How to Suggest the Perfect Drink


Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! Even if your home bar is better stocked than the dive around the corner, and even if you know 170 drink recipes, sometimes ideas refuse to turn up.

When you’re done reading this article, you’ll be more confident and have more fun when hosting guests at your home bar.

If you’re like me, you might be very excited to show off your skills. You might be equally excited just to have the chance to make a bunch of drinks in a row. I don’t make a ton of drinks because I don’t drink all that much, so I jump a the opportunity to make them for other people.

One of your guests was invited by a mutual friend. Your friend has already been raving about your drinks, building expectations way too high. You end up staring at your new acquaintance, wracking your brain for ideas. Despite your vast stores of knowledge, you’re drawing a complete and total blank.

“I must be no good at this.”

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I have a drink recipe in my memory for any occasion, but getting it out of the deepest recesses of my gray matter can take some scratching around. It’s a painful process, too, because you’re dealing with people’s expectations. What if you choose something nobody likes? What if they think you don’t know anything? What if no ideas ever come to you and you just stand there like a statue, nose in a cocktail book, until 6 billion years go by and the Sun runs out of fuel and we all get swallowed up in its ever-increasing volume?

Relax. None of those things are likely to happen.

In my experience, people don’t feel comfortable putting in an order in a home like they would in a pub. So it usually comes down to you, the host, to pick the right cocktail. Unfortunately, all the recipes are sitting there on the tip of your tongue like the word “cupboard” was that one time when you stammered like a fool for five minutes trying to explain where the baking soda was over the phone.

I have found that the best way around this is this:

  1. Put together a list of only about 3-5 recipes that you’re good at making. They should cover sweet, sour, strong, fruity, and fizzy.
  2. When you have to suggest something, pick from one of those, based on what you know of your guest.
  3. If those aren’t a good fit, they’ll at least give you a launch board to get the gears turning.
    • A Margarita doesn’t work, because they don’t like tequila? That’s okay, let’s swap the salt for sugar, the tequila for brandy, and the lime for lemon, and we’ll make a sidecar instead!
  4. Remember that most of the time, the people you’re serving aren’t very picky. Even a moderately well-chosen drink will usually be very well-received!

You consider that the person, a friend of a friend, is somewhat inexperienced, so you know boozy drinks like martinis and old fashioneds are out. You know they’re looking for sweet, so a Madras might work, but you need to give it a little edge so it’s not boring or predictable. Cointreau might do it without sacrificing the sweet, and lime gives it that acidic bite: you decide to make a Cosmopolitan. It’s not a drink that would wow an experienced cocktail enthusiast, but it should be just right for your guest’s palate. You mix it with care, but also with flair. When you shake the drink, you mean it!

A smile spreads across your guest’s face when they taste it, and the tell you “this is really good!” You know you’ve made the right choice. It could be a moment of temporary vindication, forgotten by tomorrow, or it could be the seed of a growing friendship lasting years to come.

Either way, it feels good, and that’s the name of the game.

What are your go-to drink recipes when you’re entertaining? I mix gin and tonics for many of my guests, but I’m interested to hear from you in the comments.

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