A great party starts with a memorable cocktail. But who wants to be stuck mixing countless individual drinks all night? After all, your guests are there to spend time with you and won’t have any more fun if you’re slaving away at the bar. When it comes to libations for a crowd, “ease and simplicity” is our mantra. This is not the time for overly complicated concoctions full of unfamiliar ingredients. This is the time for fun twists on the classics. For those effortlessly elegant drinks that never seem to go out of style. And, most importantly, for recipes that you can easily prepare in large batches and parse out to your guests throughout the night. Check out our recipe collection from some of Chicago’s finest bars and beverage purveyors for easy, crowd-pleasing cocktail ideas for your next event.
Fig and Mint “Martinita”
What’s better than a Margarita or a Martini? How about a combination of the two? The Fig and Mint “Martinita” from Glencoe’s beloved Guanajuato restaurant is one such hybrid, pulling on the best attributes of both cocktails to create one fabulous super drink. In addition to classic staples like Tequila Blanco, lime juice and St. Germain liquer, this Martinita recipe incorporates one special, secret ingredient — figs! “Figs are a wonderful fruit for a drink,” says Guanajuato manager Margarita Challenger, “because they have a natural sweetness and [a] beautiful color.” A perfect way to add festive flair to these two recipe favorites.
- 1 1/2 ounces premium tequila blanco (such as Wansas Tequila Silver)
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1/2 ounce St. Germain
- 2 whole figs (ripe)
- Fresh mint
In a shaker, muddle one fig and mint (4-5 leaves). Add ice, tequila, lime juice and St. Germain. Shake well. Strain and serve in a cold martini glass. Garnish with the other fig and mint if desired.
From Imperial Lamian
Looking for an exotic take on a classic cocktail that is sure to wow guests at your next party? Then the Singapore Sling from River North’s Imperial Lamian is just your ticket. As home to some of the most authentic and whimsical Chinese cuisine in the city, it’s no surprise they have an equally creative beverage program chock-full of familiar favorites. For their take on the Singapore Sling — a famed gin-based cocktail whose origins stretch all the way back to the early 1900s — Imperial Lamian combines Old Tom gin with Cherry Heering (a potent cherry-flavored liqueur), Luxardo Triplum, pineapple juice and, the secret ingredient, a dash of Chinese five-spice bitters. A citrusy, boozy throwback drink that never goes out of style!
- 1 1/2 ounces Old Tom gin
- 1/4 ounce Cherry Heering
- 1/4 ounce Luxardo Triplum
- 2 ounces pineapple juice
- Dash of Chinese five-spice bitters
Shake all ingredients together and serve over ice. Garnish with pineapple leaf and nutmeg zest.
From Blue Plate Catering
If a cocktail stunner is what you’re seeking for your next party, be sure to add the Golden Lady from Blue Plate Catering to your repertoire. Based on a traditional shaken gin cocktail, this particular recipe is thickened to foamy perfection with the addition of an egg white and gets an added double dose of flavor from lavender honey syrup and marigold flowers. According to Blue Plate, “The Golden Lady has all the elements of a classic cocktail, with the fun addition of … edible flowers. This makes it great for parties and events, as it infuses old-school taste with a new-school style.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Now the only thing left to do is try it for yourself.
- 1 1/2 ounces Beefeater Gin
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce lavender honey syrup
- Petals of 2 marigolds, muddled, plus extra for garnish (preferably orange marigolds)
- 1 egg white
- 2 drops Angostura bitters
Muddle marigold petals with lavender honey syrup. Add lemon juice, gin, egg white. Dry shake. Add a small amount of ice and shake again. Strain into coupe or similar and top with two drops of Angostura. Garnish with a small marigold.
From Westwood Bistro
Westwood Bistro in Lake Forest is known for its seamless fusion of French, Asian and American flavors. While their cuisine may be rooted in exotic ingredients and classic techniques, their cocktails couldn’t be easier. Take the El Matador, one of their signature bar selections, combining Templeton Rye, a hint of aromatic St. Germain liqueur and freshly squeezed lime juice topped with a punchy splash of ginger beer. A tart and spicy blend that is sure to kick your night off to a memorable start.
- 2 ounces Templeton Rye
- 1 ounce St. Germain
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice ginger beer
Shake all ingredients together and double strain over ice. Top off with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.
Wansas Pomegranate Margarita
Who doesn’t love a good margarita? It’s simple, stiff and always seems to get people in the celebratory spirit. As the most popular beverage in the world, it’s almost too easy these days to find subpar, watered-down versions of the classic. Fortunately, there are companies like Wansas Tequila who pride themselves on their “old fashioned, crafted tequila and cocktails made with the best ingredients.” Their Pomegranate Margarita recipe is no exception, featuring their signature tequila Silver, homemade simple syrup, fresh pomegranate and lime juices and a splash of triple sec. Be sure to whip up a double/triple/quadruple batch of this ruby beauty for your next party. Your friends will thank you.
- 2 ounces Wansas Tequila Silver
- 1 ounce pomegranate juice
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1/2 ounce Triple Sec
Shake all ingredients together and serve over ice. Garnish with a lime wheel or wedge.
Maddie LaKind is a personal chef, caterer and writer living in Ravenswood. For more information about her services, visit her website, madonfood.com.
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