event, I decided to make a hurricane, in part due to its seasonal relevance and in part because we have too damn much rum in the house. My derivative version, dubbed the Florence, follows after the jump.

Timing is everything for a cocktail party. Passed hors d’oeuvres make for a convivial atmosphere, so you have to plan ahead to keep the stream of food steady yet diverse. Some of the highlight appies, with pics (courtesy of my husband) and recipes, also after the jump.

Everything went smoothly … except one thing. Inspired by Sam’s Bakewell tarts from the Food Bloggers’ Picnic, I thought they’d make a lovely little sweet treat, ideally bite-sized for party fare. I’m not much of a baker, so this was kind of going out on a limb. Sadly, the results were unservable. My short crust didn’t set right, and the resulting tarts were gummy and sticky on the bottom, and the tartlets exploded as I tried to extract them from the pan. Ah well, that’ll teach me to experiment on the day of an event. I roped in our friends Nick & Russ to make an emergency pastry run for me, so everyone was treated to a lovely CItizen Cake confection. No one complained.

While researching recipes for a hurricane, the classic cocktail from Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans, I found an astonishing array and diversity of variations, ranging from extremely boozy to extremely fruity, calling for passion fruit juice, mango juice, lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, sour mix, grenadine, maraschino cherries (and the syrup), lime wheels, orange discs … basically the only commonality was that they all call for rum, but even then while most call for both light and dark rum, some opt for strictly one or the other.

As I was making this by the pitcher, I wanted a cocktail that was scalable, with easy proportions, not too boozy. After some light experimentation (and tasting), I settled on this combination. Would that I had grenadine I might have added some of that into the mix to give it more color, as it is a rather brown drink. Curiously, the end result both looks and tastes remarkably like tamarind, though there is no tamarind involved.

I jokingly dubbed this the Florence, as that’s the currently active tropical storm (not yet a hurricane…). But since the recipe is both derivative of and unique to all the other versions I saw, I think it’s apt.

1.5 parts light rum
0.5 parts dark rum
1.5 parts sour mix (see recipe below)
1.5 parts passion fruit juice
Club soda (optional)
Lime wheels
Maraschino cherries

If making individual cocktails, pour the above ingredients (where parts=ounces) into a cocktail mixer, stir to combine and pour over ice in two rocks glasses. Add a float of club soda if desired. Garnish with lime wheel and maraschino cherry.

If making by the pitcher, combine ingredients (where parts=cups) into a large pitcher, stir to mix and add up to a can of club soda just before serving. Pour over ice and garnish with lime wheel and maraschino cherry.

Sour mix
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 c. fresh-squeezed lime juice

Dissolve sugar in water in a small saucepan, heating just until clear. Add to lemon and lime juice, stir and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes approx. 3.5 c.

Devils on Horseback


These are a major crowd-pleaser, and so we make these a lot. They’re not photogenic, but they are damn delicious. Recipe previously posted here.

Crostini al gorgonzola dolcelatte con pesche e fichi
Say what you will about the farmer’s market, I have gotten the best fruit of the season from Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street. The owners’ family’s farm, Balaikan Farms, produces some of the best stone fruit I’ve ever had. Yesterday’s peaches were no exception, and the local brown turkey figs were super sweet and juicy, both a perfect foil to the sharpness of gorgonzola.

1 sweet baguette (I used Semifreddi)
1 ripe peach
2-3 ripe figs
1/2 lb. gorgonzola dolcelatte
3-4 Tbsp olive oil

Cut baguette on a slight bias to make 25-30, 1/2-inch thick slices. Lightly brush with olive oil on both sides and put under the broiler, approximately 6" away, moving frequently and turning to get evenly brown on both sides, taking care not to burn the edges. Set aside to cool. Slice peaches in half then into thin slices; slice figs either crosswise or lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Spread about 1 Tbsp gorgonzola on the crostini, and lay a slice of fruit on each.

Mini BBQ sammiches


OK, we cheated. We broke out that remaining pound of Moonlite BBQ from the freezer. Normally that would have just fed us, but broken out over a dozen dinner rolls it makes for a very nice — and substantial — appetizer.

1 lb. BBQ
12 dinner rolls
1 red onion, very thinly sliced

Slice rolls, lay on the BBQ and a couple thin slices of onion. Align the buns on a large sheet of foil, wrap up tight and keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. Please each individually in a napkin for a cuter presentation as well as a tidier means of eating for the guests.


This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Superb!!!
    Oh, my! I’m overwhelmed.
    A feast for the eyes…
    Citizen Cake . . . good save.
    Give yourself a pat on the back. You done goooooood!
    My best to DPaul.
    Anni πŸ™‚

  2. Wow, forget about Martha Stewart, you are the ultimate entertainer! I love those paper napkins–they really add to the presentation. Also, I think the devils look great!

  3. Anni and PE — Thanks! There was actually more, but nothing we captured pics of – like endive leaves with little piped dollops of creamy gorgonzola spread, plus the obligatory chips and nuts and stuff. It’s a testament to our history as entertainers that we have more service dishes than dinner plates.
    Garret — Oh sweetheart, our last apartment was around 800 square feet — and fully 100 of that was a fabulous walk-in closet that didn’t qualify as entertaining space — yet that is where we hosted the 75+-person events. You gotta get creative. πŸ™‚

  4. Perhaps I should start with a little more baking 101 before I dive into cocktail tartlets. Then I can channel my inner Brit …

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