Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stocking the Bar for Fall

My "Gina" wine glasses, from Crate and Barrel

I've stocked up my pantry with food. Now it's time to stock the liquor cabinet for the upcoming cocktail parties, holiday parties and celebrations I'll throw. I also like sipping sherry or port wine on a dark fall evening when it's rainy or snowing out.

In case I have a few friends who are nondrinkers, nursing or pregnant, I also try to make sure to keep interesting nonalcoholic beverages on hand for them.


- Do you have any herbs in your garden you need to dry to use all winter? With our mild weather here in Seattle, my outdoor herb garden is still producing a lot of herbs. I need to cut my peppermint, rosemary, and mint and dry them. They'll go in an old spice jar or two I washed and reused.

- Take extra time with your dinner preparations tonight (if you're eating in) and treat yourself and household to a nice, non-hurried meal. What do you have to give up timewise tonight to make this possible? Can you ask for a helper to assist you with the meal?

- Maintenance cleaning - Dust one room of your home, including baseboards, furniture, windowsills, door frames, and light fixtures. This can be done in less than ten minutes. Today I put "I Love Lucy" on in the background (thanks Tivo) so I had something funny to listen to while I worked.

- Surprise a family member or long distance friend this week, for no reason. It's not their birthday, you're just thinking of them. Send flowers if you can afford to, a handmade card, or a small gift. Send stickers or a fall-themed book to a young niece or nephew, with a small handwritten cheery note. Maybe send a recently taken digital photo of you to your grandmother? I like trying to do this before the holidays arrive. The holidays shouldn't be the only time I think of far-away relatives.

TODAY'S PROJECT: Stocking the Bar for Fall

If you entertain and serve alcohol, time to check your supplies for upcoming fall parties. If you don't serve alcohol, you can still stock up with fruit juices, interesting sodas, and yummy hot drinks to serve your guests.

If you do serve alcohol in your home, you'll need a variety for upcoming cocktail parties, dinner parties and holidays. To keep your life uncluttered, and a few bucks left in the bank, don't try to have every possible alcohol covered. You don't need to be able to make any possible unusual drink a guest asks for. But if you do consider yourself an enthusiastic entertainer, and if entertaining well is important to you, you'll want to have the basics covered, plus a few extras.

I try to have several types of alcohol (vodka, whiskey, gin, rum) needed for mixed drinks, but I've stopped stocking tequila. We just simply don't drink it up. It just sits there in my cabinet. I also never buy vermouth anymore. In the six years I've lived in this house, no guest has ever asked for a classic martini.

If you can swing an extra $20 or $30, think about picking up the latest fancy flavored vodka just for fun. Your guests might be delighted to try something new rather than just plain old Grey Goose or Absolut in regular flavor. Lately I've seen various brands debuting pineapple, cucumber, black cherry, white grape, tomato and root beer. (I think I will skip on the tomato until next time I'm making Bloody Marys, and pass on the root beer entirely).

I don't bother with cognac, bourbon or scotch, as very few of our guests in our age group request those. I stock Triple Sec, but rarely ever more expensive liqueurs like Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Drambuie. I do stock Kahlua or Bailey's for guests who might enjoy that in their coffee. For special occasions, I'll make a trip to the store the day before for Midori or specialty liqueurs, but I don't clutter up my liquor cabinet with those usually.

We keep only a few beers on hand, since few of our friends drink beer and the types of food I serve at parties are better suited to wine. Instead, I'll go to the store the day before a dinner party if I know we have guests coming who would enjoy some beer. I do keep the odd emergency Guinness or two on hand though.

Wine is a different story, since we have many friends who enjoy wine. I keep "emergency" wine around, for when we have a short-notice party, drop-in visitors, or a windy, rainy night requiring a fire, candles and wine. I try to have a sparkling wine (usually Asti or Prosecco, not champagne), a couple bottles of white (usually Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay), a dessert wine like a Gewurztraminer or a Muscat, port, and several bottles of red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc).

It doesn't have to be expensive wine, just well chosen. This week I'll go to Trader Joe's to stock up on inexpensive 3 Buck Chuck merlot, which luckily my friends enjoy drinking. Their nonfussiness really saves me money when I need to supplement a special bottle of wine with a less expensive one during a party.

Take inventory and see how you are doing on lime juice, Grenadine, sweet and sour mix, bitters, vermouth, cocktail onions, and cocktail cherries if you tend to make drinks using those.

Check your mixers. Do you have enough Coke, Sprite, club soda, tonic water, orange juice, and cranberry juice? Add things to your shopping list, and clear an organized space to put them away. Because my fridge or cupboards would get too full, I try to limit the amount of mixers I store. I can always run to the store for tonic water or club soda or whiskey sour mix if I have a party planned.

Last, check your supply of wine glasses. You really don't need to have different glasses for brandy, for bourbon, for merlot, for reds, for whites, etc. You do need champagne flutes if you serve champagne often, as it really does promote the flavor. If you entertain formally, you'll need matching, unchipped glasses though. Martini glasses for cocktails and highball glasses are needed too, but only for frequent entertainers. Really, most people are happy to drink a lovely beverage out of whatever you hand it to them in.

Sort out your glasses, discard anything chipped or mismatched, clean if dusty, and put back in your cupboards in an organized fashion. Treat yourself to a little sip of something nice when you're done tonight!

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