December 6, 2011

on birthdays, the tell, and party cocktails


Last month I let two important events pass by unmentioned: Jyoti's birthday and, a few weeks later, Mark's birthday. I planned blowout dinner parties on both occasions, no small amount of work but that's because I have pretty high standards for birthday parties. The thing I'm going for is the tell, that look of happiness  where your loved one is like, WHAT I never expected this to be so awesome! It is tricky, but it can be done. Good company is key. Good food is less critical than the company, but by no means unimportant. But the main thing that you have to be wary about is that some people's expectations can be unreasonably high about their birthdays. This is why it can be a good idea to keep the details hazy. Under-promise, over-deliver, some might say. 

We let Jyoti think we were taking her out for dinner or whatever, no big deal. Then we surprised her with a long table decorated with flowers and a special birthday menu. That girl was so happy! And she was even happier to be eating gussied up queso dip (thanks to Homesick Texan, we were able to bypass the traditional processed cheese) and Paloma cocktails with a bunch of her favorite people. For Mark's party, the centerpiece was fried chicken and champagne cocktails. My dearest husband loves fried chicken, but the aftermath is so disgusting -- oh hi, oil on every surface of the kitchen! -- that I like to save it for special occasions. This was one, obviously. It was a very good night.

Every party needs a special cocktail and these were excellent. I'd like to remember them, so here we go.

Champagne cocktail

A classic. Fun to drink, easy enough to delegate to a guest to make while you do your cooking, and tasty. We used sparkling rosé from Washington state, which was good enough to drink on its own but even better in this reincarnation. I love fried chicken with champagne cocktails so, so much, if only for the juxtaposition between drinking from crystal champagne flutes and eating fried chicken with your hands.

Simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
Angostura bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish

Add a teaspoon (or two) of simple syrup to the bottom of a champagne flute, plus 1-2 drops of Angostura bitters. Fill to the top with champagne and garnish with a long piece of lemon peel.

Paloma Cocktail

Palomas are for people who like the idea of taming the bite of a Margarita with grapefruit juice and sparkling water. Stick to a 100% agave tequila here, but this isn't the place for a premium brand since the flavor will be diluted.

2 ounces silver tequila
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed is ideal, but I used good quality Simply Grapefruit juice for convenience)
Chilled sparkling water, for topping
Lime wedges

Stir together tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, grapefruit juice with ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a Collins glass. Top with sparkling water, as much or as little as you like. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Note: You can squeeze the lime juice in advance, but not more than 6-8 hours in advance or it will become bitter. I made a pitcher 1 hour in advance by combining everything but the sparkling water and lime wedges in a pitcher, and chilling until the party.

Pre-dinner party scenes


Rachel said...

Wow, such a good friend/wife! And Palomas sound absolutely delicious. I will be making those with the Texas grapefruit from the farmers market.

Sarah said...

Where did you get that white cake stand and the tablecloth? Love them.

Jess said...

Maybe you should do a post about how to plan a great dinner party, these sound/look amazing! I love the flowers and hand written menus. Everything looks simple and unfussy and cool.

Kim said...

Rachel - you lucky duck. no Rio Grande grapefruit here yet.

Sarah - The cake stand is from Ebay and is milk glass. The tablecloth is striped fabric from Ikea that I finished using an iron and hem tape.

Jess - This comment made my day! I'm not an expert by any means -- I get a lot of ideas from other blogs. Sunday Suppers has particularly inspiring ideas for unfussy/cool decor and flowers. As for menu planning, try to come up with things that you can make in advance. That's about it!

Anonymous said...

um ... why did you delete my comment?

Kim said...

The essence of your comment (your Paloma shortcut is Fresca and Cuervo) was totally fine. I don't object to you criticizing my recipe.

What is objectionable is when you said anyone who makes it any way other than yours is stupid and wasting their time/money.

You have the right to leave mean-spirited comments, and I have the right to delete them. Clear? Thanks.

Agrado said...

oooh nice burn on anonymous! i didn't even read the 1st post but it sounded annoying.

this post makes me want to go down to san jose for my bday next year. but with 2 other important bdays so close, i feel like you would be exhausted :P for real, that looks like professional level planning dinner planning.

Kim said...

yes, you should! we could combine the parties into one 3-day bender and take a page from Kiss. You know, rock and roll all night and *part of* every day. :)

Liz in DC said...

my favorite champagne cocktail is the French 75 -- champagne and gin so it's really strong, but oh so delicious. your champagne cocktail might be better to eat with fried chicken though (BEST COMBINATION EVER).

Mark said...

French 75's are great. Kim especially likes French 75's made with Plymouth sloe gin, a variation I recommend if you haven't tried it before.

Agrado said...

LOLZ!! Party every night? How would we rock and roll the next night?!