By Lauren Chapin
Knight Ridder Newspapers
We're taking our cues from our past and giving this year's holiday entertaining season a vintage twist with '40s cocktails, '50s canapes and '60s fondue.
To get the party started, Ryan Sciarra, general manager of 40 Sardines in Overland Park, Kan., dons a fedora and shows us how to shake and stir classic 1940s-era cocktails. The `40s was a decade that brought cocktails out of rough-and-tumble saloons and into our living rooms.
The etymology of cocktail is up for interpretation but may well include tavern keeper Betsy Flanagan, who in 1779 served French soldiers drinks garnished with rooster feathers.
Or perhaps H.L. Mencken nailed it when he explained in his book "The American Language" that a "cock" is the tap on a barrel of spirits and the "tailings" were the remains at the bottom of the barrel. Pour all the dregs together, call it a cocktail and sell it cheap.
By the 1940s, cocktails and cocktail parties were the rage, coaxed along by liquor companies and their marketing ploys. Heublein published "The Club Cocktail Party Book" in 1941 with food and canape recipes. Seagram's devised a Magic Age deck of cards, a bingo-style drinking game.
Even James Beard, promoter of American cuisine, got in the game, submitting a cocktail recipe to 1945's Crosby Gaige's "Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion." But when Esquire and Playboy began publishing cocktail news, how-tos and hints, the game was on.
In the 1980s, the scene unceremoniously died. Blame the health craze. Blame the rise of punk cocktails, vile-sounding concoctions with names charged with sexual innuendo. Blame powdered mixes and bottled juices, but cocktails were passe.
The wheel has turned again, and cocktails - from the Cuban mojito to the festive cosmopolitan - are the raison d'etre for many a gathering. The Fab 5 on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" celebrate a dramatic makeover with a round of cherry-red martinis. Carrie and her "Sex and the City" gang love and lose over drinks. Creative bartenders craft flavored vodkas and small-batch sakes into signature house drinks.
Toast this holiday season with a round of fresh, new cocktails. Fruits of the season - pomegranates, blood oranges and grapefruit - replace traditional juices. Charbay vodka was recently voted the best vodka in 2003, while Estonian-made Turi vodka is earning praise for its clean flavors.
It's a very vintage season, indeed.
TIPS FOR THROWING A HOLIDAY COCKTAIL PARTY
Planning is key to a successful cocktail party. Here are a few tips from Ryan Sciarra, general manager of 40 Sardines.
_Hire a bartender, if possible. Make the inquiry calls about two weeks ahead, even earlier if the party will be on New Year's Eve. What you'll save on wear and tear will more than compensate for the barkeeper's fees. Figure on $25 an hour, with a four-hour minimum. New Year's Eve rates may be a little higher.
_Rent glassware. There's no need to buy glassware when rental companies, such as AAA Party Rental Inc., provide such services. They rent linens. They even pick up and deliver, with minimum orders.
To calculate the number of glasses needed, determine the number of guests who will attend and how long the event will last. For example, 20 guests at a two-hour party would consume, on average, one and a half drinks, so you would need about 30 glasses.
In addition, consider what type of drinks will be served and allocate glassware needs based on that.
During the holidays, AAA advises a minimum of 10 days' notice. Glassware rental ranges from 30 to 35 cents a glass. AAA can be reached at (816) 333-1767.
_Buy the freshest ingredients. Ask the produce manager at your grocery whether the herbs you need, especially mint and cilantro, will be available. Otherwise, they can be special ordered to guarantee freshness.
_Two days before the party, buy the alcohol and mixers. How much? The rule of thumb is 25 to 28 drinks per one liter of alcohol.
_The morning of the party, cut the fruit garnishes and store in the refrigerator. And don't forget to buy enough ice.
RECIPES FOR `40S-VINTAGE COCKTAILS
"The cosmopolitan has been the most popular martini-style cocktail for more than a decade. With the Shanghai we wanted to offer a sexier, updated version," says Ryan Sciarra, general manager of 40 Sardines.
"Hangar One vodkas are made in Alameda, Calif., by Jorg Rupf. He uses real fruit and their flowers, not flavorings, for the infusions. The Hakusan adds a plummy depth that complements the cranberry and lime flavors."
Makes 1 serving
1 ½ ounces Hangar One Mandarin Blossom vodka
¾ ounce Hakusan plum sake
Splash of fresh lime juice
Splash of cranberry juice
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Per serving: 151 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 8 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 2 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.
TURI CAVIAR MARTINI
Makes 1 drink
2 ½ ounces Turi vodka
1 teaspoon osetra or beluga caviar
Fresh lime wedge
Finely ground sea salt, poured onto a plate
Pour vodka into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled, sea salt-rimmed martini glass. To rim the glass, rub the lime wedge around the rim of a chilled martini glass and twist the edge in the salt. Sprinkle the caviar into the glass.
Per serving: 177 calories (58 percent from fat), 1 gram total fat (no saturated fat), 31 milligrams cholesterol, no carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 551 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.
"It doesn't get any more classic than a gin and tonic. We updated it and made it food-friendly by adding fresh cilantro. It adds a real freshness to the drink and helps cleanse the palate. We also make this drink with Hangar One Kaffir Lime vodka instead of the Sapphire."
CILANTRO GIN AND TONIC
Makes 1 drink
1 ½ ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
Splash of fresh lime juice
10 fresh cilantro leaves (no stems)
Fill a highball glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, shake the ice, gin, lime juice and cilantro and pour into the highball glass. Fill the rest of the glass with tonic water.
Per serving: 145 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 5 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.
"I got the idea for this drink while having lunch in New York at Mario Batali's pizza joint, Otto. He has a gelato menu and one of the flavors offered is Ruby Red and Campari. It was awesome: tart, sweet and refreshing. I came home and made a martini out of it. It's our signature martini and our best-selling drink."
Makes 1 drink
1 ½ ounces Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit vodka
½ ounce Campari
Splash of Ruby Red grapefruit juice
Slice of Ruby Red grapefruit
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add vodka, Campari and grapefruit juice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a slice of grapefruit.
Per serving: 147 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 1 milligram sodium, no dietary fiber.
"This is our newest concoction. You look at the drink and can't help getting in the holiday spirit, especially with the festive red and green colors. Both pomegranates and limes are in season. Be careful, though. They will sneak up on you."
Makes 1 drink
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
6-8 torn fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons raw sugar
½ of a fresh lime, cut into quarters (use one quarter for garnish)
1 ½ ounces Bacardi Limon rum
1 tablespoon pomegranate juice
With the back of a long-handled spoon, crush the pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, sugar and lime in a highball glass. Add rum and pomegranate juice and fill glass with ice. Pour into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into the highball glass. Top off with soda water and garnish with fresh lime wedge and more mint leaves.
Per serving: 227 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 34 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 5 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
"Bellinis are traditionally made with peaches and any sweet Italian sparkling wine. The blood orange pulp adds a nice bittersweet note to the semisweet Prosecco. The Prosecco doesn't need to be expensive. The Cointreau and blood orange pulp offer an easy and quick way to jazz up any sparkler."
BLOOD ORANGE BELLINI
Makes 1 drink
1 blood orange, peeled and membranes removed
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1 (375-ml) Prosecco
With the back of a long-handled spoon, crush the orange segments and tablespoon of Cointreau together in a small bowl and set aside. (This will make enough pulp for two or three bellinis.)
Spoon about one ounce of blood orange pulp into a clean champagne flute glass. Fill the glass with Prosecco.
Per serving: 205 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.
"I'm a margarita freak. Most people think of margaritas in the summer, but I love them all year round. The addition of fresh ginger gives it a nice holiday twist. You can adjust the amount of fresh ginger to taste. This is our most popular margarita."
Makes 1 drink
½ cup margarita salt
½ cup sanding sugar (found in gourmet groceries)
2 teaspoons dried ginger
For the drink:
1 ½ ounces Jose Cuervo Gold tequila
¼ Cointreau or other triple sec
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root
Lime wedge, for garnish
For the ginger/salt/sugar mixture: Stir together ingredients, pour onto a plate and set aside.
In an ice-filled margarita glass, combine tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and ginger root. Pour the drink back into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. (This gives the proper proportion of ice to liquor.)
Moisten the glass rim with a fresh lime wedge and dip the rim of the glass into the ginger/salt/sugar mixture. Pour the margarita back into the glass and garnish with a fresh lime.
Per serving: 142 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, no protein, 268 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.
-Source: Ryan Sciarra and the staff of 40 Sardines
© 2003, The Kansas City Star.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.