We asked bartender Sylvia Henny of McCormick & Schmick's for some professional advice.
First, she says, insist on fresh fruit. McCormick & Schmick's makes their own fruit juices and bar mixes from scratch. It isn't much work, and she says your guests will taste the difference.
Bartenders use simple syrup for sweetening. It's just four parts water and one part granulated sugar, brought to a boil then cooled. It keeps in your refrigerator for months.
Any juice you use in a cocktail can be fresh-squeezed for maximum flavor. This is especially important if you're making a non-alcoholic drink, where no other flavors are involved.
Fruit is also important for garnish. A fresh-cut slice or twists adds visual interest as well as better taste.
Bartenders often wipe the rim of a glass with fruit, perhaps fresh-cut orange or lemon peel, to give additional flavor and boost interest. You might experiment with garnishes before your guests arrive, making sure you like the look of drinks you're likely to serve if you haven't tried all this before.
For non-alcoholic drinks, all that's needed might be to eliminate the liquor. If there's an interesting blend of fruit juices, guests who choose not to consume alcohol will probably be pleased. The usual mixers like sodas also add flavor.
A "virgin" drink usually has a different taste than the full-alcohol version, but your guests probably won't mind.
McCormick & Schmick's is known in the restaurant industry for a constantly fresh and seasonal menu of innovative cocktails. They furnished us these recipes for the year-end holidays:
McCormick & Schmick's Holiday Cocktails 2010
1 fresh raspberry
¼ oz. simple syrup
1 oz. Stoli Razberi Vodka
2 oz. Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice
1 oz. Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine
Long orange curl, to garnish
Muddle the raspberry and simple syrup; shake with Stoli Razberi Vodka, Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice and ice. Top with Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine and garnish with long orange curl. Strain and serve in a flute.
10 mint leaves
¾ oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
2 fresh blackberries
2 fresh raspberries
1 ½ oz. Cruzan Aged Light Rum
1 oz. club soda
Mint sprig, to garnish
Muddle the mint leaves, lime juice, simple syrup, blackberries and raspberries together. Shake the mixture with Cruzan Aged Light Rum and top with club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve in a pint glass.
Holiday Spice Sangria
2 oz. Blackstone Merlot
½ oz. Hennessy VS Cognac
¾ oz. simple syrup
1 ½ oz. pear nectar
2 dashes of Allspice
¾ oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice
½ oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
Orange wedge and cinnamon stick, to garnish
Combine all ingredients, shake and pour over ice. Garnish with an orange wedge and cinnamon stick and serve in a wine glass.
1 ¼ oz. Ketel One Vodka
½ oz. Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur
1 oz. heavy cream
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. chocolate syrup
Chocolate drizzle, to garnish
Combine all ingredients with ice, shake and strain. Garnish with chocolate drizzle and serve in a martini glass.
The Gentleman Manhattan
1 ½ oz. Gentleman Jack Whiskey
½ oz. Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Butters
Maraschino cherry and long orange curl, to garnish
Shake the Gentleman Jack Whiskey and Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth with ice; strain and add Angostura Bitters. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry and long orange curl; serve in a martini glass.
McCormick & Schmick's is a nationwide chain of seafood restaurants also featuring meats and other dishes. They have locations in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Locally, they are in Center City, and in Atlantic City and Cherry Hill, New Jersey. There are no Delaware locations at this time. Tor more information, access their website: http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com